The Second World War

Stuart J Wright tells the gripping story of a World War II American aircrew flying missions from Old Buckenham, England in a B-24 Liberator bomber they nicknamed Corky. This is a true account based on years of research and correspondence with crew members and their families. Wright adds a dimension rarely explored in other World War II memoirs and narratives, beginning the chronicle during peacetime when the men of the aircrew are introduced as civilians - kids during the 1920s. As they mature through the years of the Great Depression to face a world at war, questions are raised about 'just' and 'unjust' wars, imperialism and patriotism. Jingoistic sentimentality is resisted in favour of objectivity, as the feelings and motivations of the crew members are explored: the Chinese American air gunner had hoped to serve in the U.S. Army Air Force to fight against the Japanese invaders of his homeland; the Jewish navigator felt compelled to join the battle against Nazi Germany.In recounting the harrowing conditions and horrors of bombing missions over Europe, An Emotional Gauntlet emphasizes the interpersonal relationships within the crew and the spirit these men shared. As pilot Jack Nortridge regularly assured his crew, 'If you fly with me, I'm going to bring you home.' This book is a testament to their strength and determination.'A compelling story. Wright establishes the strong spirit these men shared, based on their pilot's pledge that he would bring them back - back from each mission and back to resume their peacetime lives. "An Emotional Gauntlet stands out for its integration of pre-war civilian life with wartime experiences. To me, this is the essence of America's story in the war, and I am glad to find a book that comprehends this and tells the story from this perspective".' - Jerome Klinkowitz, author of Yanks Over Europe: American Flyers in World War II.
A selection of the Military Book Club

Col. Mark James Alexander was the only airborne officer to lead three different battalions into combat in World War II, successively commanding the 2d and 1st Battalions, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, 508 PIR, of the 82nd Airborne Division. A legend in his own time, he fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France, and even after being seriously wounded in Normandy, insisted on playing a role in the Battle of the Bulge.

Airborne Generals Gavin and Ridgway recognized Alexander’s superior battle skills and were more than happy to use him to plug holes in the ranks. His reputation excelled among the rank and file, right down to the lowest private. He led from the front, pressing the attack while simultaneously looking out for his men. In Sicily, Alexander’s battalion landed 25 miles from its drop zone, into a network of Italian pillboxes, upon which the Colonel personally directed fire, thence captured hundreds of prisoners. Dropped into the desperate inferno at Salerno, he refused to give ground against German counterattacks, forming his paratroopers against enemy efforts to push Allied forces back into the sea. At Normandy one seasoned lieutenant, John “Red Dog” Dolan, 505 PIR, called him “the finest battalion commander I ever served under,” after Alexander had led the 1/505 for ten days through the bloody battle for La Fière Bridge and Causeway.

Alexander’s passion and truest talent was leading men in the field, and he insisted on sharing their risks. On one occasion in Normandy he and his runner (he went through several) were caught behind German lines and encountered a platoon of SS. Opening fire, the Colonel killed or wounded several and brought the rest in as prisoners. An 88mm shell finally got the best of him, shrapnel tearing through his lungs, and while the 82nd was engaged in the Bulge, Alexander was only allowed to run its base camps in France— despite his protests—as General Gavin noted that he was still coughing up blood.

This memoir is based on the transcription of hundreds of hours of recorded interviews made by Alexander’s grandson, John Sparry, over a period of years late in his life. Providing valuable insight into the beloved commander who led three of the most storied battalions in the US Army, Jump Commander also contains a wealth of new detail on 82nd Airborne operations, and casts insight on some of the most crucial battles in the ETO. This highly readable and action-packed narrative may well be the last remaining memoir to be written in the voice of a major airborne officer of the Greatest Generation.
The M4 Medium Tank - the Sherman _ was one of the most famous tanks of the Second World War. It was produced in greater numbers than any other Allied tank, it fought on every front _ in Western Europe, on the Eastern Front, in North Africa, Burma, the Pacific _ and it continued to serve effectively as a front-line fighting vehicle in the Korean War, the Arab-Israeli wars, the Indo-Pakistani wars. Pat Ware's new history of this remarkable tank covers in detail its design and development, its technical specifications and the many variants that were produced, and he reviews its operational role in conflicts across the world. ??While the Sherman outclassed the older German tanks it encountered when it was first put into combat in 1942, it was vulnerable to the later German medium and heavy tanks, the Panther and the Tiger I and Tiger II. Yet, as Pat Ware shows, the Sherman was more effective than these superior German tanks because it was cheaper to build, reliable, easy to maintain and produced in such large numbers. It was also adaptable - it was converted into a tank-destroyer, an amphibious tank, a recovery vehicle, a mine-flail, a personnel carrier _ and, after the Second World War, the soundness of its original design was proved as it was developed to confront more modern tanks in combat.??Pat Ware's expert account of this remarkable fighting vehicle is accompanied by a series of colour plates showing the main variants of the design and the common ancillary equipment and unit markings. His book is an essential work of reference for enthusiasts.
Gene Garrison spent a terrifying nineteenth birthday crammed into a muddy foxhole near the German border in the Saar. He listened helplessly to cries of wounded comrades as exploding artillery shells sent deadly shrapnel raining down on them. The date was December 16, 1944, he was a member of a .30-caliber machine-gun crew with the 87th Infantry Division and this was his first day in combat.

