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Military Book Reviews for May 2009


Military Book Reviews for May 2009

Military book reviews from Warfare History Network.

Mason Webb shares with us his military book reviews for the May 2009 issue of World War II History Magazine.

by Mason Webb

Defeat and Triumph: The Story of a Controversial Allied Invasion and French Rebirth, by Stephen Sussna, Xlibris

This magazine does not often review self-published books. Too often they are poorly written and self-serving. But we have made an exception for this exceptional book.

Stephen Sussna, an emeritus professor of law, was the helmsman on LST 1012 during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the French Riviera, on August 15, 1944. In Defeat and Triumph, he goes into great detail about all aspects of this important, dramatic, and controversial invasion and his ship’s role in the most dangerous and tragic event of the landings.

The Battle of the Bulge

When American valor blunted Hitler's last great counteroffensive...
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The Battle of the Bulge

In his panoramic, well-researched history, Sussna thoroughly analyzes the pros and cons of Dragoon and provides a behind-the-scenes look at this large-scale but largely overlooked operation that ensured the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Germany 1945: Views of War and Violence, by Dagmar Barnouw

We are familiar with the images: destroyed German cities, long lines of pitiful refugees, demoralized German soldiers guarded by heavily armed GIs, stacks of dead concentration camp inmates. But what is the meaning behind the photographs? What do they tell us about war and the human condition, about the victors and the vanquished?

The brilliant, late University of Southern California professor Dagmar Barnouw, who wrote intellectually provocative works about the aftermath of World War II, is at her best in Germany 1945 as she uses photographs in an attempt to answer these and other unsettling questions.

As one reviewer noted, “Barnouw’s close readings try to suggest subtexts in the photographs that go beyond, and may even belie, the captions and texts that originally accompanied them. Barnouw aims at questioning a melodramatic victor’s gaze in order to arrive at a more fully compassionate point of view and to force the reader to confront and meditate upon images of death and destruction, of corpses and ruins, of hunger, suffering, hopelessness, and the aftermath of genocide.”

At War with the Wind: The Epic Struggle with Japan’s World 
War II Suicide Bombers, by David Sears

Anyone who ever thought that sea duty aboard a ship in wartime was safer than being in a foxhole or in an airplane needs to read Sears’s book.

In the closing months of World War II, a new and baffling weapon terrorized the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, enemy pilots who were 
determined to die in their attempt to sink American ships and forestall an invasion of their homeland. Known as kamikaze, or “divine wind,” these Japanese aviators were trained for one-way missions of mass destruction. Told from the perspective of the men who endured this horrifying tactic, At War with the Wind describes in nail-biting detail what it was like to be subjected to these devastating attacks from the sky.

Hiroshima: The World’s Bomb, by Andrew J. Rotter

Many books have been written about the development and deployment of the atomic bomb, but Andrew Rotter’s book looks at the weapon in a new way––how it was the product of an international community of 
scientists, not just Americans. Other nations, including Germany and Japan, were working hard, albeit haphazardly, in the early 1940s to develop the bomb.

As Rotter points out, it is difficult to imagine any combatant nation refraining from using the weapon during the war if it had been able to build or obtain one. The international team of scientists organized by the Americans just happened to get there first.

Rotter shows just how far along these other nations were on the road to developing atomic weaponry and concludes with a sobering assessment of the danger faced by mankind since the proliferation of such devices.

Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora, by Pierre Berg (with Brian Brock)

Berg’s book is a remarkable, unique personal account of the Holocaust 
from a non-Jewish French teenager’s point of view. From his arrest in 1943 to his incarceration in the death camp at Auschwitz and his eventual escape from the underground V2 rocket assembly plant at Mittelbau-Dora, Berg keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat with his unsparing descriptions––frank, irreverent, and ironic, and with a 
hint of dry, gallows humor.

Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier’s Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World War II, by Brendan I. Koerner

Part history, part thriller, Now the Hell Will Start is the astonishing, unknown tale of Herman Perry, an African-American soldier who 
sparked the greatest manhunt of World War II and became the war’s unlikeliest folk hero.

Assigned to a segregated labor battalion, Perry was one of thousands of black soldiers ordered to perform the backbreaking chore of building the Ledo Road from the mountains of northeast India through the fetid, tiger-infested jungles of Burma and into China.

Unable to bear any longer the harsh conditions or his white superiors’ racist treatment, Perry deserted into the inhospitable wilds of the Indo-Burmese jungle where he learned how to survive. Befriended by a tribe of headhunters, Perry hid out while squads of U.S. military police sought to bring him back under American control and to a court-martial. A gripping, overlooked chapter of American history.

This article is from the May 2009 issue of WWII History Magazine. If you would like to read the rest of this and other articles, visit our order page to see which digital editions we have on offer.

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