Monthly Archives: October 2013

This it is that we always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap… Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE! for how long have those words given comfort to the complacent? In 1891 there were three federal prisons, by 1930 there were 11, today there are a minimum of 116. Part of the problem is the exponential growth of crimes that are now federal as opposed to violations of state laws. The states have been all too happy to abdicate their jurisdiction because it places the cost of apprehension, prosecution and detention on someone else’s budget but from the defendant’s perspective it sharply reduces the possibility of acquittal and greatly increases the burden of defense. This book is not only an excellent history but may also be a frightening prophecy.

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The history of the Gulag : from collectivization to the great terror  Oleg V. Khlevniuk ; foreword by Robert Conquest ; translated by Vadim A. Staklo with editorial assistance and commentary by David J. Nordlander  New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2004  Hardcover. First edition, later printing. xviii, 418 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The human cost of the Gulag, the Soviet labor camp system in which millions of people were imprisoned between 1920 and 1956, was staggering. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and others after him have written movingly about the Gulag, yet never has there been a thorough historical study of this unique and tragic episode in Soviet history.

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This groundbreaking book presents the first comprehensive, historically accurate account of the camp system. Russian historian Oleg Khlevniuk has mined the contents of extensive archives, including long-suppressed state and Communist Party documents, to uncover the secrets of the Gulag and how it became a central component of Soviet ideology and social policy.

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Khlevniuk argues persuasively that the Stalinist penal camps created in the 1930s were essentially different from previous camps. He shows that political motivations and paranoia about potential enemies contributed to the expansion of the Gulag as much as the economic incentive of slave labor did. And he offers powerful evidence that the Great Terror was planned centrally and targeted against particular categories of the population. Khlevniuk makes a signal contribution to Soviet history with this exceptionally informed and balanced view of the Gulag.

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The story of the battleship Tirpitz — Bismarck’s sister ship — and the desperate British efforts to destroy it .

Tirpitz : the life and death of Germany’s last super battleship  Niklas Zetterling & Michael Tamelander  Philadelphia ; Newbury : Casemate, 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 360 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930), Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office from 1897-1916.

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930), Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office from 1897-1916.

After the Royal Navy’s bloody high seas campaign to kill the mighty Bismarck, the Allies were left with an uncomfortable truth — the German behemoth had a twin sister. Slightly larger than her sibling, the Tirpitz was equally capable of destroying any other battleship afloat, as well as wreak havoc on Allied troop and supply convoys. For the next three and a half years the Allies launched a variety of attacks to remove Germany’s last serious surface threat.

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The Germans, for their part, had learned not to pit their super battleships against the strength of the entire Home Fleet outside the range of protecting aircraft. Thus they kept Tirpitz hidden within fjords along the Norwegian coast, like a Damocles Sword hanging over the Allies’ maritime jugular, forcing the British to assume the offensive. This strategy paid dividends in July 1942 when the Tirpitz merely stirred from its berth, compelling the Royal Navy to abandon a Murmansk-bound convoy called PQ-17 in order to confront the leviathan. The convoy was then ripped apart by the Luftwaffe and U-boats, while the Tirpitz returned to its fjord.

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In 1943, the British launched a flotilla of midget submarines against the Tirpitz, losing all six of the subs while only lightly damaging the battleship. Aircraft attacked repeatedly, from carriers and both British and Soviet bases, suffering losses — including an escort carrier — while proving unable to completely knock out the mighty warship.

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Trying an indirect approach, the British launched one of the war’s most daring commando raids — at St. Nazaire — in order to knock out the last drydock in Europe capable of servicing the Tirpitz. Of over 600 commandos and sailors in the raid, more than half were lost during an all-night battle that succeeded, at least, in knocking out the drydock. It was not until November 1944 that the Tirpitz finally succumbed to British aircraft armed with 10,000-lb Tallboy bombs, the ship capsizing at last with the loss of 1,000 sailors.

