This was a set of interviews the author conducted with veterans, most of them from WWII. Naturally, some of the men were better at storytelling than oThis was a set of interviews the author conducted with veterans, most of them from WWII. Naturally, some of the men were better at storytelling than others. Also, most of the interviews were done 50 years after the end of the war, so some of the men’s memories were fading.
Probably best for readers who have some background with the major campaigns of WWII since the interviews often jump around chronologically and the interviewees assume some basic knowledge about what happened in Holland, Normandy, etc. I enjoyed the book—it was almost like sitting down with the men and listening to their experiences. My favorite interviews were probably the group interview with members of the 101st airborne and an interview with a survivor of the Slapton Sands fiasco....more
This book is comprised of three journals written by Hans Roth, a German soldier fighting on the Eastern Front from summer 1941 to late spring 1943. HeThis book is comprised of three journals written by Hans Roth, a German soldier fighting on the Eastern Front from summer 1941 to late spring 1943. He also fought in France in 1940 and was still in Russia when he disappeared in June 1944, but he didn’t have a journal in France and if he was writing one during the last year of his life, it was lost. The editors (two of his grandchildren) include some basic big-picture information at the beginning of each section.
The gritty account of day-to-day life reminded me a little of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, but not as polished. It’s a journal, not a memoir, so sometimes the author would mention a comrade dying, and that’s the first mention of said comrade, even if the man was a close friend. Sometimes the language is beautiful and descriptive. Other times it’s almost frantic with the stress of constant battle.
Roth is part of the initial wave of Operation Barbarossa. He heads to Kiev that first year. Then he’s pushed back during the winter. During summer 1942 he’s part of the German drive to Stalingrad. He’s lucky enough not to be trapped by the Soviet counterattack that envelopes and annihilates the German 6th Army, but his winter still involves a long retreat with constant Soviet harassment through frigid temperatures with insufficient equipment.
Here are a few things that stuck out to me:
The first journal begins just before the invasion into the Soviet Union. Roth is stationed near the border and he isn’t too happy with their position. He wonders if perhaps his unit has been sent there so they can be attacked and slaughtered, thus giving Germany an excuse to go to war. He mentions that such things have been done before with Poland. I’ve read about the “Polish attack” on a German radio station, planned and carried out by German special forces and the bodies of a few unfortunate German prisoners. I hadn’t realized that average front line troops were also aware that the attack was staged.
I’ve read a little of the desperate style of fighting at Stalingrad, but I always had the impression that the initial assault in 1941 was like a German steamroller moving east. Roth’s account shows that almost immediately the Germans faced house-to-house battles against the Soviets. Snipers were a concern for German troops long before they reached the Volga.
Roth talks a little about “nerve fever.” The Americans at the time called it combat fatigue and now we call it PTSD. I suspect Roth himself suffered from PTSD at times. His accounts of Soviet counterattacks in the freezing winter of 1941-2 and in the equally freezing winter of 1942-3 show evidence of understandably frayed nerves. He even admits to having no memory of some of the things his comrades say he did.
The book offers an interesting look into the mindset of its author. He’s proud of the German Army. He calls the Soviets “Asiatic hordes” and is disgusted by some of their actions, like booby-trapping and defacing German corpses. (They also left things like soap and cigarette packages around, wired to explode.) He considers them tough adversaries, but points out that most of them are forced into action by commissars with pistols. He witnesses things like retreating Russian soldiers being machine-gunned down by their own officers if they turned back. He considers the Russians desperate rather than brave.
During a discussion with a member of the SS Einsatzgruppen, Roth learns of the execution of huge numbers of Jews. He doesn’t believe it, so the SS man takes him to a place outside Kiev (probably Babi Yar) and shows him the Jewish civilians being machine-gunned and thrown into pits. Roth is shocked and saddened, but doesn’t dwell on it for long. He also describes how hard it was to be nearby when some Russian partisans, including young women, were executed. He feels sorry for the partisans—they were told by their own side that if they didn’t sneak behind the lines and then report back, their families would be killed.
