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Review of Redeye Fulda Cold by Bill Fortin

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on December 29, 2015

Bill Fortin, Redeye Fulda Cold: A Rick Fontain Novel. Cold War Publications, 2015. Maps, Illustrations, Photographs. $16.15. 422pp.

Readers of this blog who are interested in the Cold War, intelligence, technology, and historical fiction will likely enjoy a novel that covers the European Theater of the great game between East and West.  Bill Fortin, a US Army veteran from 1968-1970, who served in West Germany, wrote a novel based around his experiences in the 3rd Armored Division that provides a unique story into an obscure area of Cold War operations.

RedEye Fulda Cold examines the conflict from the eyes of soldier Rick Fontain. Fontain, a draftee from Maryland, enters the Army in April 1968, when most were sent to Vietnam. Based on his test scores, Fontain is offered a slot at OCS, having some college under his belt, but chooses another path that leads him to Fort Bliss, Texas for training on the Redeye shoulder-fired missile system and station in West Germany. He serves about a year and a half at Coleman Kaserne as a member of 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, coordinating the implementation of Redeye into the area as part of the defense against Warsaw Pact forces.

During his time in service, Fontain meets Bill Douglas, who goes by several aliases and works for the CIA as part of their efforts to wage the Cold War around the globe. The encounter connects Fontain with important individuals connected with the intelligence game in Europe, while also shielding his career along the way. With his abilities and personality, Rick successfully implements Redeye into his unit, becoming a leading non-commissioned officer (NCO) overseeing the deployment of the system as part of the larger defense strategy in the area against a potential Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap. In addition, Fontain’s expertise and his connection to Douglas allow him to interact with high-level personnel in the Army and CIA communities. During his time in West Germany, Rick finds time to socialize with the locals, including finding a love interest. Eventually, after several unique adventures, Fontain’s time in Germany ends, but this is only the beginning of his role in the Cold War.

Fortin presents Rick Fontain as an honorable character and capable leader, who looks out for those around him and finds a camaraderie in the Army that is attractive to him in many ways. Further, the men and women he encounters along the way are as interesting, making you want to know more about them as well. The story itself is quite good, with lots of interesting happenings and side stories. While initially expecting a different trajectory, leading to a “Cold War gone hot” situation, I was overall pleased with how the story turned out. Basing the story and characters on his own real-life service, Fortin did an outstanding job of writing a convincing novel on the Cold War that read more like a memoir than a work of fiction. That said, Fortin should strongly consider writing his memoirs of his real service in West Germany, as they would be quite useful to scholars of Cold War history.

Those interested in technology in the Cold War will not be disappointed, as the complexities of the Redeye system are detailed, as are vehicles, aircraft, and early work with remotely piloted aircraft. In addition, those who enjoy spy novels and intelligence/espionage type stories will get something from this book, as while not a work like Ian Flemming’s or Tom Clancy’s, there is sufficient political and intelligence intrigue that should whet the appetite of this audience. Finally, those into military historical fiction will enjoy it simply as a novelization of one common soldier’s service in Western Europe during an often overshadowed time and place in Cold War history.

My only two major issues revolve around stylistic choices. Fortin’s organization of the book somewhat detracts from the typical styling of a novel, as he breaks up chapters into several sections based on a particular time and place, which breaks up the flow of the story a bit. However, it is only a minor issue that helps readers discern where Rick Fontain is. The reason it is a slight issue is that it causes the book to read as a memoir, which it is not meant to be. The other criticism is Fortin’s use of footnotes that explain military slang and abbreviations, as well as certain biographies of important real-world individuals associated with the real happenings of the story arc and technical information. While these make the work accessible to a wider audience, they are also distracting, as they break up the flow of the story. Further, given that this book is going to have a core audience that will likely know what the terms mean, they come across as a bit redundant.

Overall, the book is a solid story of Cold War historical fiction with compelling characters and good prose. It will appeal to a wide and diverse audience and will leave readers wanting to pick up Fortin’s next novel in the Rick Fontain saga, which Fortin will hopefully produce. If looking for a good winter read that has history, technology, and the Cold War, go grab Redeye Fulda Cold.

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Posted in American Military History, Book Reviews, Cold War, US Army | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin-Wargaming World War II on the Eastern Front and Beyond

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on September 7, 2015

Chambers, Andy. Bolt Action. Vol. 10, Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015. 112pp. Illustrations, Photographs. $29.95 (Paperback), $15.95 (e-book and PDF).

Wargaming is a growing hobby, coupled with a resurgence in tabletop gaming, that is popular across the world, but particularly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in the U.S. There are many periods represented in both historical and fantasy, and even more options for rules and miniatures, allowing players to dream of elaborate tables, with flocked terrain and immaculate buildings, as well as beautifully painted miniature soldiers and vehicles.

One such game, Bolt Action, allows players to simulate squad-level combat in World War II. Created by Warlord Games and authored by Rick Priestley, of Warhammer fame, Bolt Action offers players a multitude of options for recreating World War II fights in miniature. In addition to the main rulebook, one option for Bolt Action players seeking to take on the Eastern Front is the book Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin, written by Andy Chambers.