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In this book military historians Niklas Zetterling and Michael Tamelander, authors of Bismarck: The Final Days of Germany’s Greatest Battleship, illuminate the strategic implications and dramatic battles surrounding the Tirpitz, a ship that may have had greater influence on the course of World War II than her more famous sister.

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Down the steps, …over the corpses, …careers the pram with the child.

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Red mutiny : eleven fateful days on the battleship Potemkin  Neal Bascomb  Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2007  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiii, 386 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [321]-333) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In 1905 after being served rancid meat, more than 600 Russian Navy sailors mutinied against their officers aboard what was then Imperial Russia‘s newest and most powerful battleship. Theirs was a life barely worth living–a life of hard labor and their rebellion came as no surprise. Against any reasonable odds of success, the sailors-turned-revolutionaries, led by the firebrand Matiushenko, risked their lives to take control of the ship and raise the red flag of revolution.

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What followed was a violent port-to-port chase that spanned eleven harrowing days and came to symbolize the Russian Revolution itself. A pulse-quickening story that alternates between the opulent court of Nicholas II and the razor”s-edge tension aboard the Potemkin, Red Mutiny is a tale threaded with terrific adventure, epic naval battles, treachery and bloodlust. A single-minded band of revolutionaries led the sailors to overthrow their tyrannical officers, but the POTEMKIN finds itself steaming around the Black Sea with the rest of the fleet in pursuit. Hunted from port to port, the mutineers enter Odessa, sparking a bloody insurrection and bringing Imperial Russia to its knees.

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A rallying cry to revolution that would steer the course of the twentieth century Lenin and many others recognized at the time, this was the key event that would make the Russian revolution possible. The political consequences of this mutiny were profound, but the author concentrates on the individuals involved in these dramatic events but it is also a work of scholarship that draws on the long-closed Soviet archives to shed new light on this seminal event in Russian and naval history.

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The truth not only had a bodyguard of lies it was also well camouflaged.

Production. A-31 ("Vengeance") dive bombers. Camouflaging the ship. A Vultee "Vengeance" dive bomber manufactured at Vultee's Nashville Division is shown attached to the overhead mechanized assembly line trolly. The dive bomber has just entered the huge paint spray booth where it is receiving its camouflage painting treatment before moving to the next station. The "Vengeance" (A-31) was originally designed for the French. It was later adopted by the RAF (Royal Air Force) and still later by the U.S. Army Air Forces. It is a single-engine, low-wing plane, carrying a crew of two men and having six machine guns of varying calibers

Production. A-31 (“Vengeance”) dive bombers. Camouflaging the ship. A Vultee “Vengeance” dive bomber manufactured at Vultee’s Nashville Division is shown attached to the overhead mechanized assembly line trolly. The dive bomber has just entered the huge paint spray booth where it is receiving its camouflage painting treatment before moving to the next station. The “Vengeance” (A-31) was originally designed for the French. It was later adopted by the RAF (Royal Air Force) and still later by the U.S. Army Air Forces. It is a single-engine, low-wing plane, carrying a crew of two men and having six machine guns of varying calibers

Contrary to popular opinion and the recent historical record the British invented neither cunning nor deception. While this book covers many of their better publicized efforts we have illustrated the entry with photographs of the largely American efforts during the two world wars – it was, after all, the Americans who won both wars after Britain’s mismanagement and near collapse.

New York, New York. Architect taking a night course in camouflage at New York University in order to find a good spot for his talents in the United States Army or in industry. The class is taught by having the students make models from photographs, camouflage them and rephotograph them

New York, New York. Architect taking a night course in camouflage at New York University in order to find a good spot for his talents in the United States Army or in industry. The class is taught by having the students make models from photographs, camouflage them and rephotograph them

A genius for deception : how cunning helped the British win two world wars  Nicholas Rankin  Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009  Hardcover. First published in Great Britain as Churchill’s wizards : the British genius for deception, 1914-1945 in 2008 by Faber and Faber. 1st US ed., later printing. xiv, 466 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Seven images taken on November 12, 1918 at the American camouflage factory at Dijon, France. Images show Col. Brenner, the commander of camouflage work in the American Army, with a "dummy" soldier; stone and grass costumes for snipers, paper mache soldiers, a soldier holding a picture of a soldier's face on a stick, Col. Brenner and officers, and a hangar for large sheets used to cover airdromes.