Roth often writes of how much his misses his wife and young daughter. And he and his front-line friends often express contempt and frustration with those back in Germany who complain about having to work overtime to ensure enough munitions for the war effort. He’s loyal to Germany and dislikes the communists, but doesn’t come off as a rabid Nazi. Overall, Roth is a product of his time and his country, but he seems like a decent human being.
Roth’s journals are well worth reading for anyone wanting a grunt’s view of the battles between German and Soviet troops during the first half of WWII. They’re of special interest for anyone looking for information on the battle of Kiev, the disintegration of the Italian Army outside Stalingrad, or trench-like warfare on the Eastern Front....more
A well-researched, comprehensive overview of WWI covering nearly everything: politics, battles, cultural changes, and aftermath. Stevenson is a good wA well-researched, comprehensive overview of WWI covering nearly everything: politics, battles, cultural changes, and aftermath. Stevenson is a good writer, but each page is packed with information so it takes a while to read. I would compare it to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, only about WWI instead of WWII. ...more
I liked a lot of things about this book. At first Katie came off as rude instead of feisty, but she quickly became a likeable character. I enjoyed theI liked a lot of things about this book. At first Katie came off as rude instead of feisty, but she quickly became a likeable character. I enjoyed the history, centered on the Irish potato famine and anti-Irish sentiment in the US. The romance was sweet and clean, and even though there was a love triangle, it was well-done. (Often with love triangles, I want to smack the heroine for leading two men on at the same time, but in this book I didn’t feel like Katie was doing anything wrong.) I was impressed with the author’s ability to make the Irish characters sound Irish just by word choice (no misspelled words to indicate dialect—which works sometimes, but it was cool that she could make the characters sound Irish without dialectic spelling). Recommended for fans of clean romance or historical fiction. 4.5 stars, rounding up....more
I thought this would be a history of the misnamed Spanish flu of 1918 (it originated in the US, but since Spain was one of the few countries not at waI thought this would be a history of the misnamed Spanish flu of 1918 (it originated in the US, but since Spain was one of the few countries not at war and not censoring information, it took that country’s name). This book included information about the epidemic, but also extensive details about the founding of Johns Hopkins and the Rockefeller Institute and the men (and at least one woman) involved in those organizations. I had been hoping for the story of the epidemic all over the world, but this account was focused on the US with only minimal attention for other regions. I thought the parts about the epidemic were interesting, but I found the writing style repetitive and long-winded. Rounding up to 3 stars. ...more
A short, sweet read (less than 20 minutes) likening life to a fairy tale: between “once upon a time” and “happily every after,” all worthwhile charactA short, sweet read (less than 20 minutes) likening life to a fairy tale: between “once upon a time” and “happily every after,” all worthwhile characters, and all people, have to go through some hard times. One I’ll pick up and read again next time I’m wondering why life is so hard. ...more
This is one I wouldn’t normally have picked up, but I ended up enjoying it (although for the first third of the novel, I wasn’t so sure).
Ellis meetsThis is one I wouldn’t normally have picked up, but I ended up enjoying it (although for the first third of the novel, I wasn’t so sure).
Ellis meets two sisters, Cassie and Hera. At first he’s attracted to Cassie, but it turns out she shares all of his worst traits. Hera is a returning prodigal who becomes interested in the LDS church, which starts Ellis on his own journey to fix his “I’m too smart to take things on faith” disposition. I would have preferred a little more about some of the backstory events, but it turns out there’s another book focused on Ellis’s sister, so the details are probably all in there. Written for LDS readers who don’t mind a few mild swear words. 4.5 starts, rounding up....more
4+ stars, and that’s coming from someone who normally doesn’t like women’s fiction. This one was different enough from my life that it was interesting4+ stars, and that’s coming from someone who normally doesn’t like women’s fiction. This one was different enough from my life that it was interesting, but close enough to the experiences of friends and family members that it felt real.
Allyson and her family move from a small town in Texas to Boise, Idaho to help care for her aging mother-in-law. Taking care of someone with Alzheimers is hard enough, but her two kids still at home have some challenges adjusting to new schools and new friends at church, her son on a mission questions his faith, and she and her husband have a hard time fitting in. The author painted a realistic picture of a likeable, struggling family, and she did it without manipulating my emotions....more
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the average regency novel would be much improved with the addition of a sword fight or a naval battle.
