Category Archives: Military

slaughtercity

Slaughter City: The Sergeant #6 – a Review

When we last left Master Sergeant Mahoney and Corporal Cranepool, Patton had tried to force Eisenhower’s hand to get the war blazing along the Moselle River, so he could drive on to Berlin. But Ike called his bluff and the 33rd “Hammerhead” Division was left caught between Perdition and the deep blue sea.

Well, a deep river, anyway, and more brown than blue. With no artillery support or air cover and little in the way of supplies, the Hammerheads were thrown back across the river even though the defenders are hardly Germany’s finest.

But now, Patton has scrounged up some support, and is driving his boot into the 4th points of his subordinates to make the attack work this time.

Here’s an excerpt from a scene where Patton comes to motivate the troops personally, down at company level:

 “Now listen here, men,” Patton growled, “I know what you went through last night. A lot of your buddies were killed, and all of you nearly got killed yourselves. Now we all know that it’s no fun to lose a battle because Americans aren’t losers. By nature, we are winners. Given half a chance, we will win any battle in which we are placed. That’s because we’re tough and strong and because we love to fight. Yes, by God, we love to fight.”

Patton made a fist and held it up in the air. “We love to beat the shit out of our enemies and step on his face afterwards. We love to rip open his belly and tear his guts out. We pray for the chance to kick him in the balls and split his head open. Is there any man out here who doesn’t feel that way?”
Nobody said a word, just as Patton knew they wouldn’t.
“Good,” Patton said. “I knew there weren’t any cowards or queers in this company. I knew because you’re all good, red-blooded Americans. I know you’re just itching to get across that river over there and lay your hands on those Germans. By God, I feel sorry for those Germans when I just think about it. I really do because I can imagine what you’re going to do to them.”

Patton pointed to the Moselle River. “You’re going to make that river over there run red with their blood for what they did to you last night. There’ll be so many dead Germans over there you won’t be able to put your foot down without stepping on one of their noses. I feel bad that I have to hold you back until midnight because I know you want to go over there right now. But you have to wait just a little while longer, and I want you to use that extra time to clean your weapons and cover them with a light film of oil so they won’t get rusty. If you have some extra time after that, you can sharpen your bayonets so they’ll cut deeper into those Hun bastards over there. You might want to make sure your canteens are filled with water because you’re gonna get thirsty while you’re killing all those bastards. And as we all know, tonight is going to be much different from last night because tonight you’ll have plenty of artillery preparation and support. By the time you get across that river, those g****mn kraut-eating bastards won’t know where the hell they are. Their eardrums will be bleeding, and their brains will be upside-down in their heads. The poor bastards will probably try to run away from you, but I want you to go right after them and kill them like the dogs that they are. And I don’t want you to shoot over their heads or at their legs. I want you to aim directly for the center of their backs and bring them down. We’re not going to play with them after what they did to us last night. And they probably know it. I’ll bet they’re shitting their pants over there right now because they know they’ve made us mad, and a mad American soldier is a fearsome thing.”

There’s a lot else happening in this book, including an SS death squad using a seductress to kill GIs; a panty-raid at a USO show; both Mahoney and once-innocent farmboy Cranepool wounded in action; shooting a locomotive with bazookas, and some down & dirty urban house-to-house combat.

After a relatively slow-paced departure in the last book, Len Levinson is back on the offensive in Slaughter City, and in fine blood-splattered form.

Doom River: The Sergeant #5 – a Review

Due mostly to my schedule, my blogged reviews of this blood’n’guts war series stopped at #4. But my negligence stops, now!

Master Sergeant Mahoney and Corporal Cranepool have just returned from their attachment to a French unit liberating Paris. It was supposed to be cushy duty, but only the end of it was cushy–in the arms of some French floozies in a fancy hotel.

doomriverpaperbackThe Sergeant and his sidekick are back just in time to meet Charlie Company’s new C.O. Captain Anderson is a young, inexperienced officer, but one of the good ones (a rare combo, in my day). They’re also just in time for one of Patton’s “recon in force” missions, to push across the Moselle and keep the pressure on the Germans.