Less than a year earlier, he had taken the first steps in charting his future, entering college as a fresh-faced kid from the farmlands of Ohio. Now, as the night closed around Garrison, slices of light pierced the darkness with frightening brilliance. Battle-hardened German SS troopers using flashlights infiltrated the line of the young, untested American soldiers. Someone screamed "Counterattack!" In the maelstrom of gun fire that followed the teenaged Garrison struggled to comprehend the horrors of the present, his entire future reduced to a prayer that he would be alive at daybreak.

From those first frightening, confusing days in combat until the end of the war five months later, Gene Garrison saw many of his buddies killed or wounded, each loss reducing his own odds of survival. Convinced before one attack that his luck had deserted him, he wrote a final letter to his family, telling them goodbye. Garrison gave the letter to a buddy with instructions to mail it if he died.

From the bitter fighting west of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge to the end of the war on the Czechoslovakian border, Garrison describes the degradation of war with pathos and humor.

Gene Garrison's story is told through the eyes of the common soldier, a man who might not know the name of the town or the location of the next hill that he and his comrades must grimly wrestle from the enemy but who is willing to die in order to carry the war forward to the hated enemy. He writes of the simple pleasure derived from finding a water-filled puddle deep enough to fill his canteen; a momentary respite in a half-destroyed barn that shields him from the bitter cold and penetrating wind of an Ardennes winter; the solace of friendship with a core of veterans whose lives hang upon his actions and whose actions might help him survive the bitter, impersonal death they all face.

The rich dialogue and a hard-hitting narrative style bring the reader to battlefield manhood alongside Garrison, to each moment of terror and triumph faced by a young soldier far from home in the company of strangers.
Since World War II, the American public has become fully aware of the exploits of the 101st Airborne Division, the paratroopers who led the Allied invasions into Nazi-held Europe. But within the ranks of the 101st, a sub-unit attained legendary status at the time, its reputation persisting among veterans over the decades.

Primarily products of the Dustbowl and the Depression, the Filthy13 grew notorious, even within the ranks of the elite 101st. Never ones to salute an officer, or take a bath, this squad became singular within the Screaming Eagles for its hard drinking, and savage fighting skill--and that was only in training. Just prior to the invasion of Normandy, a "Stars and Stripes" photographer caught U.S. paratroopers with heads shaved into Mohawks, applying war paint to their faces. Unknown to the American public at the time, these men were the Filthy 13. After parachuting behind enemy lines in the dark hours before D-Day, the Germans got a taste of the reckless courage of this unit - except now the men were fighting with Tommy guns and explosives, not just bare knuckles. In its spearhead role, the 13 suffered heavy casualties, some men wounded and others blown to bits. By the end of the war 30 men had passed through the squad.

Throughout the war, however, the heart and soul of the Filthy 13 remained a survivor named Jake McNiece, a half-breed Indian from Oklahoma - the toughest man in the squad and the one who formed its character. McNiece made four combat jumps, was in the forefront of every fight in northern Europe, yet somehow never made the rank of PFC. The survivors of the Filthy 13 stayed intact as a unit until the Allies finally conquered Nazi Germany.

