CoachV's Book Corner

Maybe old news to some of y’all, but currently reading Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer. Mostly about Pat Tillman so far, but also covers the rise of Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Book argues that 9/11 was really about Al Qaeda drawing the United States into Afghanistan after the first WTC attack and the attack on the USS Cole failed to do so. Gripping stuff.

Yeah, read that one last year. Filled a lot of holes.

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Just started this history of the Spanish Civil War —

Battle for Spain Cover

p.1 of the Introduction —

‘A civil war is not a war but a sickness,’ wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. ‘The enemy is within. One fights almost against oneself.’ Yet Spain’s tragedy in 1936 was even greater. It had become enmeshed in the international civil war, which started in earnest with the bolshevik revolution.

The horrors in Russia had undermined the democratic centre throughout continental Europe. This was because the process of polarization between ‘reds’ and whites’ allowed both political extremes to increase their own power by manipulating fearful, if not apocalyptic, images of their enemies. Their Manichaean propaganda fed off each other. Both Stalin and Goebbels later exploited, with diabolical ingenuity, that potent combination of fear and hatred. The process stripped their ‘traitor’ opponents of their humanity as well as their citizenship. This is why it is wrong to describe the Spanish Civil War as ‘fratricidal’. The divisiveness of the new ideologies could turn brothers into faceless strangers and trade unionists or shop owners into class enemies.

Normal human instincts were overridden. In the tense spring of 1936, on his way to Madrid University, Julian Marias, a disciple of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, never forgot the hatred in the expression of a tram-driver at a stop as he watched a beautiful and well-dressed young woman step down onto the pavement. ‘We’ve really had it,’ Marias said to himself. ‘When Marx has more effect than hormones, there is nothing to be done.’

The Spanish Civil War has so often been portrayed as a clash between left and right, but this is a misleading simplification. Two other axes of conflict emerged: state centralism against regional independence and authoritarianism against the freedom of the individual. The nationalist forces of the right were much more coherent because, with only minor exceptions, they combined three cohesive extremes. They were right wing, centralist and authoritarian at the same time. The Republic, on the other hand, represented a cauldron of incompatibilities and mutual suspicions, with centralists and authoritarians, especially the communists, opposed by regionalists and libertarians.

Ghosts of those propaganda battles of seventy years ago still haunt us. Yet the Spanish Civil War remains one of the few modern conflicts whose history had been written more effectively by the losers than by the winners.

About the Author —

Antony Beevor was educated at Winchester and Sandhurst. A regular officer in the 11th Hussars, he served in Germany and England. He has published several novels, and his works of nonfiction include The Spanish Civil War; Crete: The Battle and the Resistance, which won the 1993 Runciman Award; Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942—1943; and Berlin: The Downfall, 1945. With his wife, Artemis Cooper, he wrote Paris: After the Liberation: 1944—1949. His book Stalingrad was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Wolfson History Prize, and the Hawthornden Prize in 1999.

p.98 —

Franco’s staff desperately sought to obtain exposure for their chief. Eventually they managed to arrange for his photograph to be projected on cinema screens to the tune of the Royal March. The audience gave the fascist salute during the five minutes that this lasted. Later on, public establishments in the nationalist zone were obliged to display his portrait. And whenever the Royal March was played on the radio all those who did not want their loyalty to be suspect rose to their feet and gave the fascist salute.


I was going 2 mention that 1.
Everything by Beevor is well done.

This was good.
Orwell would die young from issues from fighting in Spain.

Trying these next.


Just started reading this — a plot to kill the Big Three when they met in Tehran in '43 — pretty good so far

Today I Learned famous actor Leslie Howard was killed when the Luftwaffe shot down the passenger plane he was on.

(p.94) On June 1, 1943 the pilots and thirteen passengers aboard a commercial British airplane flying from neutral Lisbon, Portugal, to Bristol, England look out their windows to see German fighters. The Luftwaffe, with no warning or provocation, shoot the British aircraft out of the sky, killing everyone on board… A theory quickly emerges that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill was on the flight. Churchill was scheduled to travel from Portugal to England on the same day, and German spies spotted a man at the Lisbon airport who bore a striking resemblance to the Prime Minister complete with cigar and trademark hat, accompanied by aides who resembled Churchill’s staff. The German spies called in the target, and when the plane took off, the Luftwaffe trailed the aircraft and shot it out of the sky. The man who looked like Churchill was, in fact, a British film producer with no connection to the government. One of his traveling companions was famed British film actor Leslie Howard, who died with every other person on the plane.

Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, 1939


(p.145) … (Stalin) promises that within a day or two he’ll have a letter of his own for (US Ambassador) Davies to carry back to Washington… A few days later… Stalin and Molotov present Davies with a letter he’s supposed to hand-deliver to Roosevelt… They also add some personal gifts from the Soviet Premier to the President… a Soviet tommy gun and a captured German light hand machine gun.


James Lee Burke is my favorite novelist of all time. His books always feature great characters and the best plots and prose in the genre, really brings Louisiana to life. You will fall in love with the character Clete Purcel I promise you haha.

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About half way through this one…interesting stuff.

Texas tall tales…“some of them are true”


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By the same author as the excellent Spanish Civil War history a few posts above…

UPDATE: I’m about 200 pages in (out of 800+) and what strikes me are:

(1) The terrible, staggering cruelty of war. If you are a civilian in war, get the hell out of there any way you can.

(2) The “Fog of War.” Example: the Allies had cracked German codes and pretty much knew Germany was going to use an aerial assault on the British on Crete. But the local commander didn’t believe it & kept preparing for a sea attack. He held shore batteries in reserve and didn’t destroy all the runways. British troops had to watch German Junkers easily landing troops who then drove them off Crete.

(3) The distant “tele-connections”. Example: Chiang Kai-shek counted on access to French Indochina for his Nationalists vs. Japan & Mao’s Communists. But when France fell to the Germans, the weak Vichy government granted Japanese access to Hanoi because the French were no longer strong enough to refuse, thus weakening the Nationalists.

UPDATE 2 (P.664) Quesada’s IX Tactical Air Command was greatly admired by American ground forces for its panache, but it had acquired a reputation for bad navigation and target recognition. In October when called in to attack specific positions on the Westwall in Germany, not a single aircraft found the target. One even flattened the Belgian mining village of Genk, causing eighty civilian casualties. The 30th Division was hit hard when it reached Malmedy. This was the thirteenth time since landing in Normandy that it had been attacked by its own aircraft, and GIs even started to refer to the Ninth as ‘the American Luftwaffe’. This rather underlined the German army joke since Normandy that ‘if it’s British, we duck; if it’s American everybody ducks; and if it’s the Luftwaffe nobody ducks’.

That Second World War history by Beevor is a really good read. Also liked another by him, Stalingrad.

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Yes, Beevor’s “Battle for Spain” impressed me.
After his WW2 book , I think I’ll try his Russian Revolution:

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Baseball at the abyss.

The scandal no one talks about and absolutely should be used to get Pete Rose in the HOF.