Ostfront takes players from the Far East conflict between the Soviets and Japanese to the Winter War, the various operations that revolved around Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet counter-attack that led to the capture of Berlin. Available armies include German forces, Finnish, Soviet, and Japanese, while theater-specific rules provide interesting opportunities for varying scenarios, including night fighting, mud, ice, and snow.

The book does an excellent job of discussing the intricacies of the individual scenarios, including objectives and various vehicle options. It covered the background history of the broad campaigns and the specific battles.  Featuring exquisite artwork that is customary for Osprey-published works, this book is a must for those who seek to game with German and Soviet forces. It is important to note that it is not a stand-alone set of rules, but a supplement to the main Bolt Action rules.

Having played Bolt Action, I’ve enjoyed the mechanics of the game and the smaller, squad-based, scale. This book is one of several theater-specific supplements that allow players to customize their gaming experiences even more than with the main rules. A well-organized, beautifully-illustrated book, Ostfront will delight gamers seeking to either take on the Soviet Union, or defend the Motherland at all costs. For experienced players seeking to expand their Bolt Action offerings and go in a different direction by fighting the Soviets versus Japan, or Soviets versus Finland, Ostfront should be on your shelf next to the main rulebook.

For more information on the game, please visit their webstore and check out this video.

You can also watch a demo game here.

Posted in 20th Century Military History, Book Reviews, Conflict, Other military history, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Lion’s Gate by Steven Pressfield–Examining the Six-Day War from the Frontlines

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on July 7, 2015

Pressfield, Steven. The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War. New York: Sentinel, 2015. Maps, Photographs, Index. 448pp. $18.00.

The Six-Day War is a conflict full of controversy and strong opinions on both sides. It has also garnered much interest in military history circles. Even wargaming has ventured into recreating the battles of the war, as Battlefront miniatures has a variant of their popular World War II game Flames of War, called Fate of a Nation. There have been many books written on this conflict and even more articles examining the various facets of the conflict, from weaponry used, to tactics, and the political considerations behind this war.

Steven Pressfield has written a new popular history on the war that draws upon accounts from veterans of the war. His new book The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War covers the war through the experiences of men from select units in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). While not a comprehensive history of the conflict, the book does an excellent job of discussing the war from the ground up, which reflects the general trends in military history and conflict studies to study wars from the common soldiers instead of major leaders.

The organization is quite good, divided into six “books” that cover a particular section of the war, including the Sinai, Jerusalem, and the lead up to the conflict. The prose is accessible to general readers and does not come across too academic in tone. While not meant to be an academic history, this work is a good resource for examining the war in detail for those seeking to start studying the war. The book also features several maps and photographs to aid in understanding the scope and reality of the war. Praised by The Wall Street Journal, Marine Corps Times, and Los Angeles Times, Steven Pressfield’s The Lion’s Gate is a great new work on an important conflict in Middle East history.

Posted in Book Reviews, Conflict, Other military history | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Review of Peter the Great and the West: New Perspectives

Posted by William Young on January 24, 2013

International History

Lindsey Hughes, editor. Peter the Great and the West: New Perspectives. Studies in Russia and East Europe series. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. ISBN 978-0-333-92009-1. Tables. Maps. Illustrations. Notes. Index. Pp. xxiv, 280. $115.00 (hardcover).

Lindsey HughesPeter I (the Great) of Russia is the subject of numerous biographies and academic studies.  Historians have focused on his life, reforms, and wars that resulted in Russia’s emergence as a Great Power in the Baltic Region.  The late Dr Lindsey Hughes, Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, collected and edited a number of essays by leading historians of Russia focusing on recent research on the reign of Peter the Great.  Hughes is known for her studies including Russia and the West: The Life of a Seventeenth-Century Westernizer, Prince Vasily Vasil’evich Golitsyn (1643-1714) (1984), Sophia: Regent of Russia, 1657-1704 (1990), Russia in the Age of Peter…

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Posted in Book Reviews, Early Modern European (1648-1792) | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Book Review of England in the War of the Spanish Succession: A Study of the English View and Conduct of Grand Strategy, 1702-1712

Posted by William Young on November 26, 2012

International History

John B. Hattendorf. England in the War of the Spanish Succession: A Study of the English View and Conduct of Grand Strategy, 1702-1712. Modern European History series.  New York and London: Garland, 1987. ISBN 978-0-824-07813-3. Tables. Maps. Appendices. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xxii, 408.

Dr John B. Hattendorf, the Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History and Chairman of the Maritime History Department at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of more than forty books on British and American maritime history and naval warfare.  The present study is the published version of Hattendorf’s doctoral dissertation, completed in 1979, at Oxford University.  It was published in the Garland series of outstanding dissertations in 1987, and has been out-of-print and difficult to obtain since 1989.

Hattendorf presents an analytical study of English war aims, grand strategy, and the conduct of operations during the War of the…

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Posted in Book Reviews, Early Modern European (1648-1792) | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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