Looking for a Good Read?

CalgaryPT

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#1
Just finishing up 12 Seconds of Silence: How a Team of Inventors, Tinkerers, and Spies Took Down a Nazi Superweapon. It's the history of the proximity fuze, and gives a good understanding of the personalities and invention process during wartime. What I found really captivating is how physicists and other top scientists in the 1930's and 1940's had to be machinists, electronic engineers, chemists, materials experts, lobbyists, politicians and part time soldiers just to get the attention of military brass and pull them out of their old ways of thinking. But most of all they had to be project managers before the term was even popular. Also fascinating to learn how critical intelligence from brave women in occupied France was shaping the course of the war unbeknownst to the scientists working on the project. The great lesson for all of us is that these men treated failure as just another form of education, not a brick wall you couldn't pass through or around.

Great read—although I have to admit I started it on Audible and am finishing it in Kobo as I found the narrator's voice unsuitable for the topic. You may think differently, but that is always a risk for me with Audible—even after listening to the sample.

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07T4J3Z3V/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_EZB03D44DJARFC7FRMC7
 
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CalgaryPT

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#3
I’m three quarters of the way through The Box, at your suggestion. Great read so far
I can totally see where you'd appreciate The Box. I felt like such a dope for not appreciating the complexities of the industry until I read it. So easy to undervalue how much work people like you put into moving goods and keeping the world supplied.

12 Seconds...I find more captivating, maybe because it isn't an economic perspective. I also think of my dad when reading it because he was on an anti aircraft gun in England during the war. But I really like the inventor perspective in the book; these guys just kept solving major mechanical problems, one after another. Then they would get told to solve another. Imagine designing a vacuum tube that had to be both miniaturized and withstand 20,000 G's so it could be fired out of an artillery gun? Oh, yeah, and you've got no money, no staff, no guns to practice with, you can only shoot when the cows won't be disturbed in their pastures, and all the old time generals and admirals think you are nuts. So yeah...good luck with that.
 

YYCHM

(Craig)
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#4
@Chicken lights Pete's post reminded me of your post.

Have you had the chance to read Grey Seas Under by Farley Mowat? Fantastic book about a steam powered tug boat used as a salvage tug. Anyway the point is those guys often had no choice but to make do and jerry rig stuff to do the job or just to make it home. I think you’d like reading it

I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy.
 
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Chicken lights

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#7
I can totally see where you'd appreciate The Box. I felt like such a dope for not appreciating the complexities of the industry until I read it. So easy to undervalue how much work people like you put into moving goods and keeping the world supplied.

12 Seconds...I find more captivating, maybe because it isn't an economic perspective. I also think of my dad when reading it because he was on an anti aircraft gun in England during the war. But I really like the inventor perspective in the book; these guys just kept solving major mechanical problems, one after another. Then they would get told to solve another. Imagine designing a vacuum tube that had to be both miniaturized and withstand 20,000 G's so it could be fired out of an artillery gun? Oh, yeah, and you've got no money, no staff, no guns to practice with, you can only shoot when the cows won't be disturbed in their pastures, and all the old time generals and admirals think you are nuts. So yeah...good luck with that.
From what I’ve read war years are the most productive for mechanical breakthroughs. There’s a time crunch that we needs this fast, and then we’re gonna need 1 million of them fast and then we need them overseas yesterday.

Don’t quote me on this as I’ve no accurate sources to back this up- after WW1 returning soldiers had gotten used to mechanized vehicles and when they returned to the farms the horses started getting replaced with tractors. Then WW2 hydraulics the same thing happened, returning troops started using hydraulics on equipment once they had a taste of it.

Also the boom to the economy, the factories are ramped up and people are employed, after WW2 the USA prospered. Eisenhower built the Interstate System that the USA is struggling to maintain now

In The Box it touches on Vietnam and how troops overseas needed food and supplies and the army supply chain wasn’t keeping up. They brought in private companies to fix it and reaped the benefits. War, though ugly and costly, is often the time when the most innovation is wrought
 

PeterT

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#8
Is the paper book of any value in terms of pictures or mostly text? That theme sounds right up my alley.
That's always the crap shoot with Audibles. I'm pretty tolerant of most narrators, but ever once in a while its like - where did they think this guy (or gal) was remotely qualified? It can ruin a good read.
 

