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Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $9.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredible and outrageous claims, June 13, 2014
This could have been a 3 star review if Ms. Jacobsen had refrained from giving notorious UFO conspiracy crackpots, Stanton Friedman, Robert Lazar plus a dubious anonymous ex EG&G employee, a forum to express their outrageous and ludicrous claims about miniature mutant aviators piloting a flying saucer with a science fiction propulsion system who crash landed in New Mexico and were then preserved and kept alive in jello containers. Compounding this fiction is the allegation of the involvement of Stalin, Dr Mengele and other nefarious individuals. This is pure fantasy straight out of pulp science fiction! As a responsible journalist, Ms. Jacobsen should have reputable back up sources to confirm such extraordinary claims.

Discounting these claims, why would I have given it only 3 stars? As a retired senior staff engineer with Lockheed Missile & Space co., a division of Lockheed Aircraft (now Lockheed Martin) I was involved with a number of black programs including CORONA, AZORIAN and others still classified. I was also familiar with Lockheed's various stealth programs and was interested in reading more about its facilities and activities at area 51. Although Ms. Jacobsen provides some interesting background about the U2, Oxcart, F-117 programs and other cold war activities, she makes a number of egregious science errors that are troubling in a book purporting to be factual. I understand that Ms. Jacobsen is not a scientist or engineer, but having committed to write a book about technology, she should have researchers and fact checkers to confirm the accuracy of her written assertions. Neglecting trivial errors, others have documented, such as whether a specific airport is east or west of a particular location, here are the more conspicuous errors:

Page 92: "At 63,000 feet blood boils because there is not enough pressure to sustain oxygen in the blood stream."
There is negligible dissolved oxygen in blood, almost all is bound to hemoglobin. The reason that blood boils at approximately 63,000 feet is that the vapor pressure of water, and other liquid components of blood plasma, at body temperature (98.6º F) are equal to the atmospheric pressure at that altitude.

Page 292: "We broke the MIG down into each of its individual pieces. Pieces of the cockpit, the gyros, oscillograph, fuel flow meter radio...everything."
The oscillograph was not part of the aircraft, it was test equipment installed for flight evaluation by personnel at area 51.

Page 292: "They retaliated by sending more spy satellites overhead at area 51' sometimes as often as every forty-five minutes."
The Soviet Zenit series of photo reconnaissance satellites in operation until the late 70's, were in near polar low earth orbit and had an orbital period of approximately 90 minutes. On a zenith pass (directly overhead) they would transit horizon to horizon in about 15 minutes and be able to view a specific location at a reasonable oblique angle for no more than 5 - 10 minutes. Since the earth rotates under the satellite, which is fixed in inertial space, the next orbit would be displaced 22 degrees in longitude and would provide a somewhat oblique viewing angle. The satellite would return to a zenith pass in approximately 24 hours. In order to have periodic sun synchronous (satellite overhead during daylight) surveillance of a specific location, within the span of a day, you would need a number of satellites with their nodal crossing times (time of crossing equatorial plane) spaced to equal the desired viewing period. For example, if you wanted to visit a site four times in successive 45 minute intervals, you would need four satellites in very constrained orbits with nodal crossing spaced 11 degrees in longitude. The Soviets never had more than two photo reconnaissance satellites in orbit at any time and never spaced them so closely.

Page 314: "To get that much payload into orbit required phenomenal power, most likely nuclear."
Cosmos 954 was boosted into orbit with conventional chemical rocket.

Page 359: `topped with a "kinetic kill vehicle," or explosive device.'
No explosive device was used; it was kinetic energy (mass x velocity^2)

Page 364: "launched from a satellite in space and hit a precise target on earth at ten thousand miles per second."
Impossible! That's 36 million miles per hour.


The Losing Role
The Losing Role
by Steve Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.79
27 used & new from $6.46

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre, August 26, 2012
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This review is from: The Losing Role (Paperback)
Could have been an interesting take from a German soldier's perspective on the the deception effort during the battle of the bulge. However the prose is mediocre, the protagonist and characters are not credible, awkward similes, confusing chronology and improbable situations.