Patton is out of gas for his tanks, and frightfully low on artillery, ammo and supplies. He assumes if he is able to stir up some action, Ike will be forced to send him what he needs, so Patton can push on to Berlin and finish the war before Christmas. But Ike isn’t having it–all the supplies will be diverted to Field Marshal Montgomery, who is tasked with taking Antwerp.

(Historical note: Yes, Patton’s 3rd Army could have reached Berlin and ended the war before Christmas of ’44 if their supplies hadn’t been cut off. Also true that all those resources were given to Monty–somewhat less than a daring or decisive general–for Operation Market Garden (of A Bridge Too Far fame), which had less chance of success and, even if successful, would have had a lesser impact on the grand strategic situation. Most likely, Patton’s onslaught was intentionally delayed in order to give the Red Army time to capture the half of Europe which had been promised to Stalin by FDR at the Yalta conferences.)

So the 33rd “Hammerhead” Division conducts a river crossing at great cost, since they didn’t have much in the way of artillery support, and their men and boats are chewed up pretty bad by the German defenders. Still, they now have a beachhead from which the Wermacht has to throw them. Mahoney’s regiment bears the brunt of this counterattack.doomriverebook

The Americans are in a bad position, but Patton doesn’t like surrendering ground once he’s taken it.

This installment in the series could launch a character study on the sort of men who populate the officer corps of an army. Whether a commander wants to make a name for himself, or simply doesn’t want a sub-par evaluation, it is their troops who are used like cannon  fodder to enhance or maintain their egos.

Mahoney himself has some moments in this book in which he demonstrates more humanity than is normal for him. (Also, in this one we are introduced to PFC Butsko. I can’t help but notice the similarities between him and the platoon sergeant of The RatBastards–also named Butsko.) Still, this is a transitional phase for Mahoney, and the real plot dynamics focus on other characters.

ancosantoir

An Cosantoir reviews Hell & Gone

An Cosantoir is the official magazine of Ireland’s Defense Forces. Sgt. Wayne Fitzgelarld, the editor, has recently reviewed Hell & Gone.

From his review:

Henry goes for all action with his ‘Dirty Dozen’ like squad sent on a daring mission in Sudan, with a final battle that reminded me of Black Hawk Down.

The ending of the book is explosive; you are in the thick of it.

Nice to find out that folks across the pond appreciate it, too. My thanks to Wayne for taking the time and effort to share his thoughts. His complete review is available in An Cosantoir, or on Hell & Gone‘s Amazon page.

And speaking of that, Hell & Gone has been picking up some reviews lately. In fact, it has received more reviews in the last couple months since the BookBub promotion than in all the preceding years. Wish I had done this much earlier…but then, I did almost everything wrong with my first few books, and squandered or missed out on numerous opportunities out of my marketing ignorance.

Don’t forget: the first two Retreads novels are available as Audible downloads as well as E-Books and paperbacks. If you’re like me, then listening to a book is the best way to “read” these days, with our busy schedules and drive time. Hell & Gone is narrated by David H. Lawrence XVII, and Tier Zero is narrated by Johnny C. Hayes. Both voice actors have their own style of delivery, and the contrast is interesting. I’m toying with the idea of recording the third book in the series, False Flag, myself. Don’t know if/when I’ll get around to that, or if it’s a good idea. We’ll see.

Anyway, if you can’t spare the time to read the first two normally, buy the Audible versions and let us entertain you while you work, drive, or whatever.

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Bam! Hell & Gone is a Bestseller

Recently I organized a little media blitz for my debut shoot-’em-up, and ran a 99 cent promotion. The results have been encouraging.

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I’m not a full-time author (I still work a “real” job, drat the luck), so I’m not able to sit at a computer all day and track rankings. The best I saw was that Hell & Gone hit #1 bestseller in war, pulp, and men’s adventure, and reached #70 on the top “paid in Kindle store” on Tuesday night. It was inside the top 50 in some other categories, too, but I don’t know where it peaked. Could a healthy number of reviews/increased visibility be forthcoming? You can bet I’ll be paying attention, when I can.

