This is my reading list; there are many like it, but this one is not in Comic Sans. These used to be the books that were on my office bookshelf when I had an office, or the top shelves on my home office bookshelf when I don’t. I’ve expanded the list, but they’ll all still fit on a single standard bookshelf. I actually own and have read my recommended reading list. It doesn’t change based on the Flavor of the Month flag officer’s reading list, though it will change obviously if I read something worthy of it. For example, my Top Five had two new additions in the previous eighteen months when I first created this list.
Many will scoff at some of the titles (The “eye rolls” will be strong with some of you, but that’s ok because you’re smarter than me), but these books are the most important and useful professional development, history, or common interest books that I’ve read. I highly recommend every one of them. You’ll notice that they’re books for all ages because letting someone borrow one is the quickest way to get them to read it. And some of these books are on their fourth and fifth copies because I never ask for them back as long the borrower reads them (It’s a small price to pay).
If I should die tomorrow, I expect these books on a shelf next to the bar at my wake.
Bukowski’s Top Five
Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, Field-Marshal Viscount William Slim – Required reading for every military officer. The chapters on training and lessons learned are solid gold.
Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance, James L Ritchie-Dunham – If you are in the military, don’t let the description dissuade you, Mr. Ritchie-Dunham NAILED Mission Command. “Elegant” is the only word that is appropriate. If you deal in Mission Command and you haven’t read it, the conversation has moved beyond you.
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, Victor Davis Hanson – “The Warrior” vs “The Soldier” laid out like TA-50.
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour, James D. Hornfischer – “This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” LCDR Robert W. Copeland USNR, Capt. of the USS Samuel B Roberts “The Destroyer That Fought Like a Battleship” 25 October 1944.
Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, Patricia Crisafulli – Required reading for Humanity. There really is hope.
Mission Command: the Who, What Where When and Why, An Anthology Vols I & II, Donald Vandergriff and Stephen Weber
Taking the Guidon: Exceptional Leadership at the Company Level, Nate Allen and Tony Burgess
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, Elliot A Cohen
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Robert Corham
The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error In Complex Situations, Dietrich Dorner
The Top Ten Leadership Commandments, Hans Finzel
The Systems Bible: The Beginner’s Guide to Systems Large and Small, John Gall
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
How To Say It Best, Jack Griffin
Acts of War: Behavior of Men in Battle, Richard Holmes
Maneuver Warfare, an Anthology, Richard D Hooker
System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life, Robert Jervis
The Logic of Violence in Civil War, Stathis N. Kalyvas
Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, Maureen Metcalf
Neostoicism and the Early Modern State, Gerhard Oestreich
Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Frans PB Osinga
The Cognitive Challenge of War: Prussia 1806, Peter Paret
Wavell in the Middle East, 1939–1941: A Study in Generalship, Harold E. Raugh Jr.
