David Knights' Weblog

November 21, 2018

A Revolutionary War reading list

Filed under: General — dknights @ 4:22 pm
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An interesting compilation of books to read on the Revolutionary War.

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October 16, 2018

Order this

Filed under: Family,General — dknights @ 3:05 pm
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You should order this.  It will be good for your mind and soul.

April 4, 2018

Book review: Images of Aviation Bowman Field

Filed under: Kentucky,Modeling — dknights @ 8:14 am
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Book review: Images of Aviation Bowman Field
Author: Charles W. Arrington
Arcadia Publishing
128 pgs, numerous B & W photos
ISBN: 978-1-4671-2699-1

Those of us who live in Louisville, KY think of Bowman Field as the general aviation airport for Louisville.  The one in the heart of town with the beautiful 1930s terminal.  However, as Charles “Charlie” Arrington knows there is much more to Bowman Field than that.  Charlie comes by this love of history naturally, and he spent his career as a history teacher.  Charlie, a former longtime MMCL member, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Louisville’s aviation history.

This book is clearly a labor of love.  It starts with this history of Bowman Field as nothing more than a farm field on the far outskirts of Louisville in the around 1920.  The first aircraft recorded to have landed at the new airfield was a Canadian built JN-4 Canuck.  Bowman Field grew along with the rapid expansion of aviation technology and before long there were hangers, paved runways and regular airline service to destinations all over the US.  This is all documented thru an amazing collection of period photographs.  This is one of my favorite periods in aviation history, and it is really neat to see all the different 1920s and 1930s aircraft which passed thru Louisville.  Charles Lindberg and the Spirit of St. Louis was one such aircraft, and, of course, Charlie has the photos to document the occasion.

The next big event in the history of Bowman Field is the outbreak of WWII.  Like many civilian airfields, Bowman Field became a training base.  Bowman specialized in training glider pilots and was the home base of the airborne nurses program.  This period saw a rapid expansion of the field’s facilities.  As you would think, much of this wartime effort was well documented in photos and Charlie has gathered the best ones and included them in this book.

It is in the postwar period that Louisville’s current commercial airport was established.  Staniford Field became the commercial airport, which relegated Bowman Field to the status of a general aviation airport.  While this was a change, it didn’t mean that history wasn’t happening at Bowman, and again this postwar development is well recorded in many black and white photos.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  It is fascinating, and has enough great photos to provide hours of interesting browsing.  I purchased my autographed copy directly from the author for $20.

March 30, 2018

Norway 1940

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:14 am
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A really nice high level analysis of the British failures in the 1940 Norway campaign.  I don’t think it lays enough blame at the feet of Churchill, who deserves a huge amount of blame, but nonetheless it is a good overview.

February 22, 2018

New Spitfire book

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:56 am
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Spencer Pollard had published a new book on modeling the Spitfire.  Take a look here and order it.  I can’t wait to see a copy.

February 20, 2018

Where do bookstores go from here?

Filed under: General,Technology — dknights @ 11:14 am
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B & N is laying off hundreds of employees to try and stave off losses.  However, as this article points out, more than at a lot of other retail companies, the employees are an integral part of a bookstore’s success.  Is this the end of the mass market book chain store?  Will we be left with just independents and online?

June 7, 2017

Book review: The Doomed Expedition

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:05 pm
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Book review: The Doomed Expedition
Author :Jack Adams
Publisher :Leo Cooper 1989
286 pgs

This book covers the British army efforts in the ill-fated but endlessly fascinating Norwegian campaign.  The author has a special knowledge of the subject as he was a participant as a member of the Sherwood Foresters battalion and was deployed to Norway during April and May of 1940.

While the invasion of Norway is often times referred to as the first Air-Land-Sea combined arms operation in history, this book’s focus is just on the British Army efforts in Norway.  It does cover allied army efforts (French, Polish and Norwegian) insofar as they were connected to the British efforts. The book also touches on the naval and air efforts of the allies from time to time but by no means presents the complete history of those efforts.  The book also only lightly touches on the political and strategic issues which led up to Norway being involuntarily dragged into a conflict she wanted no part of and tried hard to avoid.  As much of the political story doesn’t reflect well on the leaders of the United Kingdom, it is understandable that a British author might not want to dwell upon this area.

As with all coverage of the Norwegian campaign, the author is faced with the challenge of how to tell the story of operations in three divergent and only slightly connected areas (Navrik, Bodo, and Central Norway).  Different books take different approaches to this problem.  This author has chosen to tell the story by operational area rather than strictly chronologically.  The author resolves any confusion this creates by periodically reminding the reader what was occurring in other operational areas at the time where necessary.

The details of the story of the British efforts in Norway are compelling and frustrating at the same time.  It’s the story of bravery and incompetence and reaction rather than action.  At the time of the German invasion the British were prepared to move in a number of army units to “peacefully” occupy parts of Norway.  Yet, when the Germans struck, the British dithered and their half-hearted response came more than a week after the Germans had invaded, giving the Axis forces time to gain their balance and consolidate their hold on the initial invasion areas.

The Brits committed troops piecemeal and never in a concentration sufficient to achieve their aims.  In many cases, the upper echelons of command had no clear idea of what their aims even were.  As always in war, the troops were the ones to suffer.  They arrived in theatre without supporting equipment such as tanks, radios, sufficient anti-aircraft and regular artillery.  In the face of the overwhelming air superiority of the enemy, these deficiencies doomed the British efforts to failure even before they began; Thus, the title of this book.