The book does not draw a new portrait of earnest citizen soldiers. Instead it describes a group of hardscrabble guys whom any respectable person would be loath to meet in a bar or dark alley. But they were an integral part of the U.S. war against Nazi Germany. A brawling bunch of no-goodniks whose only saving grace was that they inflicted more damage on the Germans than on MPs, the English countryside and their own officers, the Filthy 13 remain a legend within the ranks of the 101st Airborne.
The outlook for a victory of the Allied Powers was dim in the spring of 1942. Britain was being unmercifully bombed and threatened with invasion. Rommel's forces were rampaging across North Africa toward Alexandria. Only two American divisions had arrived in the European theatre. Stationed in Ireland, they were green, untested troops, their combat deployment a matter of speculation even to the high command. It was then that General Lucien K. Truscott conceived the plan of organizing an American commando unit to be known as the "Rangers," a name made famous in American history. "On every frontier the name has been one of hope for those who required protection; of fear, for those who have lived outside the law." Major William O. Darby was placed in command of the first Ranger Battalion. Darby proved himself an officer of such extraordinary powers of leadership that his unit was forever after known as "Darby's Rangers." This was the organization destined to be the first American ground forces to battle the Germans in Africa and Europe in World War II. The Spearheaders is an account from an enlisted man's point of view of the intensely dramatic career of the Rangers from their beginnings as soldiers in Ireland, through their grueling training in Scotland, to their role in the bloody fighting in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

This is a story of war as intimate and individual as the diaries, letters and memories on which it is based. Here are the courage, determination, hope and occasional moments of weakness of gallant American boys from the "next doors" of Maine and California, Oregon and Florida. Here, too, are unforgettable pictures of the grandeur and misery of war, bawdiness and bloodshed, its triumphs ultimate futilities. Dominating the aggregation of his startlingly individualized subordinates is the commanding figure of Major Darby himself. Like Caesar he could call each of his men by name, congratulate them: "A helluva shoot . . . every company came through ... a beautiful job… now we got to get our tails out of here"; inspire them: "The outfit that can slip up the enemy and stun him with shock and surprise - that is the outfit that will win battles, and that is the outfit I want"; console them: "I'm sorry . . . damned sorry . . . I knew you would put on a good show."

The Spearheaders is no ordinary war history. In line with present Army doctrine, it demonstrates the value of tough, resourceful, hard-trained troops, capable of swift dispersal and penetration instead of massed movement susceptible to atomic blasts. Its vivid writing, its empathy with those who served, its appreciation of the Ranger spirit more than the Ranger achievements, make it rekindle in the hearts and minds of all Americans the great heritage, proud history and high ideals of their nation.
The first aircraft carriers made their appearance in the early years of World War I. These first flattops were improvised affairs built on hulls that had been laid down with other purposes in mind, and it was not until the 1920s that the first purpose-built carriers were launched, but no-one was as yet clear about the role of the carriers and they were largely unloved by the 'battleship admirals' who still believed that their great dreadnoughts were the ultimate capital ships.??World War II changed all that, At Taranto, Pearl Harbour, and in the North Atlantic, the carrier, the ugly duckling of the world's navies, proved itself to be the dreadnought nemesis. As the tide of war turned, the fast attack carriers of the U.S. Navy spearheaded the counter-attack in the Pacific while the makeshift escort carriers helped to seal the fate of the German U-boats in the Atlantic. The carrier, and naval aviation, thus emerged into the post-war world as the primary symbol and instrument of seapower; it would play a crucial role in the strategic encirclement of the Soviet Union and enabled western airpower to be rapidly and effectively deployed in areas of conflict as remote as Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands and the Gulf.??Kaplan describes the adventure of the young American, British, and Japanese naval aviators in the Second World War. It is an account of their experiences based on archives, diaries, published and unpublished memoirs, and personal interviews with veteran naval airmen of WWII, providing a vivid and often hair-raising picture of the dangers they encountered in combat and of everyday life aboard an aircraft carrier. It considers some of the key aspects of the WWII naval aviator's combat career, such as why it was that only a tiny minority of these pilots Ð those in whom the desire for aerial combat overrode everything Ð accounted for such a large proportion of the victories.??In the major carrier actions of that conflict, from the Royal Navy's attack on Taranto which crippled the Italian fleet in 1940, to the Japanese carrier-launched surprise attack on U.S. Navy battleships and facilities at Pearl Harbour in 1941, to the carrier battle of Midway in 1942, and the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot of 1944, through the Japanese Kamikaze campaign against the U.S. Carriers in the final stages of the Pacific war, this book takes the reader back to one of the most exciting and significant times in modern history.
This intimately researched work tells the story of the thousand-plus Depression-era civilian contractors who came to Wake Island, a remote Pacific atoll, in 1941 to build an air station for the U.S. Navy. Author Gilbert charts the contractors' hard-won progress as they scramble to build the naval base as well as runways for U.S. Army Air Corps B-17 Flying Fortresses while war clouds gather over the Pacific.

