Friday, April 15, 2005

The charming and very baseball savvy Lilly asked a question the other day--what are some favorite WWII books and why?

Thought I'd devote a post or several to this rather than just reply in the comments as it could get rather lengthy.

Here are a few off the top of my head. If anyone has some other favorites, post 'em.

A note on the list that follows: Apparently I'm big on autobiographical accounts. It's important to know the big picture, but nothing grips you like the stories of the people on the ground.

"Black Thursday", by Martin Caiden. The story of the bombing raid on the Schweinfurt ball bearing factory. It's meticulously researched with a lot of human details. And it reveals the frustrations of war--despite heavy losses and a prediction that destroying the ball bearing plant would have a severe impact on the German war machine, it had almost no impact.
http://www.antiqbook.com/boox/top/300153.shtml

"Give Us This Day", by Sidney Stewart. We've all heard about the Bataan Death March, but this book, written by a survivor, provides the gripping, wrenching details of surviving it day by day.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0393319210/102-4735353-5180935?v=glance

"The Road Past Mandalay", by John Masters. Autobiographical account of a British Ghurka officer. The author became a very well known novelist so you can imagine the quality of the writing. As I recall the story starts prior to the outbreak of the war, giving the reader a glimpse into British Colonial life. Very humerous at times.
http://www.orionbooks.co.uk/MP-23929/The-Road-Past-Mandalay.htm

I once had a book I think was called "While Eagles Screamed", but that wasn't the original title and I can't find any references under the title I know. It was another autobiography writtenby a guy who served in the 101st. He jumped into Normandy and wrote of watching aircraft drop troopers too low and hearing them hit and sounding like pumpkins thudding to earth.

"If You Survive", by Charles Wilson. A company commander assigned to the front lines at Normandy, he fought the rest of the war. The title comes from his first conversation with his commanding officer who prefaced a response to a question Wilson posed with the phrase "If you survive..."
http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?show=Mass%20Market:Sale:0804100039:6.15

"Company Commander", by Charles B. MacDonald. Another compelling autobiography by by an officer who fought across Europe.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1580800386/102-4735353-5180935?v=glance

Once read a book called "Samauri", written by a former Japanese fighter pilot. Don't recall his name and plugging "Samauri" into a search engine is going to lead to about 50 million hits.

Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery (1901-1977) deserves special mention. He commanded the USS Guadalcanal (a 'jeep' carrier), and achieved immortality by effecting the only capture at sea of a German U-Boat. It now resides at the University of Chicago, where he matriculated at some point, though he's a Naval Academy graduate. He also wrote a number of utterly hysterical books--some autobiographical and some pure fancy and populated by characters such as Chief Bosun's Mate Fatso and Curly the jet pilot. He also wrote about the capture of U-505 and an analysis of the USS Pueblo incident. His books are hard to find, but worth the effort.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1557508062/102-4735353-5180935?v=glance
http://www.fransorb.com/cve60.htm

Ok. These are a few that popped into my mind. As I recall others, I'll post them here.

7 comments:

Lilly said...

Thanks for the response. Well, I've read "If you survive", and also "Give us this day". Both excellent books. I'll have to add the other ones you mentioned to my list. I really enjoyed reading "Ghost Soldiers" and of course all of Ambrose's books. I only started reading extensively on WWII a couple of years ago. I read mostly Vitenam and more recent military history while I was in high school and college. Retired COL Rowe's book started me on that.

I want to eventually venture deeper into WWI and 19th Century stuff, but it's hard to keep up my reading with work and school. It's also hard to balance my urges to stay home and read and watch baseball all weekend, and my social life :-)I spend enough time watching the history and military channels as it is :)

The book you mention about the Japanese fighter pilot might be Saburo Sakai's book found here:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0743412834/ref=ase_pacificwreckdata/104-5891614-0839118?v=glance&s=books

I read it my senior year in high school. It's such an excellent perspective from the other side. I re-read it last year.

