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The History Buff's Guide to World War II (History Buff's Guides) Paperback – April 1, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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About the Author

Thomas R. Flagel teaches American History at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tennessee. He holds degrees from Loras College, Kansas State University, Creighton University, and has studied at the University of Vienna. He currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

PROLOGUE

World War II involved every inhabited continent, killed more than sixty million people, permanently maimed another seventy million, and drove one hundred million from their homes. Never before had such devastation fallen upon the earth. The conflict generated some of the noblest deeds of courage and most demonic acts of cruelty ever committed in recorded history.

From the ashes came an enduring question: how was such a horrific event possible? In search of an answer, I interviewed many who had, from various vantage points, seen the conflict firsthand. To better comprehend their viewpoints, I asked them what they called the war. Witnesses generally agreed on a surname of “War” but varied on the prefix—the Pacific, the People’s, the Great, the Good, the Awful, the Second European, the Stupid, the Terrible.

Walter Joseph Bryant, an American who experienced the Pacific theater as a nose gunner in a navy reconnaissance bomber, felt he could not give a suitable answer. He simply said, “Each man has his own war.” His profound response eloquently synopsized the war’s general nature and how it came to exist.

There was not one war but many. What humankind experienced between 1937 and 1945 was a catastrophic convergence, an abysmal host of wars. By their simultaneous appearance, the conflicts were able to grow beyond any logical limit, overlapping and interbreeding until they appeared to be a singular beast, a proclaimed “world war.”

Understandably, this inherent complexity can be muddling if not frustrating. The mountains of available print on the war frequently add to the confusion. Military histories are often drowning in minutiae. Memoirs tend to be steeped in agenda. Biographies give a single portrait but often neglect the landscape. Lost in the names and dates is the big picture.

Presented here is a concise, convenient way to make sense of this most intricate era. The format and aim of this book are in keeping with its predecessor, The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War. Using top-ten lists, the intent is to provide a compelling overview, employing comparison and contrast to give a different and balanced perspective on people, places, and events. Every list begins with background information and criteria for the respective topic. Some are in chronological order to illustrate progression. Others are quantitative or qualitative, placing the more prominent elements of the war in their proper context. Lists for this volume were chosen for their respective ability to illustrate the fundamental aspects of the war.

A note on text presentation: where appropriate, names and words appear in small caps to indicate a subject appearing in another list. In stating East Asian names and cities, the book displays transliterations commonly used in the West during the war years rather than the contemporary pinyin demarcation. For Chinese and Japanese surnames, the text employs the traditional order of family name first.

Though one surname is on the cover of the book, hundreds of individuals brought this work to fruition. Particular gratitude and honors go to the following: military consultants were Thomas O’Brien Sr., Walter Bryant, William Phillips Callahan, and Wendell Fry. On social and cultural issues, many thanks go to Dr. Joan Skurnowicz, formerly of Loras College, for her boundless knowledge of Central Europe; Kent Wasson for his fluency in the Japanese language and social history; and Jerry Mach on civilian life in Eastern and Central Europe. Todd Erickson and Joseph and Robert Ortner provided considerable assistance on war films. Bob Yaw supplied exceptional insight on the conditions of Weimar Germany and the speaking style of Adolf Hitler. John Dankert served as a sounding board on topics of military leadership. In the critical writing process, the creative consultants were Michael Bryant of the U.S. Department of Education, plus Karl Green, Patti Hoffman, Sue Nading, Ann Rushton, and Marie Sundet of Prairie Writers. In addition, Mary Elworth gave much-needed marketing help. Dan and Michele Flagel commanded all computer and data-processing work and saved the manuscript on more than one occasion. As always, countless thanks go to Ed Curtis, Ron Pitkin, and the rest of the patient and professional staff at Cumberland House. Of the many archives, museums, and libraries to which much is owed, special appreciation goes to David Muhlena of the U.S. National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the SAC Museum of Omaha, Nebraska; the Airborne Museum of Oosterbeek, Holland; and the Atlantic Wall Museum of Oostende, Belgium.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: History Buff's Guides
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cumberland House (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581824424
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581824421
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,280,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Like his very good earlier "History Buff" book on the American Civil War, this one is built around nearly thirty "Ten Best" and "Ten Worst" lists, which provide the springboard for brief discussions of an amazing variety of topics. Some are predictable, like most important (i.e., influential) speeches by world leaders, and most important battles, and most important causes of the war. Others delve into subjects you're less likely to be familiar with, like similarities between Stalin and Hitler, and most important forms of civilian resistance (which probably are not what you would have predicted). He has some cogent things to say about military commanders, too; Patton mostly wasn't as egotistical as he is often portrayed, and Rommel wasn't nearly as competent. And he has absolutely nothing good to say about Chiang Kai-Shek (fair enough) and almost as many heavy criticisms of Bernard Montgomery (ditto). I was a bit surprised at the nonappearance of Marshal Timoshenko from the book, though. Like the previous book, this one should have you jotting down topics for later research. I was born during World War II but for, say, college-age readers, the events of the war are as far removed as the Spanish-American War would be for me. For that reason alone, I recommend this book to anyone who thinks "history" must automatically be "ancient."
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I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in WW II history. This book is an outstanding read for the history buff or for anyone that wish's to gain a general understanding of how the war came about, who the primary players were and what they did, and so much more. A reading of this book will destroy some of the most repeated false mantras or misconceptions we hear regurgitated by some who wish to revise the history in order to justify contemporary agendas. If you want to gain some fairly in depth knowledge in as condensed form as possible, this is a book for you.
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A must for any WW2-ophile. Touches on so many aspects of the War, big and small, some even that you would never have thought to ask about. Very readable in short bursts, learned and even humorous in places.
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I am enjoying the book. I like the short paragraphs that give decent insight into WWII. There are some boo-boos. Here are two: The author writes that Hitler had few personal possessions. The fact is that Hitler was a wealthy man from the money he made from his book, Mein Kampf. He received special favorable tax breaks on his income and paid no income taxes on the money he earned.

I write this in memory of all the men that bled and died in The Hurtchen Forrest. In his top ten list of major battles and in the entire book, he fails to mention the Battle of the Hurtgen Forrest, which ended right before the Battle of the Bulge. The Hurtchen Forrest battle was a needless one and it cost the US more casualties than any other battle in WWII, over 33,000! It was a slaughterhouse and the generals who oversaw it, including J. Lawton Collins and Norman Cota, should have been court martialed! It provided nothing except death! It was the longest and costliest battle that US troops fought an should never have been fought in the first place!
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This is a great gift for the person who knows their WWII history. A definite must purchase. It came in great condition and super fast shipping. Thank you.
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This book was bought because it was by the same author as a similar book about the Civil War. A great source for trivia and just an interesting read.
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Some interesting fcts that you don't see in the history book. Not reference material but great info to wow your fiends.
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