Five hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese struck Wake Island, which was now isolated from assistance. The undermanned Marine Corps garrison, augmented by civilian-contractor volunteers, fought back against repeated enemy attacks, at one point thwarting a massive landing assault. The atoll was under siege for two weeks as its defenders continued to hope for the U.S. Navy to come to their rescue. Finally succumbing to an overwhelming amphibious attack, the surviving Americans, military and civilian, were taken prisoner. While most were shipped off to Japanese POW camps for slave labor, a number of the civilians were retained as workers on occupied Wake. Later in the war the last ninety-eight Americans were brutally massacred by their captors. The civilian contractors who had risked distance and danger for well-paying jobs ended up paying a steep price: their freedom and, for many, their lives.

Written by the daughter and granddaughter of civilians who served on Wake Island, Building for War sheds new light on why the United States was taken by surprise in December 1941 and shines a spotlight on the little-known, virtually forgotten story of a group of civilian workers and their families whose lives were forever changed by the events on the tiny atoll that is Wake.

Bonita Gilbert has an MA in history from the University of Oregon and teaches history at North Idaho College. Bonnie and her husband live in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.



Heroism and tragedy in the East, in the face of the Red Army’s onslaught . . .

In 1945, in the face of the advancing Red Army, two and a half million people were forced out of Germany’s most easterly province, East Prussia, and in particular its capital, Königsberg. Their flight was a direct result of Hitler’s ill-fated decision to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. Now that the Germans were in retreat, the horrors of Leningrad and Stalingrad were to be avenged by an army determined not only to invade Germany but to take over its eastern territories.

The Russians launched Operation Bagration in June 1944, to coincide with the D-Day landings. As US and British forces pushed west the Russians liberated Eastern Europe and made their first attacks on German soil in the autumn of 1944. Königsberg itself was badly damaged by two British air raids at the end of August 1944, and the main offensive against the city by the Red Army began in January 1945. The depleted and poorly armed German Army could do little to hold it back, and by the end of January East Prussia was cut off. The Russians exacted a terrible revenge on the civilian population, who were forced to flee across the freezing Baltic coast in an attempt to escape. On 9 April, the city surrendered to the Russians after a four-day onslaught.

Through firsthand accounts as well as archival material, The Fall of Hitler’s Fortress City tells the dramatic story of a place and its people that bore the brunt of Russia’s vengeance against the Nazi regime.
The German invasion of Russia was Hitler’s biggest gamble in his quest for ‘Lebensraum’ in the East – and it was at Stalingrad that his gamble failed. Stalingrad 1942-1943: The Infernal Cauldron is a comprehensive history of the greatest battle of World War II, a defining moment in the struggle on the Eastern Front, which has been called the Verdun of World War II. 

 

 From an About.Com review of the illustrated print edition: 

"[Anthony Beevor’s] Stalingrad is wholly worthy of its fame. Fortunately for publishers, there are many ways to write history and Stephen Walsh's account of Stalingrad offers a strong alternative: a military history. Walsh may cover the same ground … but his is a narrative of logistics and tactical planning, an account of where troops moved and fought, why plans were conceived and what they meant militarily. There's a large overlap between Beevor and Walsh - both include the same basic detail - but Beevor's prose is more personal … while Walsh's text considers the limits of German national power and the nature of Vernichtungschlacht warfare. Where Beevor discusses the difficulty of providing exact figures Walsh just gives them and where Beevor's writing is ceaselessly gripping Walsh is more sedate, educational and discursive. In short, these books are aimed at different audiences: anyone who likes reading will enjoy Beevor, but someone who wants the military specifics and contexts will benefit more from Walsh. Another bonus is a chapter on Army Group A and their campaign in the Caucasus, an event presumably omitted from Beevor's Stalingrad on grounds of relevance, but one which helps place the siege on context. Walsh's book is an excellent military history, but Beevor's is better suited to a broader audience: in terms of text, neither is more wrong nor right than the other, but Walsh feels like a documentary and Beevor like a feature film. It might seem unfair to constantly compare The Infernal Cauldron to Stalingrad, but I urge everyone who reads one to study the other too. No one should miss out on Beevor's style and treatment of both history and humanity, while The Infernal Cauldron is a superb, maybe even essential, companion to Stalingrad.” 

 

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