An Introduction to Military Ethics: A Reference Handbook, Bill Rhodes
Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance, James L Ritchie-Dunham
The Global Public Relations Handbook, Revised and Expanded Edition: Theory, Research, and Practice, Krishnamurthy Sriramesh and Dejan Vercic
The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness, Jonas Salzgeber
The Greenhill Dictionary Of Military Quotations, Peter G. Tsouras
Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty, Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe
The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805, Charles Edward White
Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, Saul Alinsky
Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You, Deborah J. Bennett
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini
Influence: Science and Practice, Robert B. Cialdini
Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer
Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond, Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman
What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People, Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson
Counter-Democracy: Politics in the Age of Distrust, Pierre Rosanvallon
From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, Gene Sharp
General Military History/Theory
Composite Warfare, Eeben Barlow
The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, Max Boot
The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815, Tim Blanning
On War, Carl von Clausewitz
Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, David Galula
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, Victor Davis Hanson
Hybrid Warfare: Fighting Complex Opponents from the Ancient World to the Present, William Murray and Peter Mansoor
Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, Peter Paret
Clausewitz and the State: The Man, His Theories, and His Times, Peter Paret
One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies: Battle And Tactics Of Chinese Warfare, Ralph D. Sawyer
Definitive Military History
The Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson
Crete: the Battle and the Resistance, Anthony Beevor
La Grande Army, Georges Blonde
Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell, Peter Caddick-Adams
The Triumph, HW Crocker III
White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920 and The Miracle on the Vistula, Norman Davies
Never Come to Peace Again: Pontiac’s Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America, David Dixon
Closing With the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945, Michael D. Doubler
When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House
An Improvised War: The Abyssinia Campaign 1940-1941, Michael Glover
El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, Ioan Grillo
A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, Victor Davis Hanson
In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
The Story of the U.S. Cavalry, 1775-1942, John K Herr
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour, James D. Hornfischer
Neptune’s Inferno,The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, James D. Hornfischer
The Peloponnesian War, Robert Kagan
The Armada, Gareth Mattingly
Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, Field-Marshal Viscount William Slim
The Pacific War Trilogy, Ian Toll
The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain, John Lawrence Tone
The Big Red One: America’s Legendary 1st Infantry Division, James Scott Wheeler
Hue, 1968, Mark Bowden
Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, Bernard Fall
Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, HR McMaster
Dispatches, Michael Herr
Summons of Trumpet, Dave Palmer
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, John A. Nagl and Peter J. Schoomaker
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam, Lewis Sorley
The Village, Bing West
Sword and the Scimitar, Raymond Ibrahim
The Quranic Concept of War, Brig S. K. Malik
The Arab Mind, Raphael Patai
Milestones, Sayed Qutb
The Unraveling, Emma Sky
Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, David Zucchino
Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, Sean Naylor
Passing It On: Fighting the Pashtun on Afghanistan’s Frontier, Sir Andrew Skeen
Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban, Stephen Tanner
The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, Jake Tapper
Hints on Irregular Cavalry: Its Conformation, Management and Use in Both a Military and Political Point of View (1845), Charles Farquhar Trower
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Mark Bowden
Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, Patricia Crisafulli
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Roméo Dallaire
States and Power in Africa, Jeffery Herbst
The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence, Martin Meredith
The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912, Thomas Pakenham
The Colonial Frontier
Telling the Truth About History, Appleby, Hunt, and Jacob
Modern Historiography: An Introduction, Michael Bentley
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn
The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa, Michael L. Burgoyne
Team Yankee: A Novel of World War III, Harold Coyle
The Third World War/The Third World War: The Untold Story, Sir John Hackett
Three Cups of Bullshit, Greg Mortensen
First Clash: Combat Close-Up In World War Three, Kenneth Macksey
Defense of Hill 781: An Allegory of Modern Mechanized Combat, James R. McDonough
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, Steven Pressfield
The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, Ernest Dunlop Swinton
Battle Cry, Leon Uris
The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, H Porter Abbot
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition.
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, R.W. Burchfield
Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History, Jim Cullen
It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande
The Best Punctuation Book, Period., June Casagrande
The Law of Self Defense 3rd Edition, Andrew Branca
You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense, Charles Bukowski
Back to Basics, Abighail R. Gehring
The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central Eastern Europe, Vaclav Havel
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger
Do the Work!, Steven Pressfield
Rugby: The Player’s Handbook, M. B. Roberts and Ronald C. Modra
Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes
The Three Musketeers Trilogy, Alexandre Dumas
Conan/Soloman Kaine Collection, Robert E. Howard
Eye of the World/The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
The Annotated Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
Rock and Roll, An Unruly History, Robert Palmer
The Trilogy/The Teutonic Knights, Henryk Sienkiewicz
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
The Raiding Forces series, Phil Ward
The Sword of Honour Trilogy, Eveyln Waugh
(Beware! Fiction post follows!)