I notice that only six of the sixteen 5 star reviews are "Amazon Verified Purchase." I'm becoming suspicious of 5 star reviews on Amazon from reviewers who haven't purchased from Amazon. Not that they couldn't have borrowed the book from a friend or the library, but I doubt that most people would review an item on a website from a source with whom they have no relationship. There seems to be a growing industry of paid reviewers for web products, with books being the most egregious example.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2014 1:42 PM PDT


The CIA's Greatest Covert Operation: Inside the Daring Mission to Recover a Nuclear-armed Soviet Sub
The CIA's Greatest Covert Operation: Inside the Daring Mission to Recover a Nuclear-armed Soviet Sub
by David H. Sharp
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from $44.26

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos To The Author, March 16, 2012
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David Sharp (I knew him by his cover name: Dave Schoals) has written an engrossing book about the tremendous effort to get the AZORIAN program off the ground and to see it through to the actual recovery mission and beyond. He had to battle the CIA for years to get his book published and finally got approval, apparently, after the agency was forced to release a January 2010 article, "PROJECT AZORIAN: THE STORY OF THE HUGHES GLOMAR EXPLORER", a highly redacted account of the program. The agency had to respond to Michael White's documentary film, AZORIAN THE RAISING OF THE K-129, which was released in mid 2009. It was generating so much attention that the "Glomar response" was no longer adequate to suppress the increasing interest in the program.

The film was scheduled to be shown on April 27, 2010 at a Lockheed Missile & Space Co. (LMSC) facility in Sunnyvale when it was canceled at the last minute with no explanation. Agency pressure? More recently, Michael White collaborated with Norman Polmar to publish a book based on the film with the same title.

It's interesting that the agency still felt it had to withhold certain widely known facts in the article, such as LMSC was the contractor for the Capture Vehicle (CV) or claw, While Honeywell, Global Marine and others were identified. Yet Dr. Sharp was apparently able to convince the censors that LMSC's role was so crucial that it would be impossible to write the account without documenting their effort. Another thing Sharp was not able to publish was USS Halibut's crucial role in locating the K-129, which the agency still refuses to admit, although dozens of books and articles have documented this fact. Sharp was able to get around this restriction by reporting what other authors have written about Halibut.

Besides being a detailed record of AZORIAN's progress, Dr. Sharp's account is also a very well written personal narrative, which puts it well above a simple telling of the facts. I was cleared on the program in 1972 and was responsible for integrating the digital data link between the capture vehicle and the control van on the HGE at Redwood City. I was also one of the Lockheed crew on the mission. Nevertheless, there was so much revealed in the book that was new and unfamiliar to me, especially the back story of the program's genesis and people involved.

I'm grateful to Dr. Sharp for his evenhanded approach to the failure of the capture vehicle's grabbers, which resulted in the loss of of much of the target. Global Marine placed most of the blame for the failure on LMSC's choice of maraging steel for the construction of the CV beams and davits. It still rankles me that Sherm Wetmore and Vance Bolding got two turns each at bat on Michael White's film castigating Lockheed at some length for a poor engineering decision in their choice. Being an electronics engineer, I was only able to give a brief on-camera rebuttal in that I assumed there were trade offs and weight constraints that dictated the choice. They never admitted the many problems that Global Marine had with their equipments, which contributed to the failure. David Sharp covers Global Marine's problems, in this regard, in sufficient detail that it's unnecessary to repeat in this review.

Regarding the tiger team that was assembled to uncover the cause of the failure, as far as I know, no member of the Lockheed mission crew was called to testify before it.