And, you used 'charming' and 'baseball' in the same sentence on your post. Watch your back if my brothers find out :)

Snake Eater said...

Good call (to use an expression that alludes to baseball). Saburo Sakai's book is exactly the one I was referring to. The cover displayed on the web page is even the exact cover on the paperback I read too many years ago.

I'm surprised that you've read both "Samauri" and "Give Us This Day". I think both have been out of print for many, many years now.

And another book--I have no idea how I could have forgotten this one. "From OSS to Green Berets" by Col. Aaron Banks. Not strictly a WWII book, but it does cover WWII OSS operations. Another book about OSS ops is "The Last Hero" by Anthony Cave Brown. It's about William "Wild Bill" Donovan, who among other accomplishments, founded the OSS.

Lilly said...

I've read about Donovan, either on Maj. Plaster's SOG book or Robin Moore's "The Green Berets" book. Also, from a 2003 issue of Time titled "The CIA's Secret Army", but I'd have to go back through my boxes to find it.
I just bought Brown's book here:

http://half.ebay.com/cat/buy/prod.cgi?cpid=1079757276&domain_id=1856&meta_id=1

I bought "give us this day" from www.half.com as well:

http://half.ebay.com/cat/buy/prod.cgi?cpid=147507&domain_id=1856&meta_id=1

This is where I buy most of my old books. If you can't find it anywhere else, someone will most likely sell it at half.com. Sometimes you can buy a really old book from someone there and it'll have notes hand-written on the margins, and it's so interesting to read them.

The "Samurai" book I got from the city library in high school. It was very old and yellow, but they had it. I bought it last year from half.com for like $0.75, for my collection.

Col. Banks' book is on my list, as well as a bunch others, including the ones you just mentioned :) I usually like to read chronologically on a subject, but I've had fun filling in the blanks the last couple of years.

Have you read "Not a good day to die" by Sean Naylor? I just finished it yesterday, and I'm curious as to other people's informed opinions on it. This is getting long, and I really need to get back to my biochem sig trans homework, so I'll shut up now :)

Lilly said...

Oh, and thanks for the help :)

Lilly said...

I've read about Donovan, either on Maj. Plaster's SOG book or Robin Moore's "The Green Berets" book. Also, from a 2003 issue of Time titled "The CIA's Secret Army", but I'd have to go back through my boxes to find it.
I just bought Brown's book here:

http://half.ebay.com/cat/buy/prod.cgi?cpid=1079757276&domain_id=1856&meta_id=1

I bought "give us this day" from www.half.com as well:

http://half.ebay.com/cat/buy/prod.cgi?cpid=147507&domain_id=1856&meta_id=1

This is where I buy most of my old books. If you can't find it anywhere else, someone will most likely sell it at half.com. Sometimes you can buy a really old book from someone there and it'll have notes hand-written on the margins, and it's so interesting to read them.

The "Samurai" book I got from the city library in high school. It was very old and yellow, but they had it. I bought it last year from half.com for like $0.75, for my collection.

Col. Banks' book is on my list, as well as a bunch others, including the ones you just mentioned :) I usually like to read chronologically on a subject, but I've had fun filling in the blanks the last couple of years.

Have you read "Not a good day to die" by Sean Naylor? I just finished it yesterday, and I'm curious as to other people's informed opinions on it. This is getting long, and I really need to get back to my biochem sig trans homework, so I'll shut up now :)

Snake Eater said...

Thanks for the sources. I do like reading first hand accounts--nothing else can bring you the real flavor of what happened like they do. And unfortunately, there won't be any more first hand accounts written about WWII.

Didn't even know about "Not a Good Day to Die". I'll definitely have to read it.

Snake Eater said...

Oh, and as far as John Plaster's books, I can't recommend them highly enough.

I was going to say more, but I have enough to say that I think I'll make a post of it.