Most helpful critical review
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Frustrating lack of analyis of equipment failures and operation planning
on May 14, 2014
This book had me banging my head in frustration....It portrays professional soldiers with a Bofors 25 mm cannon that just jams twice right at the moment of contact...and there is no critical review or analysis of such failings?...grenades, 2/3rds of which were duds...Going into firefights without even a mortar section in support? No prearranged air or arty? Maybe there's reasons for such an apparently lackadaisical attitude towards issues that got some Canadian soldiers killed in combat, but I assume the real story is that these problems would have been of great concern and attention to the leaders in the field, just that they did not interest this author. It would have greatly behooved this author to dig farther and to have found out the real reasons the Canadians did what they did (if he described it right). If we go by his account, they were going into assaults without suitable advance recce and target observation to know enemy strength? And they didn't have arrangement for artillery support on standby? Not, apparently) working furiouisly to fix radio, 25 mm cannon, and grenade reliability issues? What kind of mission planners would set forth on a company scale assault and (evidently) have not even liaised in advance to have arty or air support arrangements in place? Not even a mortar section to go with them in support? How (seemingly) amateurish to get in a big fight and only *then* call in to find out that new ROEs prohibit arty support....? Maybe the author doesn't have that aspect of the story right. To me this book is superficial fluff...With all his supposed background to write on this topic, the author gets the term "laager" wrong (A defensive encampment encircled by armored vehicles or wagons.To camp in a defensive encirclement) calling it a "leaguer." Did Charlie company also really not even cover the battle space with a sniper squad? Were the Canadians really fighting (as portrayed repeatedly)with no mortar's, no snipers, no prearranged artillery, lack of awareness of ROE changes, bad grenades and jamming cannons? If so, then there is the real story to be analyzed. In my opinion Wattie covers the important events and fighting issues so superficially as to be blasé and frustratingly oblivious to the fighting methods and equipment issues that evidently hampered the Canadian soldiers. Soldiers were getting killed; at least they deserved the attention to analyze why the Canadians were fighting so apparently carelessly. If air or artillery might be needed, why not ALWAYS arrange that in advance!!!!?? (He portrays the commanders not doing that? Could that possibly be correct?) If the 25 mm jams repeatedly, FIGURE OUT THE issue! If grenades don't work FIND OUT WHY! If radios don't work once, OK, but if radios don't work repeatedly then ANALYZE THE ISSUE !!! This author completely fails to give any gratifying or informative discussion or analysis as to these serious equipment and tactical issues going wrong, and the apparently bad planning involved. Especially in an environment where major contacts and operations are almost elective decisions, why would there be no efforts to address these serious issues? As a result, I found this book extremely frustrating, shallow and annoying in how it just glosses over serious issues that (I think) professional military leaders would have worked hard to figure out and correct. And yet Wattie portrays them as more or less just shrugging their shoulders and paying no heed. Especially frustrating to me seemed the repeated 25 mm cannon failures and the pattern of going into contact only to later find out if artillery support can be negotiated or not. (I have read elsewhere the Bofors 25 mm is about the best in the world, so what were the Canadians doing wrong to have it jamming so often? Or what was the reason? Presumably it would be impeccably maintained so as not to jam instantly on first firing). Was the issue found and corrected? Surely since lives depend on it, the issue was addressed wasn't it? But Wattie doesn't share our need to know. And why (apparently)did the commanders not always make sure in advance what their ROEs and availability for air or arty support would be? How can anyone read this book without pulling their hair out wanting to know why or if they really did that? Did Wattie misportray that crucial aspect of mission planning? Perhaps more likely the actual commanders did work hard to address all these issues, its just that the author's interests don't delve very deeply into the real operational and equipment issues involved and this accordingly book gives those efforts no due diligence or consideration.