Dr. Sharp is restrained in his attribution of a cause to the K-129 loss, which is to his credit. He states that he doesn't know and the theories range from the outrageous (RED STAR ROGUE & SCORPION DOWN) to improbable (Blind Man's Bluff). Recently the Polmar/White book included an analysis by Bruce Rule, the navy's chief acoustic analyst at the time who had access to the original Air Force Tactical Application Center (AFTAC) acoustic records. The analysis revealed some interesting acoustic phenomena, which are described in detail in the Polmar/White book.

Interesting item:
The Bel Hudson log (I have copies of pages pertaining to the incident) states that the seaman suffered from costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs. Perhaps the crew didn't want the maritime authorities to know about a fight on board and "edited" the log.

Radioactive contamination:
All of the Lockheed personnel on the mission (there were 12 total*) participated in the exploitation of the wreck. Some years later, two of the Lockheed crew developed cancer. They sued Lockheed and possibly the agency. Lockheed responded by offering the mission crew full body scans at Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL), to determine body burden of radioactive material. The agency would only admit to LLNL the material was alpha generating (pinpointing plutonium) particles, which does not penetrate outside the body. They wouldn't reveal the mix. LLNB had to scan for breakdown products, i.e., americium-241, which emits beta particles that can penetrate the body and be detected. I was eventually informed that my burden was no greater than background. I don't know if other contractors or agency personnel were offered this procedure.

Minor correction:
The satellite system used to obtain fixes was identified as "SATNAV" in the book, whereas it was actually TRANSIT NAVSAT.

Lastly, Dave Sharp's book is a really good read. He has genial easy style that moves the narrative along at a fast pace. His book should be read alongside the Polmar/White book since they complement each other in so many ways.

*Al Ascherel
Art Chenoweth
Wayne Ellingson
Ray Feldman
Everett Ford
Chuck Guzzetta
Cy Joseph
John Louzader
Bob Mlady
Bud Morgan
Larry Musselman
Dan Paulsen


Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of K-129
Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of K-129
by Norman Polmar
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from $4.18

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misquote, January 15, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I want to correct a misquote attributed to me in the book. On page 112, I described incidents about some of the global marine crew toying with the SB-10 crew. I'm quoted as saying "aqua lube is the slipperiest substance known to man". I wouldn't blame anyone reading that, from thinking - personal lubricant? (There is one by that name on the market). Remember, at that time "personal products" was not mass marketed. What I actually said is "greasiest substance known to man". What I remember about aqua lube, is that it was (or still is) a very high pressure thick lubricant intended for severe deep ocean environments . It's very detergent and solvent resistant. The intent was, that whoever opened and examined the contents would spread a thin layer grease over a very wide area.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2013 8:24 AM PST


Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion
Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion
by Stephen P. Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from $15.19

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!, February 7, 2006
In Silent steel, Stephen Johnson has written the definitive, highly readable account of the tragic loss of the USS Scorpion. Exhaustively researched and documented, Mr. Johnson provides an in-depth chronicle of the events leading to the loss, and the subsequent search in an absorbing and informative style. Johnson reveals, in a gripping narrative, a complex series of incidents, equipment failures and decisions that ultimately doomed the Scorpion. He presents the intricate details of the inquiry in a comprehensible manner - quite a feat considering the convoluted nature of the investigation. In his account of the inquiry, he successfully refutes John Craven's dubious self-serving theory about the hot-running torpedo. From all the evidence and testimony collected, it's apparent that the Scorpion suffered a catastrophic implosion at a far greater depth than the specified crush depth. Finally, he resists the temptation to assign a single causative agent to the initiating event, but rather presents all the evidence now available. A conclusive explanation of the initiation of the disaster waits to be discovered. A must read!


Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S.
Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S.
by Clint Richmond
Edition: Hardcover
165 used & new from $0.01

125 of 137 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another half-baked conspiracy theory!, October 20, 2005
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Mr. Sewell has compiled an interesting set of half-truths, conjecture and outright fabrications interspersed with some Soviet operational procedures and human-interest details to advance a frightening scenario that a rogue Soviet submarine attempted to launch a nuclear missile at Pearl Harbor. Mr. Sewell has taken advantage of the recent spate of books about cold war submarine activities to publish his version of a specific event, no doubt to his financial benefit. One sentence from John Craven's book "The Silent War" i.e. "there existed a possibility, small though it might be, that the skipper of this rogue submarine was attempting to launch or had actually launched a ballistic missile with a live warhead in the direction of Hawaii." is the basis of his doomsday premise. He take this conditional conjecture, throws in a cabal of high level KGB conspirators, and hatches an almost 300 page book of fiction. The central thesis behind his assertion of a rogue launch is his claim that the sub went down at 163º W Lon, 24º N Lat. This is critical since the K-129 was armed with three SS-N-5 Serb missiles with a range of approximately 760 nautical miles. Since the sub actually sank at 180º Lon, 40º N Lat, which is more that 1500 nautical miles distant from Pearl Harbor, it would be more than 800 nautical miles short of the presumed target. At Sewell's claimed site, which is totally false, Pearl Harbor would be within range of the missiles.

As a senior staff engineer, now retired, with the Ocean System Division of Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., I was the responsible engineer for the Digital Data Link (DDL) which provided commands to, and telemetry from, the "claw", which we designated the Capture Vehicle (CV), and the control van on the Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE). Since the DDL was a complex poorly documented one-off system and vital for the mission, I was recruited to go on the mission to ensure its operation. I was a member of the crew that sailed out of Long Beach on June 19, 1974 and maintained the link during the entire operation, and at times manned one of the consoles in the control van. As a result of my direct experience with the mission, I have some valid observations to make.

There are many inaccuracies in Sewell's description of the Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE) and details of the raising of the Golf II class K-129 submarine. Without getting into details that are interesting but not really germane, the essential facts are: The location of the recovery site was not restricted to "ranking members of the Glomar crew and the CIA managers" as Mr. Sewell claims. Certainly the seamen (ship drivers) were well aware of the recovery position, as was the recovery team. Everyone on board was briefed on the essential details of the mission, even cooks, stewards and pipe handlers although their jobs did not require in-depth knowledge. Contrary to his assertion, there were no restricted areas on the ship except the communication van and the rig floor during dangerous pipe handling conditions. Others, and I would frequently visit the bridge where we could observe the Transit Nav Sat position being displayed on the navigation console. Besides, anyone with a boy scout's knowledge and protractor could observe the sun at local noon and determine the latitude to within a couple of degrees. The upshot of all this is:

The position of the K-129 recovery site was on the 180º meridian, at 40º N Lat. The longitude was so close to the International Date Line, that there was some discussion as to the date to use in the recovery log. Since the voyage originated east of the date line, we continued to use this date.

Even John Craven doesn't dispute this position. In page 212 (and 3 other places) of his book he writes "she would have filled with water and would have sunk like a rock-and we would find her at exactly 180/40."

Additionally, I can absolutely confirm that:

1 Only the forward 38 or 40 foot (depending how you measure) section of the bow was recovered.

2 There were only 6 to 7 bodies (depending on how you reassembled body parts) in the recovered section rather than the 60 or so that Sewell claims.

3 The ship's bell was recovered from its storage area near the bow, not from "the center section of the conning tower" as Sewell alleges. This is an important point because Sewell claims its retrieval in the conning tower proves that the center section of the sub was recovered. It's true that the mount for the bell was in the sail (conning tower). However, sources reveal that the bell is only mounted on leaving and entering port. At sea the bell is dismounted, stored and secured to prevent any ringing. The last thing a submariner wants is to have a bell sound during silent running.

4 No missiles or warheads were recovered.

5 No codebooks or encryption equipment was recovered.

6 Two crushed almost unrecognizable objects were identified as nuclear tipped torpedoes by a naval officer in mufti.

7 The interior of the recovered section appeared much like an archaeological site with everything compacted into a dense mass.