I’m not sure how many sales I’m getting on Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble, where it’s also on sale for 99 cents. (BTW both Hell & Gone and Tier Zero are also available as Audible audio books.)

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I also have a 99 cent promotion scheduled to start Saturday (November 5) for False Flag, the third book in The Retreads series. I don’t have the same level of media blitz lined up, and it’s a darker/more controversial storyline, so I don’t expect the same caliber of spike. However, Election Day happens right in the middle of the promo, and approximately 40% of those who go to the polls will be voting to make this speculative dystopia a reality. So it’s kinda’ fitting.

UPDATE: The sales reports are trickling in from other stores, starting with Barnes & Noble. Don’t know where it put me on their algorithm, but I see a boatload of sales. I need to do this again.

haltvsfreeze

Military Hand-Arm Signals in Movies

A general pet peeve of mine is when an author or film maker attempts to depict military action, or a military milleu, and obviously lacks the knowledge to do it right.

One specific annoyance in the last decade or more is the hand-arm signals used by actors portraying fighting men.

(Such signals are used by marines and infantry while moving tactically in the field, prior to contact, lest they break noise discipline by talking.)

Now, granted: units down to the platoon level often develop their own S.O.P.s for signaling, but in my experience the basic set of signals (get in the wedge; move out; double-time; cease-fire; rally point; head count; halt; freeze; enemy sighted; etc.) are universal across the combat arms in both the US Army and USMC.

So here’s what I think happened: Some movie was made depicting soldiers or marines on a patrol or some other tactical movement. The point man heard or saw something to make him suspect the enemy was close, so he gave the signal to “freeze.” The grunts stopped in their tracks. Some other film maker watched the scene and decided, “Hey, that’s kinda’ cool. Now I know everything I need to know about tactical movement.”

So that film maker, when it was his turn to display his wealth of military research, had an actor use the gesture when it was his turn to film such a scene. Problem is, he thought it was the symbol for “halt,” (open palm facing the troops: “Come to a stop, you richard-heads.”) which is used in different circumstances than “freeze” (raised fist: “Don’t make a move or you might get all our asses shot off!)

After that, any time a similar scene was shot in any subsequent military movie, rather than hire an advisor to police basic minutia like this, the director went by how it was done in the last flick. After all, “it looked cool.”

So now, invariably, the “freeze” signal is used to command a halt on the screen (even in non-tactical situations, and even in vehicle convoys).

The fallacy is so ubiquitous that I wouldn’t be surprised if actual soldiers begin jacking up the S.O.P. in a life-imitates-art manner after having grown up on these poorly researched movies.

[End of rant.]

Dialog at Twilight’s Last Gleaming #1

There’s some notable conversations taking place in “flyover country” these days. I think I’ll document some of them.

NGV: I know (our co-worker) has a family to provide for, but stealing from the company…pissing off the customers…I don’t see how they wouldn’t fire him.

RAV: I don’t want anybody to lose their job–especially in this economy. He needs to go on welfare or something, because he’s damaging our reputation.

NGV: I feel bad for his family, though.

RAV: Yeah. There ain’t that many jobs out there, and frankly, depending on what happens in this election, there might not be an America for much longer. It could be a lot more like Brazil or Venezuela pretty soon.

NGV: Speaking of that, when the shit hits the fan, you’re welcome to bring your family and follow me to (redacted) in Idaho.

RAV: No kidding? (Wow, he’s a lot more prepared than I thought.)

NGV: Yeah, seriously. If all you’ve got is your bug-out bag, that’s cool. Ammunition won’t be a problem, either–we’ve got plenty to share.

