Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Book Round-Up! In honor of Remembrance Day and Veteran’s Day, MR N is talking about his favorite genre: World War Two History. Having a Master’s degree in World War Two History as well as a minor in Military History, he knows his stuff. Here is MR N’s Top Ten World War Two books. Each one is in our private library and are well-read. Most of them are out of print but are worth it to have in your book collection.
Stephen E. Ambrose’s D-Day is the definitive history of World War II’s most pivotal battle, a day that changed the course of history.
D-Day is the epic story of men at the most demanding moment of their lives, when the horrors, complexities, and triumphs of life are laid bare. Distinguished historian Stephen E. Ambrose portrays the faces of courage and heroism, fear and determination—what Eisenhower called “the fury of an aroused democracy”—that shaped the victory of the citizen soldiers whom Hitler had disparaged. Drawing on more than 1,400 interviews with American, British, Canadian, French, and German veterans, Ambrose reveals how the original plans for the invasion had to be abandoned, and how enlisted men and junior officers acted on their own initiative when they realized that nothing was as they were told it would be.
The action begins at midnight, June 5/6, when the first British and American airborne troops jumped into France. It ends at midnight June 6/7. Focusing on those pivotal twenty-four hours, it moves from the level of Supreme Commander to that of a French child, from General Omar Bradley to an American paratrooper, from Field Marshal Montgomery to a German sergeant.
MR N’s Review: Beyond debate this is THE book on D-Day. There never needs to be another one written. Ambrose wrote this definitive history in 1994. He painstakingly takes the reader from the who and what was involved, how it was planned, set up, the complete story of every aspect of the greatest invasion in history. You get the real feel for what happened and what sacrifices the greatest generation made to keep our world safe and free. At least in the 20th century. Safe and free are relative terms these days. A must read for those who do not fully understand what D-Day was and a must re-read. A book that needs to be kept close on your shelf of favourite books.
This classic and inspiring account of the progress of the 7th Armoured Division from the sands of North Africa to the cold of wintery Holland and the mud of a German springtime. Based on official records, and written by one of the division’s key officers, this book is an outstanding testament to the officers and men of an astonishing unit. The division’s reputation was born in the desert. It first went into action against the Italians in 1940 and then, subsequently, fought Rommel’s Afrika Korps in Montgomery’s successful Western Desert campaign. It was during this period of intense fighting that the division won its affectionate nickname of Desert Rats. From there the division was transported to Italy and, later, Normandy and from then on was almost constantly in battle until the end of the war. The Desert Rats was written with official support, and with the help of most of the division’s senior officers, and the author has been able to provide a unique insight into the workings of a formidable unit. The book stands testament to the unique morale of the division and is an enduring story of difficulties overcome. Major-General Verney served as a tank brigade commander in World War II and went on to command 7th Armoured Division in Normandy in 1944.
Operation Ultra was designed to intercept and decode German signals sent using Enigma, the top-secret German cypher machine. F.W. Winterbotham, was the man responsible for the organization, distribution and security of Ultra. This is his personal account of the operation.
It was the longest battle ever fought by the US Army,
Thirty thousand American GIs were killed or wounded.
A battle that has been ignored for more than fifty years – and one that should never have been fought.
From September 1944 to February 1945, eight US infantry and two US armoured divisions were thrown into the ‘green hell of Hurtgen’: fifty square miles of thick, rugged, hilly woods on the Belgian-German border, full of German soldiers in a deadly network of concrete bunkers.
The butcher’s bill was high; casualty rates ran to 50 per cent and more for most rifle companies.
The High Command, from the relative comfort and security of their headquarters, miles away from the forest, refused to admit there had been a mistake. Careers, and the pride of the army, were at stake.
More troops were poured in and the slaughter continued, to capture an objective that had long since lost any real purpose.
The Battle of Hurtgen Forest is a classic account of the price fighting men must pay for the prideful blunders of their commanders.