8 The K-129 had broken into two major pieces, probably on impact since the sections were so close together. The forward section was approximately 136 feet in length and designated the Target Object (TO). The CV was configured to only recover the TO in its specific attitude on the ocean floor. There was no intention to make more than one round trip, nor would it have been possible due to the strain on the heavy lift system and its frequent breakdown; and we would not have been able to open the well gates to the moon pool, with the 40 foot recovered section already in place.

9 Charring of some combustible material in the recovered section indicates that dieseling, as a result of implosion may have occurred. Note: As a result of post recovery and acoustic record analysis, it appears that the charring was not due to implosion at crush depth but rather the of the hypergolic reaction of the liquid fuel (hydrazine) and oxidizer (red fuming nitric acid).

It is true that the recovered section was radioactively contaminated with what turned out to be weapons grade plutonium. This would certainly indicate that some sort of catastrophic event took place. Not surprising given the inherently dangerous nature of liquid fueled rockets, and the Soviet submarine service's very poor safety record.

I have discussed these details with a former Lockheed colleague and shipmate on the HGE, and we agree on the facts stated above. I am not employed by any entity, governmental or private. I have no motive beyond the desire to squelch half-baked conspiracy theories by advocates who profit from their advancement.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2013 6:29 PM PDT


The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley
The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley
by Leslie Berlin
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from $13.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding biography of Robert Noyce and his impact on current technology, June 26, 2005
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As one of the thousands of young engineers who made the great migration to the Bay Area almost 50 years ago, I really enjoyed reading Ms. Berlin's biography of Robert Noyce and her wide ranging narrative of the early days of Silicon Valley. I found her account of the founding companies and major players, not only very informative, but also an absorbing story of an evolving technology. I was of course, familiar with Noyce's achievements in the development of the microchip, but there was much about the man, his character and personality and the details of his work that was a revelation to me.

Being an electronic system designer in the early 60's, I was also oppressed by the "tyranny of numbers" that was becoming more difficult to deal with as systems became larger and more complex over time. I was involved with a number of efforts to defeat the tyranny by the use of various discrete construction techniques. They were all bound to fail since they could do little to minimize the connectivity problem. The appearance of the microchip on the electronic scene was a true revolution that ultimately made possible the wonders we take for granted, from the powerful little computer on which I'm typing this, to the tiny programmable DSP (digital signal processor) hearing aid I wear. We all owe a great debt to Robert Noyce, who would have shared the Noble Prize in Physics with Jack Kilby had he lived another 10 years. As I write this, memorials for Jack Kilby, who died less than a week ago, are being held world wide. Another giant has fallen!

I highly recommend Leslie Berlin's book, which is far more than just a biography of an individual, notwithstanding one as compelling as Noyce. It's also an edifying history of a technology and industry, cleverly disguised as a darned good read.

I agree with the previous reviewer, a Pulitzer for Ms. Berlin!


Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
by James Bamford
Edition: Hardcover
205 used & new from $0.01

24 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Many Inaccuracies, July 22, 2002
Aside from the shotgun approach Mr. Bamford uses to fill his book with all sorts of tangential information remotely relating to the NSA, his style approaches the fevered tone of a Tom Clancy novel. He also seems to be deficient in all technical aspects of sigint collection. His errors in this regard are too numerous, and are mostly of interest to specialists, to detail here. However, my biggest criticism concerns his obvious bias and errors of fact about the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty (AGTR 5.) No one disputes that the attack took place. The big questions are: why and was it deliberate.