CalgaryPT

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#9
Is the paper book of any value in terms of pictures or mostly text? That theme sounds right up my alley.
That's always the crap shoot with Audibles. I'm pretty tolerant of most narrators, but ever once in a while its like - where did they think this guy (or gal) was remotely qualified? It can ruin a good read.
I got the Kobo edition. There are some good pics in it, but with eInk readers the pics are rarely good quality. I also find sometimes that the ebook leaves out some or all pics that you get in hard copy. Not sure the paperback is out yet, but the hard cover is. The pics in the ebook were interesting though. I'm sure they are better quality in the paper version. If I were to do it over I'd buy the paperback if available, or the hardcover. A lot of the pics from the book can be found online with a little detective work, which is kind of fun.

I just struggled with the narrator in the Audible version because the topic is so serious and played such an important part in the war, I wanted a James Earl Jones voice. Sadly, to me, the narrator they chose was more suited to the self-help genre.
 

PeterT

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#10
I think we already discussed this but The Perfectionists got me exposed to Simon Winchester & his other Audible titles. The man has 'the voice'. He could be reading the phone book & make it sound interesting. Even more rare is author & narrator in a package deal, usually one or the other is lacking. Anyways, I'm slowly picking through his other titles. Keeps me sanely distant from endless Covid news & insanity politics.

https://www.audible.com/author/Simo...227-7e95d7917c27&pf_rd_r=6F1CG0RTM03R9GS502WB
 
#11
From what I’ve read war years are the most productive for mechanical breakthroughs. There’s a time crunch that we needs this fast, and then we’re gonna need 1 million of them fast and then we need them overseas yesterday.

Don’t quote me on this as I’ve no accurate sources to back this up- after WW1 returning soldiers had gotten used to mechanized vehicles and when they returned to the farms the horses started getting replaced with tractors. Then WW2 hydraulics the same thing happened, returning troops started using hydraulics on equipment once they had a taste of it.

Also the boom to the economy, the factories are ramped up and people are employed, after WW2 the USA prospered. Eisenhower built the Interstate System that the USA is struggling to maintain now

In The Box it touches on Vietnam and how troops overseas needed food and supplies and the army supply chain wasn’t keeping up. They brought in private companies to fix it and reaped the benefits. War, though ugly and costly, is often the time when the most innovation is wrought
Just to add to the "Eisenhower built an interstate system"...

The interstate system became a priority to Eisenhower after his experiences commanding the logistics Corp in Europe during the second war ( he was a paper pusher desk general, lots of political speculation an why a Logistics specialist was put in command of the entire European theatre instead of a combat General, common thought at the time was that he would be a "yes man" to Roosevelt & Churchill more readily than a hardened corp commander).
The entire interstate system in the USA was designed, financed, built, by the US army of Engineers. The entire thought and reasoning behind this was so that in a time of kayos or invasion by other parties the US army can take control of and use of all Interstate routes to facilitate intervention of whatever problems they come up against without any intervention nor "asking for state permission". The Feds own the system and can use appropriately without any unwanted interference. A general with a couple stars on his boards can shut down private use of the entire interstate system in in one phone call if he see's fit
This is why the US Army budget is so huge, the army corp of engineers still manges all interstates and does all incidental maintenance to thi9s day...the work is done by outside private contractors but everything is managed by the Engineering corp.
All the inland navigable waterways are also corp of Engineers controlled & maintained.
 
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cuslog

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#12
I came across a YouTube video 3 or 4 years ago re: the proximity fuse (sorry, I can't find that one any more - there are others I believe).
I too found it fascinating and a perfect example of how big of an advantage a "better weapon" can be and how important science can be to a war effort. Don't remember the numbers now but remember being quite impressed at how the number of AAA rounds fired per downed aircraft went down by several factors of 10 IIRC after the intro of the proximity fuse.
I'll be getting that book for myself - Thanks
 

CalgaryPT

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#13
Just to add to the "Eisenhower built an interstate system"...

