Four Flags, The Odyssey Of A Professional Soldier Part Two

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  • Author:
    Dan Barr
    Dave Barr knew from 12 years old he wanted to be a Marine. Following a series of menial jobs - including working as a shoe shiner in a barber's shop and in service stations - at 17 he joined the Marines before shipping out to Vietnam. This was his dream come true - flying as a helicopter gunner - and he ended the war with an impressive 57 Air Medals, one Air Medal for every 20 combat missions.

    After leaving the Marines, like many veterans, Dave found it hard to hold down a good job and stay out of trouble. It was then that he read about Israel. Always looking for a rush, Dave learned to skydive before deciding to take his chances - emigrating illegally to Israel. He was inducted into the Israeli Army and then the Paratroopers, where the training was difficult - involving long tough marches, as well as learning Hebrew. After serving his time, he left Israel - and back in the USA, Dave was stuck in a rut and ready for his next adventure.

    This is the second volume of Dave's memoirs. Just as rich and colourful an account as the first instalment, the book portrays a professional soldier's view of the ‘sharp end' of war. Following on from his time in the Israeli Army paratroopers, Dave travelled to Rhodesia and fought alongside the Rhodesian Light Infantry. His next assignment was with the South African Defence Force in operations in South West Africa and Angola. Then came the fateful day and near fatal injuries as a result of a land mine explosion. Almost a year later following 20 operations and Dave was finally allowed back onto active duty and doing what he did best, being a soldier.

    This man has done more, seen more and earned more decorations before breakfast. I particularly asked to review this book expecting this to be one of the best reads this year, however this was not the case; being a great warrior and a special human being does not unfortunately make you a great writer. The book was very flat and dull despite the tremendous amount of cool stories which could have been told to us by a good storyteller. I found this book flat, boring and sad. There were no rollicking descriptions that would force you to turn the pages over and suffer the highs and lows of four Armies with the author. Once I put this book down it was easy to forget to pick it up again. It's a crying shame that Dan didn't obtain the services of an editor or ghost writer because this is a story which needs telling with a fast pace narrative rater than the deadpan end of stag report that was served up to us . With deep regret Three and a half Mushroom heads.

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  1. Jinx44
    Thank you sirbhp for your review. You are spot on and truthful. Here are my two cents:

    Dave Barr is a real soldier—hard, valiant, loyal and true. He isn’t an accomplished writer with witty style and clever turns of phrase. That being said, he is a witness to what a professional soldier’s life is like and his book accurately tells the tale. He still lives a life of adventure and service.

    His is the life of a pauper, in pain and difficulty. His life is in service to others now. I count him as the closest of friends. After hitting the mine and losing his legs, he rebuilt his motorcycle and rode around the world raising money and awareness for the Cheshire foundation. He is an accomplished speaker who gives hope to other amputees around the world. He rode his Harley from Moscow to Vladivostok in the winter. He said his feet never got cold!

    We were a band of brothers in Rhodesia and South Africa. We came from many countries and services to fight against Marxism. There are other books written by members of our unit that describe what they also saw and did. Search Gilmore, MacAleese and Croukamp for them. These books may not pass muster with the armchair reader, but to the military historian they will be invaluable as a codex of men at war in Africa. For those readers who served in battle these books and words will ring true and painfully so.

    In conclusion, Dave Barr is a real hero; forgotten by the world but not by his mates. If you want to be entertained, go to a movie or join a country club. But if you want the ugly truth about war in obscure places, you will surely find it in this book. By the way, I was the driver who hit the mine. Dave still gets nervous when he rides with me! God bless you my brother.