Superfortress- General Curtis Lemay and Bill Yenne

superfortressThe second world war marked a turning point in world conflict with the introduction of the B-29 bomber.  No longer solely relying on ground infantry divisions, the rules of engagement had been changed forever. General Curtis Lemay, the legendary Air Force General and leader of the Strategic Air Command presents this excellent writing of the story behind he development of the B-29 bomber, appropriately named the Superfortress.

Lemay provides a detailed history of air warfare in the United States armed forces paying homage to Billy Mitchell (1879-1956), considered by many to the be the father of the United States Air Force.  Dismissed for insubordination, Mitchell would be blackballed for several years until 1941 when the B-25 was named in his honor.  Sensing that a major offensive change was needed in the war, development began on new aircraft to turn the tide of the war against the axis powers.  Boeing’s production of the B-29 signaled the dawn of a new era and completely changed the face of the allied effort in World War II. This is the great story behind the masterpiece machine and one of the greatest times in aviation history.

 

ISBN-10: 1594160392
ISBN-13: 978-1594160394

Nanking-K.A. Kent

NankingWorld War II is the worst conflict the earth has ever seen. It is estimated that well over 50 million people died during the war.  This number will vary from source to source and the total number of casualties may never be known.   The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, triggered a world conflagration unlike anything mankind had ever seen. The Japanese army in seeking to establish and empire of its own, invaded mainland China, waging a path of destruction and terror with the intention on obliterating several Chinese cities from existence.  Shanghai was reduced to rubble and Nanking nearly completely destroyed.   In total, nearly 20 million Chinese perished during the war and the actions of the Japanese government became the source of tension between the two nations which continues to this day.  The intervention by the United States in the conflict and defeat of Japan allowed the people of China to breathe a sigh of relief.  The actions of the Japanese Army were horrific and unspeakable but characteristic of the known and unknown number of atrocities committed during the second World War.

Minnie Vautrin (1886-1941) was a missionary who worked in Nanking and is best remembered for her efforts to save the young women under her care at the Gingling College as the Japanese military launched its invasion of Nanking.  K.A. Kent presents Minnie’s story in this engaging yet tragic tale.  Her tireless efforts to save the lives of as many girls and women as she could would make her one of the greatest unsung heroines of the 20th century.  After serving 28 years as a missionary, she made her return home to the United States in 1940.  Sadly she would take her own life in 1941. Thousands of young women were assaulted physically and sexually, tortured and murdered in what became known as the Nanking massacre.  The story has been told in books and even films and in each case, the chilling reality of what transpired hits strikes the reader and viewer to the core. The barbarity exhibited by the Japanese military helped condemn Japan in the eyes of the world.  Today, Japan has acknowledged the actions of its army during the war but has stopped short of offering a detailed and full apology.  Only time will tell if Japan and China will fully heal from a dark time in world history.

I forewarn the reader that this book is a tough read at times and I found myself stepping back from the book.  Kent has told the story in a semi-fictional matter. Vautrin is in the book but the names of others have been changed and composite characters instituted in their place. Nonetheless, the story is accurate as regards to what did happen and how it happened.  For those who are unable to read stories of sexual assault or have been victims of sexual assault, this book may not be for you.  For war enthusiast that seek to learn as much about World War II as possible, this book is a good addition to the library.  But it is ugly at times and the truth does hurt but it is also necessary to understand the savagery that composed the world’s deadliest war.

ISBN-10: 1419616021
ISBN-13: 978-1419616020

My Father’s Keeper: Children of Nazi Leaders-An Intimate History of Damage and Denial-Stephen & Norbert Lebert

20180602_234500May 1, 1945- The Allied forces are nearly at the entrance of Hitler’s underground bunker in Berlin.  Hitler and Eva Braun have been dead since the day before.  Others have fled Berlin in fear of their lives. The remaining members are forced with choosing between capture by the Allies or death.  Third Reich propaganda minster Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda both commit suicide after having their six children poisoned.  Their children escape the fate of falling into Allied hands and do not witness the final collapse of the Third Reich and the division of post-war Berlin.  The fear of retribution by the Red Army and the revelations of the atrocities committed against Europe’s Jewish population have caused many Germans to prefer death rather than face justice at the hands of an Allied soldiers.  Goebbels’ children although deprived of their lives, escaped a fate that would effect the children of other Nazi party officials.  They would be faced to confront the truth of their parents’ actions during the rise of the N.S.D.A.P. and Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany.  This book contains the stories of some of those children.

Hitler never had any children of his own stating clearly that he had too much responsibility towards the people of Germany to think about his own family line.  Perhaps it is one of the saving graces of the war for I shudder to think about the amount of cruelty a child of Hitler would have faced had they survived the war.  The belief of the “master race” resulted in German men and women being encouraged to have as many children as possible. And in fact, many of the top members of Hitler’s cabinet were fathers.  Their children did survive the war and are still alive today . Stephen Lebert resumed the work of his father Norman in exploring the effects of the revelations upon the lives of the Nazi descendants.  And what father and son have found is remarkable and also tragic. They conducted interviews with the children of Martin Bormann, Hans Frank, Rudolf Hess, Herman Goering and Heinrich Himmler.  The interviews are revealing and the damage inflicted upon them is evident in many way.  Denial is a common theme in the interviews  and some of them refuse to believe what has been proven to be correct. The others have accepted it and have lived shattered lives unable to come to terms with what their father had done.   And incredibly, one in particular remains committed to her father’s standing as a Nazi and truly believes him to be innocent.

