The Best Defense

'Moment of Battle': An old school approach to military history, but still fun

Lately I've been dipping into parts of Moment of Battle: The 20 Clashes that Changed the World, by James Lacey and Williamson Murray, who is co-author of one of my favorite books about World War II.

It's an old school approach -- decisive battles and great men. But it is even more anachronistic than that, because it really is about the battles that shaped the modern West. Of the 20 globe-molding clashes, eight involve the English, and five involve the Americans. Apparently, China, South America, and Africa never had a decisive battle worth including (except for Romans fighting in Mediterranean Africa). South Asia, too, except for Dien Bien Phu.

That aside, it is fun to read, partly for battles about which I know nothing (Yarmuk, Zama), and partly for new takes on familiar fights. Things I didn't know about the Battle of Britain include that pilots flying for the U.K. did up to five combat sorties a day. Also, the leading ace of the battle was not British, but a Czech named Josef Frantisek. He shot down a total of 40 German aircraft before being killed on Oct. 8, 1940. Other foreigners flying for the RAF included 141 Poles, 129 New Zealanders, 90 Canadians, 87 other Czechs, and 7 Americans, only one of whom survived World War II.

Still, this book makes me think there is a good follow-up book to be done: Twenty Non-Western Battles that Helped Shape the World. What battles would such a book cover? Bonus points for clashes that don't include Western powers.

Bonus oddity: The jacket cover was designed by one Carlos Beltran. Busy guy!

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The Best Defense

I was surprised to see Google getting down with Marine Corps intelligence

Given the recent blowup between the U.S. government and the Google/Microsoft complex over transparency in intelligence matters, I was interested to see that Google now sponsors two annual awards for Marine Corps intelligence specialists. Sgt. Manuel Iles won "Language Professional of the Year," and Capt. Jesse Sloman won an award for "Literary Excellence." What is Google doing for the Corps, I wonder? I searched online for information about a contract but failed to find anything illuminating.

I wonder if one day Google or another such company will be the biggest U.S. military contractor. After all, a century ago, no one had ever heard of Boeing, Lockheed, or General Dynamics.

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