RAV: Oh yeah? (Holy cow, he’s blowing OPSEC all to hell. Doesn’t he realize we’re talking on cellphones?) I don’t know where I’ll be when the day comes, or what my travel options will be, but I really do appreciate that. (I just wish you’d be wiser about what you say on an unsecured line.)

theadmiral

The Admiral – A Review

Pre-Napoleonic era wars are veiled in obscurity for all but historians and fans of history. So it seems incredible to most people that the Dutch were once a formidable power in Europe, and even developed some important military innovations (it was they who first fielded platoon-sized units, for instance).

This is a well-crafted film that seems to have drawn more from actual history than from convention, cliche` and ubiquitous Hollywood tropes. It highlights a period in the life of Michiel de Ruyter, a 17th Century naval tactician who led the Dutch Navy to impressive victories over the British and French.

Similar to Napoleon Bonaparte over a century later, de Ruyter was a commoner who rose through the ranks to a field-grade commission on his own ability and execution, among a typical European hierarchy built upon caste and dominated by the nobility. During the tenure of De Witt as prime minister of the Dutch Republic, de Ruyter is promoted to admiral, and leads the Dutch Fleet to glory.

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CGI was used to depict a top-down view of the naval battles, which looked like something you might see in a PC strategy game. I consider this a clever idea…but it was fumbled in the execution. It does provide an idea of the opposing forces, but usually does little to depict how the battles played out. As an erstwhile armchair historian, using the CGI strategic view to better effect would have rendered this film a tour de force of audio-visual military history.

I’m far from an afficionado on Netherlands politics in any century, but the political subplot rang true. It also provides an historic lesson relevant to the situation citizens of the USA find themselves in right now (not that anybody from either major side has any interest in learning from history). The Dutch abandoned self-rule by representative government and volunteered for the chains of an oligarchy (a monarchy, on the surface). The film also provides a tiny glimpse of the sort of consequences you will suffer by trading away your freedom for promises of unity, security, ethnic pride, or whatever magic beans strike you as a good trade during a fever-peak of emotion.

The prince of the Netherlands, who would be elevated to king, seems entirely familiar to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of European royalty (maybe any royalty anywhere). The film makers made it clear enough for adults in the audience what sort of indulgences the prince harbored, but I appreciated that his faggotry wasn’t smeared in our faces to the point that it distracts from the main plot.

It’s a Dutch film, and so most of the dialog is Dutch, with English subtitles.

We Defy!

There was activity by one of the vans. Some agents were trying to get back to a van, probably to get some gear they intended to use.
Roberts figured that had to be stopped. We can’t afford some
counter sniper activity, when it came down to it there would be no extra risk tolerated to either his men or himself. “All X-ray
elements, this is X-ray 47, prevent equipment recovery from the van on the highway, 4th vehicle from the last.”
The FBI Hostage Rescue Team was in a bad spot. They (or more
accurately, previous members of the Team) had been present at Ruby Ridge and at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
Those incidents were sore points with the tea bagger movement, and the agents on the Team knew that if given the opportunity, the tea baggers would kill them with relish in revenge. The agents had to get the sniper rifles into action, or they would be dead men.
There was no way the average agents, even those who had SWAT training, were going to get the Team out of this situation. The tea baggers were over 300 meters out, and they knew that most agents couldn’t hit an elephant at 200 meters. The Team had to get back to the van.
Roberts RTO was approaching, saying into the microphone
“Standby for X-ray 47 actual.” And then he handed the mike to
Roberts.
“This is X-ray 47 actual, over.”
“This in X-ray 72, request to take targets by van down, over.”
“Shred the van, knee cap them if you can, then take them down, over.”
“Roger, out.”

Above is an excerpt from the action chapter of this book, when the JTF (Joint Task Force) raid runs into an ambush by a well-organized militia.

To describe this book in one sentence, I might say Atlas Shrugs meets Armor at Fulda Gap. There is no character development, to speak of. In fact, character establishment is mostly lacking throughout. Yet it is a gripping story of a few good men who have had enough of the long march to a 3rd World police state, and band together to do something about it–something more effective (and realistic?) than “going Galt” to some fantasy retreat where the jackbooted Feds will just leave them alone.