The most interesting part of the book is that there is no way to know beforehand which way the subject will go.  Their responses, thoughts and feelings vary highlighting the haphazard effect the war had upon them.  I had often wondered what happened to the children of the Reich. This book answers that question and more.  A truly tragic reality is that they were not allowed to have a normal childhood by any means.  The tyrannical rule of Adolf Hitler and the Reich’s illogical policies plunged Germany into a war and allowed its members to live out their own sadistic ideals as they pillaged, raped and murdered innocent people.  And the true irony is that these very same people who sent the children of Jews to their deaths, had families of their own. But I do not believe they ever thought of their children for if they did, they would have never placed them in such a position.

Today they continue to live their lives but the memories of the war and their parents are still fresh in their minds.  To their very last day, they will scary the mental and emotional scars inflicted upon them by the fallout from the second world war.  And as they think back on the family life they lost, they will have to ask the question if they are truly their fathers’ keepers.

ISBN-10: 0316089753
ISBN-13: 978-0316089753

The Rise and Fall Of The Third Reich:A History of Nazi Germany-30th Anniversary Edition-William L. Shirer

20180602_225945History always has many witnesses.   Audio, video, word of mouth and the written word serve as the recorders for the events that are occurring.  When Adolf Hitler began his rise to power, all of Europe and the rest of the world took notice.  Many of those nations never imagined that the menace from Austria would become Chancellor of Germany and unleash a wave of terror never before seen across the continent.  His climactic rise to power and fall is a case study that has been the subject of debates and discussions since the end of the Second World War in 1945.  Even today we continue to learn new facts about Hitler and secrets of the Third Reich.  William L. Shirer (1904-1993) lived in Germany as correspondent for CBS news and served as a first-hand witnesses of the rise of national socialism carried under the banner of Hitler’s N.S.D.A.P.    As the war in Europe unfolded, he returned to the United States and his memories of his time in Germany served as the basis for the Berlin Diary. During his residence in Germany, he had been censured by Nazi regime from speaking on air. Shirer took advantage of the time to start a book on the Reich, a book that became a masterpiece and the definitive account of the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

Hitler’s seizure of power by means of annexation of the smaller countries surrounding Germany showed to the world the true nature of his regime and the pending doom that awaited Europe.  By the time the war was over, nearly fifty million people had died.   Germany was split in half and became the center of aggression between the United States and Soviet Union.  The story of the Nazi empire has caused many to ask how did Hitler assume power and why did the German people give it to him?  And if the German military was as supreme as their leaders thought, why did Germany suffer defeat in a second world conflict?  The answers to these questions are contained within the pages of this book and Shirer provides a staggering amount of information about what really transpired behind the scenes hidden from the German public.  The book is divided into several smaller parts, each focusing on a different period in the war.   But the author covers the Reich from start to finish giving the reader a complete account of one of history’s darkest moments.

While the book is not a “official” textbook to be used by educators, I do think it should supplement any course material on the holocaust and the war. Shirer’s work is of critical importance and will remain with us for generations.  It is the go to source for the story of the Nazi reign.  All of the characters make an appearance in the story and some parts of the narrative are a bit comical as the Nazis simply make up the rules as they go along. But what is even more intriguing is the often opposing views taken by Hitler and his Generals. Many knew that a madman had seized power and was leading Germany down a path of destruction yet no one seemed to be able to stop the Austrian menace. Shirer once said that “the cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it”.  The Führer, seemingly one step ahead of those under him, often played subordinates against each other creating a climate of suspicion that undermined any efforts to remove him from power. And at his call, were a number of loyal Nazi party members all too happy to do the regime’s dirty work.

I cannot overstate the importance of this book.  To understand the machinations at play that pushed the German war machine forward, Shirer’s words are an invaluable source.  The book is by no means short, running well over one thousands pages.  But contained within those pages is the story that can never be erased.   The world has changed drastically since 1945.  Hitler’s ghost is still among as those loyal to the Nazi party, pledge their undying allegiance to an ideology that went down at the hands of Allie forces more than seventy years ago. His supporting cast of characters retain their places in infamy as part of a failed regime that based its foundation upon the idea of “Aryan supremacy”.   But unbeknownst to the Germany people, there was much that was hidden from them by Hitler, the man some came to love but many began to fear.  Had they known the truth about the Nazis, perhaps he would have been removed from power before the war reached its deadly heights.  We can only ask what if at this point about how things might have been.  But as we look back and study the war, Shirer is there with us reminding us along the way of everything that happened during the rise and fall of the Third SS Reich.

ISBN-10: 1451651686
ISBN-13: 978-1451651683