Saturday, 16 March 2013
12 O'Clock High - Bernie Lay and Sy Bartlett
There is only one sort of discipline---perfect discipline.
George S Patton Jr
Title: 12 O’Clock High
Author: Beirne Lay and Sy Bartlett
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Content: Rarely, a novel is written that captures the essence of a given circumstance or environment in such a way that the reader is transported within the storyline. This is one of those books. Based in England during the Second World War, the 918th Bomber Group was in a morale crisis as a result of having the heaviest losses in the 8th Air Force. The novel centres on a number of commanders and how they deal with the challenge of this situation. This book is about leadership under trying/demanding circumstances. The authors, having been through the war themselves (each were bomber pilots), are able to translate their experiences and observations into the characters of BGen Frank Savage and Maj Harvey Stovall. An outstanding read, it brings to life the stresses of combat and the loneliness of command. It highlights the pitfalls and dangers of either being too lenient or too strict. Additionally, it emphasizes the fact that no leader is perfect and that self-doubt/second guessing are part of the burden of command. The difference lies in having the fortitude to decide and move forward when it is not the easy thing to do. This book serves as a benchmark for the young officer/NCO trying to imagine or appreciate the responsibilities and sacrifices of command.