The successful Soviet coup in 1991 saw Boris Yeltsin summarily executed in the Kremlin courtyard. The coup eventually led to a war – a war that engulfed the globe.
As soon as the new millennium’s first spring harvest was planted, the German 3rd Army left its cantonment areas to conduct the last strategic offensive of what would eventually be called “The Twilight War”. Spearheaded by the US XI Corps, the allied remnants of NATO were to clear Soviet and Polish communist formations from along the Baltic coast, seize the Vistula river basin for its vital, lifesaving supply of fresh water, and make contact with Polish Free Legions operating against vicious bands of marauders terrorizing the population in the interior.
Exploiting a gap in the Soviet lines near the radioactive ruins of Bydgoszcz, the 5th US Infantry Division, the Red Diamond, broke out southeast along the south bank of the Vistula. German and American commanders congratulated themselves on the victory. There were no communist formations between them and the remains of Warsaw. The veteran 5th Infantry Division of the newly constituted XI Corps, was long used to local recruiting in the struggle to maintain any semblance of numbers, but they fortunately received the last shipment of replacements and heavy vehicles from the former United States of America before it descended into a brutal civil war the previous winter. Armed with new M1A2E3 Abrams main battle tanks, Cadillac Gage Stingray light tanks, and LAV-25 armored personnel carriers (originally destined for the Marines of the Rapid Deployment Force in Iran), the 5th US Infantry Division was one of the most powerful armored formations remaining in the world. Or so it was thought.
The division’s fuel reserves were grossly inadequate for the new vehicles. The new tanks unfortunately overwhelmed the division’s logistics system, which normally managed just the cantonment areas behind the stabilized front where the Division spent the last year. The new tanks burned fuel at a rate unknown in the previous iterations of M1s. Consequently, the 5th Infantry Division spent a better part of a week around Torun distilling ethanol to replenish the thirsty vehicles and the big 5000 gallon tankers.
With Polish Free Legion guides, the division cavalry squadron, the horse mounted 4-12 Cavalry, scouted as far south as Lodz, one of the few remaining intact cities left in Poland. The troopers identified only a weak Polish border guards brigade holding the city. The commander of the 5th, the indefatigable Brigadier General Pat Dudley, call sign Red Diamond Six, chose Lodz as the objective for the next leg of the offensive.
In an intelligence failure akin to missing the surprise Italian offensive that almost captured Munich, the tactical situation around Lodz was not as it appeared. The first sign of trouble were the hordes of marauders in the pay of Soviet cavalry who overwhelmed 4-12 CAV’s observation posts. 4-12 CAV withdrew southwest, and just barely missed being annihilated by a fast moving Soviet motorized rifle division, which emerged from Lodz as if conjured by a wizard. Just as the 256th Brigade of Louisiana National Guard, the 5th’s “round out” brigade and main effort against Lodz, pulled out of their assault positions, they were struck by two motorized rifle divisions and tank division of the Soviet 4th Guards Tank Army.
The 4th Guards Tank Army was last reported deep in the Belorussian wilderness. Only the quick counterattack by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team prevented the complete destruction of the Tiger Brigade, but both formations took a beating. One incredulous report even mentioned a Soviet MI-8 Hip spotting for the Soviets! Against this overwhelmingly powerful formation, Red Diamond Six ordered the 1st Brigade to secure the bridges over the Warta River to the west and prepare to defend the crossings. The Division Trains, and the 2nd and 256th Brigades would pass through their lines to escape the well-armed, well supplied, and fully mobile 4th Guards Tank Army.
The plan fell apart almost immediately. The Polish 10th Tank Division was spotted west of Kalisz by the 1st Brigade’s reconnaissance troop, which forced the brigade to launch a hasty attack to seize the town lest the communists threaten the rear of the Warta river line. Under great pressure, the 2nd Brigade managed to get across the river, and set up roadblocks at the bridges. But the grievously wounded 256th was cut off, pinned against the river and destroyed, with only remnants fleeing south into the woods and out of contact. In desperation, Red Diamond Six had the Warta bridges blown, but their destruction provided only a temporary reprieve: another Soviet motorized rifle division appeared behind 4-12 CAV having crossed the river to the south of where the 256th was destroyed.