The interstate system became a priority to Eisenhower after his experiences commanding the logistics Corp in Europe during the second war ( he was a paper pusher desk general, lots of political speculation an why a Logistics specialist was put in command of the entire European theatre instead of a combat General, common thought at the time was that he would be a "yes man" to Roosevelt & Churchill more readily than a hardened corp commander).
The entire interstate system in the USA was designed, financed, built, by the US army of Engineers. The entire thought and reasoning behind this was so that in a time of kayos or invasion by other parties the US army can take control of and use of all Interstate routes to facilitate intervention of whatever problems they come up against without any intervention nor "asking for state permission". The Feds own the system and can use appropriately without any unwanted interference. A general with a couple stars on his boards can shut down private use of the entire interstate system in in one phone call if he see's fit
This is why the US Army budget is so huge, the army corp of engineers still manges all interstates and does all incidental maintenance to thi9s day...the work is done by outside private contractors but everything is managed by the Engineering corp.
All the inland navigable waterways are also corp of Engineers controlled & maintained.
Great points. On a similar front, Tuve moved Section T (his fuze team) from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to Johns Hopkins because CMU had a policy against war/defense work at the institution except during times of war. Tuve had hundreds working for him, knew the work needed to continue after the war, and knew all these people would be unemployed if he didn't act before it ended. This kind of foresight (similar to your interstate example) is the kind of thinking lacking in government these days. I've always believed you can't train or teach it; it's just a quality some people have and others do not. I like history books that see these qualities in their subjects and are able to grasp the importance of their character over time.
 

CalgaryPT

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#14
I came across a YouTube video 3 or 4 years ago re: the proximity fuse (sorry, I can't find that one any more - there are others I believe).
I too found it fascinating and a perfect example of how big of an advantage a "better weapon" can be and how important science can be to a war effort. Don't remember the numbers now but remember being quite impressed at how the number of AAA rounds fired per downed aircraft went down by several factors of 10 IIRC after the intro of the proximity fuse.
I'll be getting that book for myself - Thanks
Yup, lots of great vids on the topic. They make great viewing after reading the book. I find that as I get older, if a topic grabs my interest, I start consuming content about it in all forms—books, videos, podcasts, etc.
 

cuslog

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#15
A couple other areas where the Allies got an advantage were in intelligence - capturing (and figuring out) Enigma machines allowed them to "de-code" the German communications and be prepared for them -they broke the Japanese codes too. Radar in battle of Britain, later development of Azdic and Sonar took away the U-boats advantage. Probably more I'm not even aware of.
 

CalgaryPT

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#16
I think we already discussed this but The Perfectionists got me exposed to Simon Winchester & his other Audible titles. The man has 'the voice'. He could be reading the phone book & make it sound interesting. Even more rare is author & narrator in a package deal, usually one or the other is lacking. Anyways, I'm slowly picking through his other titles. Keeps me sanely distant from endless Covid news & insanity politics.

https://www.audible.com/author/Simo...227-7e95d7917c27&pf_rd_r=6F1CG0RTM03R9GS502WB
Agreed. I've consumed a few of his already: The Professor and the Madman and The Perfectionists. More are on my "To Read" list.
 
#17
A couple other areas where the Allies got an advantage were in intelligence - capturing (and figuring out) Enigma machines allowed them to "de-code" the German communications and be prepared for them -they broke the Japanese codes too. Radar in battle of Britain, later development of Azdic and Sonar took away the U-boats advantage. Probably more I'm not even aware of.
Enigma was first a commercial machine later on adopted for military use. Polish mathematicians broke Enigma code and decoded messages before the war. Just before the start of the war Germans figured out Poles were reading their messages and hardened Enigma by adding extra rotor among other things. Poles envisioned mechanical computers later on build in UK to break this new version of Enigma. Most of the decoding was made easier by sloppy coding on German part - for example they used similar or same text to start most messages. Some Enigma encrypted messages that were unique resisted decoding for decades.

U-boats would have regained some of their advantage if war continued - the worlds first true submarine was made by Germans and completed to late in the war - only few went into their first combat patrols in the last weeks of the war. These are the world's first subs as they were designed primarily for subsurface use vs. subs up to 1944 which were surface ships with ability to submerge.

Germans towards end of the war also advanced in the areas of AA missiles - test were carried out towards end of the war. They did use first air anti surface ship missiles that cause great damage to allied warships. Main reason these did not play greater role is later introduction and low numbers.