Seven images taken on November 12, 1918 at the American camouflage factory at Dijon, France. Images show Col. Brenner, the commander of camouflage work in the American Army, with a “dummy” soldier; stone and grass costumes for snipers, paper mache soldiers, a soldier holding a picture of a soldier’s face on a stick, Col. Brenner and officers, and a hangar for large sheets used to cover airdromes.

In February 1942, intelligence officer Victor Jones erected 150 tents behind British lines in North Africa. “Hiding tanks in Bedouin tents was an old British trick,” writes Nicholas Rankin. German general Erwin Rommel not only knew of the ploy, but had copied it himself.  Jones knew that Rommel knew.  In fact, he counted on it – for these tents were empty. With the deception that he was carrying out a deception, Jones made a weak point look like a trap.

Camouflaged German gun position, beach in Quinéville Sketch showing house with missing roof with gun in doorway in Quinéville, Manche, France.

Camouflaged German gun position, beach in Quinéville Sketch showing house with missing roof with gun in doorway in Quinéville, Manche, France.

In A Genius for Deception, Nicholas Rankin offers a lively and comprehensive history of how Britain bluffed, tricked, and spied its way to victory in two world wars. As Rankin shows, a coherent program of strategic deception emerged in World War I, resting on the pillars of camouflage, propaganda, secret intelligence, and special forces. All forms of deception found an avid sponsor in Winston Churchill, who carried his enthusiasm for deceiving the enemy into World War II.

Private William Madison emerging from a foxhole concealed by a papier mache rock during a camouflage demonstration

Private William Madison emerging from a foxhole concealed by a papier mache rock during a camouflage demonstration

Rankin vividly recounts such little-known episodes as the invention of camouflage by two French artist-soldiers, the creation of dummy airfields for the Germans to bomb during the Blitz, and the fabrication of an army that would supposedly invade Greece. Strategic deception would be key to a number of WWII battles, culminating in the massive misdirection that proved critical to the success of the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Men on jungle patrol in the Caribbean area take fullest advantage of natural foliage for camouflage purposes. It takes a quick eye to see these men stealing through the jungles

Men on jungle patrol in the Caribbean area take fullest advantage of natural foliage for camouflage purposes. It takes a quick eye to see these men stealing through the jungles

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Teach your children to work, teach your daughters modesty, teach all the virtue of economy, if not to make them saints, at least make them Christians… António de Oliveira Salazar

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Lisbon : war in the shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945  Neill Lochery  New York : PublicAffairs, c 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. viii, 306 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., map ; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical references( p. 283-294) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Lisbon had a pivotal role in the history of World War II, though not a gun was fired there. The only European city in which both the Allies and the Axis power operated openly, it was temporary home to much of Europe’s exiled royalty, over one million refugees seeking passage to the U.S., and a host of spies, secret police, captains of industry, bankers, prominent Jews, writers and artists, escaped POWs, and black marketeers. An operations officer writing in 1944 described the daily scene at Lisbon’s airport as being like the movie “Casablanca,” times twenty.

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In this narrative, historian Lochery draws on his relationships with high-level Portuguese contacts, access to records recently uncovered from Portuguese secret police and banking archives, and other unpublished documents to offer a revelatory portrait of the War’s back stage. And he tells the story of how Portugal, a relatively poor European country trying frantically to remain neutral amidst extraordinary pressures, survived the war not only physically intact but significantly wealthier.

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