In this speculative tale of a near future secession effort in Texas, the focal character is Jim Roberts, a former armor officer who is well-versed in military SOPs, TOOs and overall military doctrine. He also knows a great deal about the law and politics, though toward the end we discover he hates politics (and I can relate). From a storytelling perspective it seems he’s not all that necessary for 2/3rds of the narrative, which is in a summary format. Nevertheless, after a couple pages it was hard to quit reading.

I’m tempted to call this “an optimistic dystopia” because everything seems to fall into place for the good guys. Oh, they have opposition, and that opposition is depicted credibly. The optimistic part is how so many individualists can put aside petty differences, come together with realistic plans, attainable goals, and work selflessly to actually make a change while pretty much getting everything right along the way. From my experience, this would never happen. Nevertheless, it is an engrossing read because I like to dream about how we COULD preserve some of our freedoms IF IF IF this, that, that, and this all went right, and if key people handled thus situation exactly in this fashion, and Joe and Moe could check their pride at the door in order to work together, etc. Perhaps patriots and Texicans would enjoy this book as much as I did. It might be just the ticket for those who don’t normally read fiction (or read at all), because it’s full of information and action plans which could, theoretically, be mimicked in real life.

The version of this book that I read was not edited. It reads like a first draft by somebody who doesn’t know (how) to punctuate, with seriously challenged spelling and grammar skills…and who only made matters worse with what spell check function was utilized. In other words: a typical Indie e-book. Difficulty telling dialog from inner-dialog from narration was compounded by a haphazard use of quotation marks. During one passage of dialog which went on for quite a while, there were no attributions at all and you might could figure out who was saying what if you took notes and kept score. There were several paragraphs I had to re-read a few times to deduce what the meaning would be without so many errors, and more than a couple places where the sentence construction was so mangled that I just couldn’t figure out what information the author was trying to convey.

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Phantom Leader

In the third book in the Wings of War series,  Mark Berent has not lost any steam. In fact, some readers think he picks up the pace as the series goes on. In any event, I still maintain that you will not find a more authentic big picture of the US involvement in Vietnam (the air war in particular) in any single non-fiction work. Certainly not in movies (though Go Tell the Spartans is a suprisingly credible depiction of the early days on the ground) or in other fiction ( though Jim Morris’ Above & Beyond is certainly an accurate depiction at the tactical level, from a Sneaky Pete who was there).

Court Bannister was tantalyzingly close to getting his fifth confirmed MiG and making ace, but was yanked from MiG CAP (Combat Air Patrol) over Hanoi and reassigned to strike missions in the Steel Tiger. Now he’s in charge of a “fast FAC” mission, for which he builds a unit out of volunteers for aerial search-and-destroy of trucks and guns along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Special Forces officer Wolf Lochert is back, and as primary a character as ever. Toby Parker is back, too, sobered up and straightened up, but the more responsible he gets, the more he slips to the background. And one of the previously minor characters, Flak Apple, becomes major in this novel, as he becomes a guest at the Hanoi Hilton.

Unfortunately, like too many US citizens, I am so squeamish (and infuriated) at the torture our POWs had to go through in North Vietnam that my instinct was to avoid being informed at all, and I was tempted to skim over the chapters focusing on Flak Apple. But I didn’t. Whoever was responsible for leaving our men over there to suffer and die deserves to burn.

The “fast FAC” was a Forward Air Controller mission flown in fast movers, rather than propellor-driven observation planes–namely, in this case, F-4 Phantoms.

Before reading Berent I didn’t appreciate just how huge a fighter jet the F-4 is. Evidently it weighed more than a WWII B-17 bomber. There’s a whole lot more you will learn from this book, and the series, despite yourself. You’ll be too caught up in a hell of a good story to realize you’re being educated.

Even though Wings of War is a five-book series, I had intended to only read the first three. For some reason I assumed the characters and story would be spent after that, I guess. But they’re still all going strong. I’m in for the whole shebang, reading Eagle Station now, and couldn’t stop if I wanted to.