While not strictly a book related to modeling, the stories are sure to provide some inspiration and could well lead a modeler to build a model or two from Operation Weserübung.

May 23, 2017

Book review: The Mitsubishi Zero, Type 0 Carrier Fighter (A6M) “Zeke” in World War Two. (Combat Colours No. 9)

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 10:36 pm
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Book review: The Mitsubishi Zero, Type 0 Carrier Fighter (A6M) “Zeke” in World War Two. (Combat Colours No. 9)
Author Nicholas Millman
40 pgs
ISBN 978-1-908565-57-0

The magazine, Scale Aircraft Modelling, publishes a series of “books”, really more like pamphlets, that look like magazines.  The series is called Combat Colours and features a particular aircraft or time period and is focused on paint colours and markings.  In regard to this issue, No 9 in the series, it covers the thorny subject of the colours of the iconic A6M Japanese Zero fighter.

This particular subject is one that has been the subject of much debate over the last 20 years or so, especially as it applies to the early A6M2.  For years the early Zeros were thought to be a light gray.  However, more recent research has revealed that the original color was a taupe, somewhat akin to RLM02, and weathered, due to chalking, to a light gray.  The author of this volume, Nicholas Millman has dedicated many years to the study of the colors and markings of Japanese aircraft.  He has previously authored several of the best books in the Osprey book series, on aircraft like the Ki-27. Ki-43, Ki-44 and Ki-61. He also runs a highly informative website called Aviation of Japan.  http://www.aviationofjapan.com/

Mr. Millman, standing on the shoulders of giants such as Don Thorpe, Ian Baker, Robert Mikesh and James Lansdale, has brought together much of the latest research and organized it in a very easy to understand manner.  There are discussions of many of the different camouflage schemes the Zero wore throughout its career. All of the detail areas such as cockpits, props, cowls and undercarriage are discussed in separate sections. The author deserves credit for laying out his research and conclusions and acknowledges where there are alternate interpretations.

This pamphlet is lavishly illustrated with many black and white photos as well as colour side views as well as several colour charts.  The downside of all these colour illustrations and charts is that it has driven the cost of the pamphlet above what you might expect for, what in essence, is a 40 page magazine.  The retail price of this issue of Combat Colours No.9 is $23.  While this might seem steep, I can say that if you are at all interested in the Zero, this book is well worth it, constituting the latest thinking on the subject of how to paint you model of the Zero.

Highly recommended.

April 3, 2017

Book review: First of the Few, 5 June- 9 July 1940

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 8:30 am
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Book review: First of the Few, 5 June- 9 July 1940
Author: Brian Cull
ISBN 978-1-78155-116-5
256 pgs
Review by D.M. Knights, IPMS/USA 17656, IPMS/Canada C6091

Brian Cull is one of my favorite aviation authors.  I believe I’ve read nearly everything he’s written, so I was looking forward to his new book, First of the Few.  This book covers the RAF operations (including FAA) from June 5th, the end of the Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) to July 9th, the beginning of the war over the Channel.  This is the time period where the RAF is fighting a retreat, covering the British troops as they evacuate from France.

While covering a time period of a little over a month, it was a hectic month with air operations continuing against the Germans while moving from base to base never knowing exactly when the French were going to capitulate.  The main focus is on the Hurricane squadrons which were part of the BEF and the AASF.  These squadrons had been fighting hard for over a month while constantly moving from base to base as the Germans advanced.  They had been badly decimated but still constituted the only air units which could protect the retreating British troops as they headed for the ports in Normandy and southern France to get out of France before the collapse that was inevitable after Dunkirk.

The stories of individual air combats are compelling and the author has done a good job of reconciling the records of the combatants, so that in many cases we know which pilot shot down another pilot in particular combats.  However, some of the most amazing stories are the pilots who had been wounded in combat and were recovering in France as they desperately made their way seeking any way to get out of the country.  Some pilots made their way, just like ground troops to the ports, while others stole planes from French air bases or civil airports and flew to either the Channel Islands, Britain or Africa.

Also covered in the book are the beginning of the Bomber Command’s strategic operations against both Germany and Italy.  It is amazing to read how small these initial operations were considering how big they became by the end of the war.

In addition to the 256 pages of text, the book has 10 pages of black and white photographs.  In one of the appendixes, the book lists all the Luftwaffe pilots who were released by the French after the armistice.  It includes a number of pilots who went on to become aces, in some cases many times over.

Mr. Cull has a follow-on book scheduled for release later this year.  Titled The Thin Blue Line, it covers the month of the air war over the channel in July and August.  It is unclear if he will continue on and cover the Battle of Britain proper.  I certainly hope he does. List price is $29.95 on Amazon, but shop around and you may find a better deal.

December 27, 2016

Magazine review: IPMS/USA Journal Vol.28 #6

Filed under: IPMS,Modeling — dknights @ 3:55 pm
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The latest issue of the Journal is out.  Frankly this is the best issue in a number of years.  This has nothing to do with my having a book review in the issue and one of the other articles has previously appeared in MMCL’s Tactical Notes.  If you aren’t a member, join IPMS/USA now.

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