‘A classic account of a terrible battle.’ – Tom Kasey, best-selling author of ‘Trade Off’.
Charles Whiting (1926-2007) was one of Britain’s most prolific military writers, with over 300 books to his credit. He saw active service in the Second World War, serving in an armoured reconnaissance regiment attached to both the US and British armies. His books therefore possess the insight and authority of someone who, as a combat soldier, actually experienced the horrors of the Second World War.
Charles Whiting is the author of numerous history books on the Second World War. Under the pen name of Leo Kessler he also wrote a series of bestselling military thrillers, including ‘Guns at Cassino’ and ‘Valley of the Assassins’.
The top secret, World War II, spy training school strategically placed in Canada, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Where Ian Fleming created ‘James Bond’ and where the CIA was born.
Shortly after midnight on 06 June 1944, the US 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions parachuted into Normandy as the leading edge of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. Their mission was to secure the exits to the Utah Beach D-Day landing areas. That mission was vastly complicated by missed drop zones, a dark night, flooded terrain, and the German Army.
S.L.A. Marshall, a pre-war journalist, was seconded into Army historian duties and conducted extensive after-action interviews with the paratroopers. Those interviews are the basis of “Night Drop”, very much a fox hole, minute to minute view of a long, confused night of fighting. “Night Drop” conveys a powerful sense of what that experience must have been like.
It must be noted that Marshall was not a professional historian in the modern sense of that term. His narrative reads like an extended newspaper account, with lots of little personal details and a fair amount of the period’s purple prose news writing. It is a little tough to tell where the paratroopers leave off and Marshall picks up. There are no footnotes, nor any real attempt to objectively analyze what went on. And Marshall makes no pretense of attempting to get both sides of the story.
Within those limitations, Marshall has provided an exciting account of airborne combat on D-Day; “Night Drop” is highly recommended to those readers looking for the details on the heroic sacrifices by the first US troops into France on D-Day.
Was the extermination of the Jews part of the Nazi plan from the very start? Arno Mayer offers a startling and compelling answer to this question, which is much debated among historians today. In doing so, he provides one of the most thorough and convincing explanations of how the genocide came about in Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, which provoked widespread interest and controversy when first published.
Mayer demonstrates that, while the Nazis’ anti-Semitism was always virulent, it did not become genocidal until well into the Second World War, when the failure of their massive, all-or-nothing campaign against Russia triggered the Final Solution. He details the steps leading up to this enormity, showing how the institutional and ideological frameworks that made it possible evolved, and how both related to the debacle in the Eastern theater. In this way, the Judeocide is placed within the larger context of European history, showing how similar ‘holy causes’ in the past have triggered analogous – if far less cataclysmic – infamies.
The horrifying story of the D-Day rehearsal that went terribly wrong. A must read, in MR N’s opinion.
This is the dramatic story of the German defeat of the Allies in northern France and the Low Countries in 1940. Covering the campaign as a whole, it examines the issues from all sides, including those of the French, British, German and other involved nations.
Ballantine Books PB copyright 1956; with printing May 1960. 154 pp. Size MMPB. Binding intact; no loose pages. Covers and pages clean and unmarked. Originally published as “German Raider Atlantis”, this edition issued with tie-in to the Italian movie starring Van Heflin as Cmdr. Rogge and Charles Laughton as the British admiral who tracked him down. The “Atlantis” succeeded in sinking or capturing 22 merchant ships between about Mar 1940 and Nov 1941. Presented in a matter of fact, proud but not boastful manner, Cmdr. (later Adm.) Rogge describes his command and the ship and its successes in sufficient detail with sympathy and respect for his captives that the reader comes to understand why he was one of the few flag officers not prosecuted for war crimes at the end of WWII. Text includes an Appendix “The Other Side of the Story”, detailing the British efforts and eventual success in tracking down the “Atlantis” and sinking it.
What World War Two book(s) do you recommend? Share in the comments below.
Mr. N the World War Two Reader/Scholar