New World War II Books

April 10, 2008

We have recently purchased some especially good books on World War II for the buffs in our community.

Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour by Andrei Cherny: “The author sets the scene with the dramatic meeting of Russian and American troops at the banks of the Elbe on April 25, 1945. “The forces of liberation have joined hands,” announced the BBC; only Berlin remained to be subdued to end the war in Europe. The Red Army was first into the bombed-out city, which it vengefully pillaged and raped. Within three years, the Soviet Union had methodically expanded its hegemony in Eastern Europe, and relations with America were dangerously strained. Closing entrances into the American, British and French sectors of the city on June 25, 1948, the Soviets hoped to push out the West for good, in the process consigning 2.5 million Berliners to starvation. The U.S. airlift of coal and food into Tempelhof was initially intended to buy time during the standoff, but over the course of 11 months Operation Vittles would employ an armada of Skymaster C-54s and deliver millions of tons of cargo.” Kirkus Reviews

The Day Of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944 by Rick Atkinson “The liberation of Europe marches on in the second volume of Atkinson’s sterling Liberation Trilogy—though readers may sometimes wonder how the Allies ever won. FDR pointedly said that he shrank from “the thought of putting large armies in Italy,” a country that was historically hard to attack and historically easy to defend. Yet the British were successful in arguing for an Italian front and “making the elimination of Italy from the Axis partnership an immediate goal,” even if the Americans did pledge not to reinforce the front and extracted a due-by date from the British for the invasion of France. How the British succeeded is a tale in itself, one that Atkinson relates with due suspense.” Kirkus Reviews

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker “Using period sources such as newspaper articles, excerpts from speeches and diaries and congressional testimony, Baker presents an in-the-moment reenactment of 20th-century world events. Baker’s chronological collage juxtaposes official government maneuvers by Churchill or Roosevelt with antiwar activity such as U.S. Representative Jeannette Rankin’s vote against declaring war on Germany in 1917. Eloquent quotes from Gandhi reflect momentous events in India; bombastic speeches by Hitler and Goebbels chronicle the Nazi seizure of power in Germany; evasive utterances by Roosevelt finesse the issue of raising Jewish immigration quotas on the eve of World War II. Baker reveals a weighty pacifist presence and moral outcry against oppression of the Jews in Europe, while authorities hurtled toward a military solution. His selections contrast the inhumanity of the powerful with the heart-wrenching testimony of victims and survivors.” Kirkus Reviews

Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield: “Autumn,1942: Hitler’s legions have swept across Europe. Soviet Russia reels under the German onslaught while across the channel, Britain struggles on. And in North Africa, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps have routed the 8th Army, threatening the oil fields of the Middle East. Out of this, the British hatch a desperate plan – to send a small, heavily armed yet highly mobile force behind enemy lines to strike a blow that will stop Rommel’s army in its tracks. It is to be called the Long Range Desert Group and its exploits will become the stuff of legend. Based on real events, Steven Pressfield’s bold new novel brings to pulse-racing life the ingenuity and daring of this maverick commando unit – a disparate, dedicated ‘band of brothers’ who sacrificed so much for the sake of freedom…”

Retribution: The Battle For Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings: “With unprecedented insight, Hastings discusses Japan’s war against China, now all but forgotten in the West, MacArthur’s follies in the Philippines, the Marines at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the Soviet blitzkrieg in Manchuria. He analyzes the decision-making process that led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—which, he convincingly argues, ultimately saved lives. Finally, he delves into the Japanese wartime mind-set, which caused an otherwisecivilized society to carry out atrocities that haunt the nation to this day.” Barnes & Noble

The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara: “The epic-scale novel opens on January 25, 1944, with British commandos gathering soil samples on Omaha Beach to assess landing sites. Shaara gives the Americans, called “the great waves of steel” by the Germans, their due portion in the grisly, brutal Allied invasion, and the experiences of the grunt soldiers. The Allied leaders’ personalities emerge with agile clarity, while German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel embodies “the good soldier” laboring under a delusional Hitler and German High Command ensconced in cozy Berlin. Rommel’s ambivalent complicity in the assassination plot on Hitler is convincingly rendered and paves the way for the final act. The muscular prose, deft sense of military drama and relentless pacing are well suited for this crackerjack saga.” Publishers Weekly