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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

Interesting topic but a chore to read in many places

As a history teacher, I was excited to see a whole new take on warfare so I eagerly snatched up Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War.

However, as good as the information in the book is, it is a difficult read. There's a lot of repetition in the first part of the book and it just bogs down in the sections on World War II, Korea and the Cold War. A good co-author would have been my recommendation.

The best two sections are the ones on the American Civil War and the last chapters on the dangers we face nowadays from the prospect of insect-based terrorism. They are shorter and move along nicely.

Lockwood admits that he is not a professional historian in his introduction on page X and at times it shows. He is probably the only person to have ever asserted in print that General Henry Halleck was a good field commander after he asssumed command from Grant after the Battle of Shiloh. He assumes Halleck made the connection between mosquitoes and malaria (most assumed malaria came from things such as "swamp vapors") and let the mosquitoes force Beauregard to retreat.

Vigo County, Indiana,
home of Terre Haute and
a World War II defense plant.
Named for a true hero of the
Revolutionary War,
Francis Vigo.
In another chapter he made the mistake of "creating" an entire new county in Indiana on page 147 (he mislabels Vigo County as Terre Haute County). I would have let it slide and not even have mentioned it but he is so snide and so specific for so many pages about where the defense plant was and how foolish it was to build it near a population center (Terre Haute) that I was shocked that he made the simple mistake of getting the name of the county wrong.

Perhaps the biggest frustration for me was his constant pointing out that the United States captured and used the scientists involved in Japan's large-scale insect/biological warfare unit. He acts as though this were unique and not just part of the larger pattern that played out after the war. The West and the Soviets both used captured Axis power scientists after the war in their rocket, nuclear and biological programs. Not a pretty thought, but nothing unique, either.

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Six-Legged Soldiers.

Reviewed on September 19, 2009.

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