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Secret Weapons of World War II Hardcover – August 28, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (August 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471372870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471372875
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,102,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Once again scouring his seemingly inexhaustible personal archives, as well as public sources, popular historian Breuer has produced yet another collection of rip-roaring tales. With more than 20 books to his credit, Breuer (Unexplained Mysteries of World War II, etc.) employs a formulaic presentation of enticingly named storiesA"Supersecret Station X," "A Plan to Poison the German Food Supply," among themAin short, punchy chapters grouped by theme. Written out of passion for its subject, this book reads like good pulp. "Bright Ideas for Winning the War" discloses some of the ludicrous battle tactics proposed by well-meaning armchair generals. "History's First Nuclear Spy," Walther Koehler, turns out to be not a double agent, but a triple. "Treachery at Los Alamos" shows how a box of Jell-O played a role in helping a network of spies steal nuclear secrets from the United States on behalf of the Soviet Union. A few of the stories hang unfinished; "Hitler Orders Lethal Gas Assault," but we never find out where the gas ends up after the attack is aborted. Still, this is a delightful addition to the niche that Breuer has so successfully carved out. Photos. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Once again scouring his seemingly inexhaustible personal archives, as well as public sources, popular historian Breuer has produced yet another collection of rip-roaring tales. With more than 20 books to his credit, Breuer (Unexplained Mysteries of World War II, etc.) employs a formulaic presentation of enticingly named stories- "Supersecret Station X," "A Plan to Poison the German Food Supply," among them - in short, punchy chapters grouped by theme. Written out of passion for its subject, this book reads like good pulp. "Bright Ideas for Winning the War" discloses some of the ludicrous battle tactics proposed by well-meaning armchair generals. "History's First Nuclear Spy," Walter Koehler, turns out to be not a double agent, but a triple. "Treachery at Los Alamos" shows how a box of Jell-O played a role in helping a network of spies steal nuclear secrets from the United States on behalf of the Soviet Union. A few of the stories hang unfinished; "Hitler Orders Lethal Gas Assault," but we never find out where the gas ends up after the attack is aborted. Still, this is a delightful addition to the niche that Breuer has so successfully carved out.

--Publishers Weekly
September 18, 2000

Customer Reviews

Also, the material does not seem that carefully researched.
Per Kjellberg
This book should be read by anyone who wants to learn more about the significance of science and technology during World War II.
EconGuy
With no confidence that the rest of the book would be any better, I figured I wouldn't waste my time.
Richard T. Leitner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William Sills on November 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book presents the see-saw technological struggle between the axis and the allies in a very engaging fashion. Unfortunately, the book has science errors (which are unforgivable in a book about technology.) For instance, the author says that very hot objects reflect infrared. They don't; they radiate infrared. Then, there are the editing errors, which tend to present the opposite of what is meant. For instance, in one bit about Ultra Churchill is said to have "Cautiously decreased its use." He had, in fact, increased its use. Finally, there are flaws regarding the actual usage of weapons the author describes. For instance, he says the hedgehog was used to smash u-boats hiding silently on the bottom of the sea. Actually, the hedgehog's strength was that it could engage u-boats that were maneuvering to evade destroyers. So you need to approach the book knowing that it was poorly edited and proofed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Metallurgist TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book. It is well written and is a quick read. It discusses many of the secret weapons, most no longer very secret, used by the Allies and Axis in WWII. The subject is covered chronologically, starting before the war began, then covering the war, and its final days. It will be interesting to those who know little about the war and I am sure that those who know more will find out new things. However, I do not believe that the book is as up to date as it should have been, and that this gives a false impression of events.

My chief reservation, in addition to the few mistakes already pointed out by previous reviewers, is that false impressions are given of many important facets of the war. Much of the book is concerned with Ultra, the breaking of the German Enigma machine cipher. The impression is given that a counter machine was developed and that was that. In fact, nothing could further from the truth. Messages from the different German services (army, navy and air force) were read with varying degrees of difficulty. Even after a basic technique was developed, there were periods when, because of a change in the number of rotors used in the Enigma machine or a new protocol for sending messages being used, messages could not be read. This "blindness" lasted for varying lengths of time, extending to months. (For an excellent discussion of the breaking of the German and Japanese codes the reader is directed to "Battle of Wits" by Stephen Budiansky.)

Another false impression was that it was through neglect on the part of the British that Klaus Fuchs (the major Soviet spy in the Manhattan Project) was not inadequately screened and thereby allowed access to the most secret weapon of WWII.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Per Kjellberg on January 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book was a bit of a disappointment. Too many short stories, when some more detail would have been interesting. Also, the material does not seem that carefully researched. The author described that the German battleship Bismarck escaped unscathed from its encounter with Hood/PoW, but several other sources I have read states that Bismarck was damaged. Later in the same chapter it is described that Rodney and King George V hit Bismarck with their 16-inch shells. Rodney had 16-inch, true, but KGV had only 14-inch guns.
I would recommend it as a second-hand book, but it is not worth the full price.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harrison Kramer on April 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
William Breuer has collected a great collection of short stories that provides a great introduction to many lesser-known aspects of WWII, especially radar and Ultra intercepts used by Great Britain. This book, along with others in the series, is an easy, informative read while also containing a wealth of little-known facts and true short stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Richard T. Leitner on May 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was so disappointed in the inaccuracies in this poorly researched book that I gave up on page 9! With no confidence that the rest of the book would be any better, I figured I wouldn't waste my time. Read some of the other reviews for specifics beyond page 9, but here are my gripes:

The introduction states, "the decisive factor in the outcome of WW II was not the brilliance ... of military leaders or statesman. Rather ... the climactic struggle hinged on the secret war of wits between each side's ingenious scientists and cryptanalysts." Of course this is demonstrably false: Although they certainly influenced the war greatly, the were only one factor among many, the two primary ones likely Hitler's ill-advised attack on the Soviet Union and U.S. industrial capacity.

It only goes downhill from there. Chapter 1 deals with the German Enigma machine. It was NOT developed by Nazi scientists as Breuer asserts, but by an inventor in the 1920's who tried unsuccessfully to market it. The Wehrmacht certainly improved the machine, but anyone could buy the original version openly. The British did exactly that. Similarly, the Poles did not smuggle one out of the "secret factory" but rather "borrowed" one that was accidentally sent through the mail as it passed through a Polish Post office. And his assertion that the French were already fearful of being overrun by the German Army at that early date (necessitating sending the machines and information only to England) is ludicrous. Both France and Britain received a machine or facsimile. In fact the French took everything and themselves delivered it to the British shortly thereafter.
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