Regarding war gains - these were mostly seen in US and Soviet Union - the first got huge economic boost from production and the second simply stole a lot of stuff in addition to some healthy numbers working as slaves (supposedly 18 million) during the war and till Stalin demise. Other nations did not fare as well, Poland, betrayed by both France and UK, lost about 1/3 of its population to death and forced deportation. Polish capital was one of the shining stars of Europe with tallest building on Europe before WWII - after WWII it took many decades for the population of the city to get back to pre-war levels - which did happen about 20 years ago.

Germany lost the war b/c it should never have started it in the first place - gaining Austria and Czechoslovakia and colonizing these would take over 100+ years. There was little need to expand. Axis powers were not united and resembled allies in 1939 - everyone only carried about their own business. Germany through illegally attacked by US held firm till Japan attacked & then declared war on US bound by some mistaken "honor" - they knew Japan will lose but hoped Japan will hold US for a year - the year they thought they needed to finish off Soviets. Germany also went into total war mode in 1944 - way too late & their production leadership switched to a capable man very late - Air Marshal may have been a great pilot but rather shabby administrator.
 

CalgaryPT

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#18
So much great info on this forum from people who appreciate both the mechanical inventions and the history. Nice to see. Very respectful too.

My last thought on the book, without spoiling too much more, is on the V1's and my dad. He was stationed on the white cliffs of Dover— on anti aircraft guns both before and after the fuze was deployed. He operated and later commanded both 40mm Bofors and larger weapons. He had recently been commissioned at Sandhurst, and was at a stopover in London enroute back to Dover. Servicemen were not allowed in underground shelters (such as the "Tube") during raids; shelters were for civilians. So what's a serviceman to do? Drink of course...and my dad loved pubs. It was common for troops in the pubs during a raid to place a "spotter" outside the pub, away from the noise, so that he could run in and yell "Buzzbomb!" if the engine cut out overhead and you had the "12 Seconds of Silence" before it hit. During those 12 seconds everyone hid under a table.

One V1 hit close enough to the pub that windows shattered and dust was everywhere. Someone snapped a pic at that moment and captured my dad reaching up from under the table to save his beer. Years later the guy who snapped it tracked down my dad and gave him a copy. We had it for years and it got published in a few magazines even before it was lost. I remember a family friend and Legion member seeing it when I was young and asking my dad what he was thinking at the time. He would pause for a long time as he recalled the moment and eventually said, "Well...I only had one thought at the time...I MUST save that beer."
 
#19
My grandfathers war drinking story is a bit more dark. Through my grandfather was born in Berlin he served in Polish army. After he got captured he got sent to Germany as forced laborer on a farm. One night he, his friend and German farmer got drunk. As a practical joke Poles placed German farmer with the pigs and proceeded to "Edit" village "German advancement map" - they moved the front line from Stalingrad a bit closer to Berlin. Well, good thing the German farmer managed to free himself from the pig pen as some German stormtroopers were in the process of beating my grandfather and his friend to death & farmer convinced them that it would be a waste of labor force to kill these two Poles.

I wonder whatever that map did get edited few years later with the Soviet Berlin positions or they stopped updates when Soviets were close to Warsaw.
 

cuslog

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#20
Going further OT:
A "Canadian" WWII story that I was fascinated by was that of the John Inglis company and how they came to manufacture Browning Hi-Power pistols and Bren guns (and other stuff too maybe). The Browning Hi-Power was since 1935 being mfr'd in Belgium by Fabrique Nationale (sp). In 1939 or so when Germany invaded Belgium a couple of the top FN engineers scooped up the blueprints and took off to England. Stayed in England awhile until it was decided that manufacturing at John Inglis Co. in Ontario Canada was a better choice. They made thousands of those pistols and thousands of Bren guns as well. Some of those pistols were air dropped by the SAS to resistance fighters in France and maybe some other countries too. Several thousand went to Russia as "Lend Lease" material.
I had one of those pistols with a "lend Lease" sticker on it. IIRC it said "Canada" in English, Chinese and Russian.
Those pistols are still (to this day) the issue pistol for Canadian Armed Forces.