Red Diamond Six ordered the division to consolidate on Kalisz. 1st Brigade parried the Polish tanks to the west and southwest. 2nd Brigade moved to prepare a defense against the approaching Soviets from the south and east. On fumes, the last ten Abrams tanks of 3-70 Armor pulled into defilade positions overlooking the Kalisz-Sieradz road, just as the main body of the Soviet 124th MRD drove into their engagement area. In ten minutes, 30 Soviet vehicles were burning on the road, a counter attack defeated, with 3-10 Infantry narrowly stopping another counterattack into 3-70 AR’s flank from the south.
The victories didn’t change the fact that Kalisz was a poor refuge. One motorized rifle division was destroyed but there were two more crossing the Warta to the north and east. The Polish 10th Tank to the west was strangely silent, but nonetheless its existence threatened the division rear. Moreover, there were marauding mercenaries everywhere, and a Soviet tank division was unaccounted for since its clash with 2nd Brigade outside Lodz. Red Diamond Six decided to take advantage of the mauling 3-70 AR and 3-10 IN handed the Soviets to the southeast, and ordered the division to break out of the rapidly shrinking Kalisz perimeter toward the Free City of Krakow. Krakow had declared independence from everyone, and it was thought the division could reorganize there, or at worst, work for the city…
The Division and Brigade trains issued the last of their supplies, ammunition, and fuel. Then with the engineers, they were broken up and attached to the nearest combat units. The DIVARTY would pound Ostrow with its last remaining shells, spike their guns, and follow the brigades out. 1-40 AR would hold Kalisz as the Division attacked south. They weren’t expected to follow.
Again the Communists proved more agile than expected. This time it was the Polish 10th Tank to the west. The Poles weren’t dithering, as intelligence suspected, but rehearsing a night assault with infrared spotlights. Just after midnight on 18 July 2000, Polish communist tanks and APCs struck the empty positions of 1-61 Infantry, who had pulled out of their assault positions for a BMNT jump off to the south. There had been no time to wait for a company of 1-40 AR tanks to take over the sector, and the risk seemed reasonable since the chances that the Poles would attack before dawn were deemed small. They were wrong.
The scouts left to screen withdrew in the face of the communists’ IR lights, and the tank division overwhelmed the nine Stingrays enroute to 1-61’s old fighting positions. An hour later, 1-40 AR was struck from the north by the fresh 21st MRD, then west, and eventually the south, by the Polish 10th Tank. The American tankers died a tragic death, albeit one taking many times their number. Their thermal sites gave them a qualitative edge over their IR equipped foes, but quantity has a quality all its own.
By dawn, chaos reigned in Kalisz. Free Legionary Poles fought communist Poles in the streets for the soul of the town. The American attack broke down as Communist vehicles struck the rear of the Division’s attack positions. Many units broke and fled, or commenced their attack early only to die in Ostrow to friendly artillery. Fighting spread to the Division Command Post. Firing could be heard over the radio. The commander’s personnel security detachment and the division staff were heavily enaged with Polish T-55s, Soviet BMPs, and marauding cavalry. Red Diamond Six’s last message was broadcast in the clear:
“In has been my honor to serve you. Good Luck – you’re on your own now. Diamond Six, out.”
(Thanks to Game Designers Workshop for their awesome “Twilight: 2000” post-apocalyptic setting. Writing this took me back to my childhood. I wrote this because a friend wanted a summary of the setting as a preview before he backed a Kickstarter, and I wanted to save what I wrote. Virtually all of this post is adapted from GDW’s Twilight: 2000 alt-history background information found in game materials published in 1984, 1990, and 1993.)