In Mr. Bamford previous book "The Puzzle Palace," he offers the reason that the Israelis did not want the world to know that they were winning a lopsided victory and force a cease fire before they captured the Golan Heights. An examination of the time-line of events reveals that at the time of the Liberty attack, the extent of Israel's victory was obvious to all intelligence agencies and news services. In "Body of Secrets," he instead offers the reason that the Israeli's were killing prisoners in El Arish and wanted to keep the killings a secret. Mr. Bamford offers no credible evidence that such an action took place, nor do any other sources provide such evidence. Instead, he offers carefully selected edited clips from mainstream news media that claim Israeli journalists witnessed the massacre. He never spoke with or interviewed the individuals whose names he bandies about. They claim he distorted their comments, taken out of context, about the action around El Arish. Furthermore, El Arish and the entire surrounding Sinai has been under Egyptian control for decades. No mass grave has ever been uncovered, and one must assume the Egyptian government would readily publicize any such discovery.

His chapter on the Israeli assault on the Liberty is filled with factual errors: the ship's name was not painted in black letters; the Israeli aircraft did not carry 1,000-pound bombs or rockets. They were equipped with cannon, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and napalm. Hardly the weapons one would arm aircraft tasked to sink a ship. The napalm, one canister appears to have hit the ship, did not turn the Liberty into a "crematorium." The U.S. Navy's court of inquiry stated that no napalm wounds were treated.

Lastly, Mr. Bamford claims that the recollections of Chief Petty Officer Marvin Nowicki prove that the Israelis saw the American flag on the Liberty and knew the ship's nationality before the attack. Marvin Nowicki was a supervisor and Hebrew linguist on the Navy EC-121 circling above the action and monitoring the radio transmissions. Nowicki stated in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, that "he told Bamford just the opposite," and sent Bamford an e-mail on 3 March 2000 setting out the facts. His position, Nowicki declared, "was that the aircraft and motor torpedo boats prosecuted the attack on the Liberty until their operators had an opportunity to get close-in and see the flag," hence the references to the flag; and "the attack was a gross error." The now-available transcript of the EC-121 intercepts bear out Nowicki's statement. Mr. Bamford obviously has an ax to grind!

It's time to apply Occam's razor! I'm puzzled and wonder what possible motive the Israeli's could have had, to so brazenly attack a vessel of their most ardent supporter. Did they think any possible advantage would outweigh the outrage and negative reaction of the American administration and public? Even if it was to hide the killing of Egyptian prisoners at El Arish, did they think there would be absolutely no survivors to document the attack. Did they think that Americans would be more willing to accept the slaughter of American sailors rather than the killing of Egyptian prisoners? No one has accused the Israeli's of being stupid, but this would be incredible stupid, if not completely irrational. To think they would intentionally launch such a deadly attack against their closest ally, and expect no consequence, is not reasonable. What possible strategic, or even tactical, purpose could this attack have served? One must invoke the principle that among competing hypothesis the simplest explanation is the most likely. In this case, it was a tragic case of misidentification.

The atmospheric condition known as the "fog of war" exists and friendly fire (amicicide) has always been a prominent feature of all wars. This has been especially so since the advent of modern weaponry.

The Army Strategic Studies Institute published a study by Charles R. Shrader, "Friendly Fire: The inevitable Price." (http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/Articles/1992/1992%20shrader.pdf) In the study he documents friendly fire incidents from antiquity to the Gulf war, some of which have been truly horrific. The most notorious, Operation Cobra, the breakout from St Lô on July 24-25 1944, which involved the most massive close air support ever attempted, resulted in the most disastrous friendly fire experience of all time. The two day ordeal produced 814 casualties, including over 80 dead, most from the 30th Infantry division. Did you know that U.S. Eighth Air Force B-24s bombed Zurich Switzerland in March 1945 causing dozens of casualties, including deaths? In the Gulf War, 23 percent of all casualties and 77 percent of our combat vehicles lost, were the result of friendly fire. Shrader records hundreds of well documented incidents of friendly fire, by all combatant forces (the German 49th artillery was called the 48 ½ because of its short shells) resulting in thousands of casualties during the modern era of warfare and he concludes: "We must face the unpleasant reality that the total elimination of friendly fire casualties on the modern battlefield is not possible." Why do we assume the Israeli forces are exempt from such screw-ups?
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2014 3:07 PM PDT


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