OK,It is a truth universally acknowledged that the average regency novel would be much improved with the addition of a sword fight or a naval battle.
OK, I’m probably the only one who thinks that, but I’ve always been a little disappointed in the regency genre. Why focus on the color of the heroine’s ball gown when far more interesting things are happening, such as Napoleon taking over Europe and the British burning down Washington, DC?
Moore’s novel has a ball, but it also has naval action and most of the events take place on a British war ship rather than in London. I would have liked more about (view spoiler)[the naval battles and officer’s part in taking back their ship after they were captured by the French. (hide spoiler)] Still, kudos to Moore for writing outside the regency box. Overall, this was a fun read with enjoyable characters. Recommended for readers who enjoy a good mix of adventure and clean romance. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Loved this quote from Joseph B. Wirthlin: Sometimes the greatest love is not found in the dramatic scenes that poets and writers immortalize. Often,Loved this quote from Joseph B. Wirthlin: Sometimes the greatest love is not found in the dramatic scenes that poets and writers immortalize. Often, the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.
I also really enjoyed the story of the man learning about his great-uncle, a pilot who was killed during WWII....more
This book chronicles the work of a British and Norwegian unit based on Shetland Island during WWII that ferried men and equipment to German-occupied NThis book chronicles the work of a British and Norwegian unit based on Shetland Island during WWII that ferried men and equipment to German-occupied Norway and brought back refugees. The author was one of the British officers involved in the relatively small unit. He was never allowed to sail to Norway (he would stick out if he had to land, plus he knew too much to risk going behind enemy lines), but he worked with and debriefed the men, so he was in a unique position to record events and write this book.
Initially the men used Norwegian fishing boats because they blended in so well. This happened for two years of the war (with breaks during the summer months when too much daylight made it impossible to slip up to the Norwegian coast). The crews were usually Norwegian fishermen without a military background. They were all volunteers and the group had to work out its own way of working together without strict military discipline.
(view spoiler)[The only sport they could enjoy at Lunna [the relatively isolated area from which the group sailed their first winter] was shooting. [The fishermen] would shoot endlessly and pointlessly at anything living, or at any natural target that caught their eye. I think I am rather stingy by nature, and when I heard something like a battle going on in the hills or on the shore it annoyed me to think of the ammunition that was being wasted. But they had no idea that there was any limit to British supplies, or that the Home Guard thought themselves lucky to have ten rounds a man, and as they had access to stocks of machine-gun ammunition on their boats, which was practically inexhaustible when used in rifles, and as they had been encouraged to practice, I could not stop it but only struggle to keep it within something like reasonable bounds.(hide spoiler)]
The unit was fighting in an area of the war that wasn’t high priority, so they had to make due with less and learn as they went. They placed machine guns (and other equipment) in oil drums to hide them from German air and sea patrols. When they had difficulty getting parts for Norwegian fishing boats, one of the fishermen simply walked into a Norwegian town during one of his missions, ordered the needed parts, and said someone would pick them up in a few weeks.
One of the highlights of the book was a scheme to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz while it sat in a Norwegian fjord. The unit made extensive preparations and nearly succeeded. The plan was to use a vessel called a chariot, kind of like a two-man torpedo. The chariot would be launched at night from a fishing boat, guided by two men, and taken right to their target. Then they would unscrew the warhead, attach it to the Tirpitz with magnets, set a timer, and be on their way across the Norwegian frontier into neutral Sweden. They practiced, prepared, got through a German control point where their boat was searched, and nearly made it to the Tirpitz before the two chariots (being towed behind the ship so they wouldn’t be noticed during inspection) disappeared—somehow the lines broke.
Another highlight was Jan Baalsrud’s escape and survival after he and his group (coming to Norway to train saboteurs) were betrayed and attacked by the Germans. Howarth actually wrote a complete book about Baalsrud’s ordeal, We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance, and it’s one of my favorites. I really enjoyed The Shetland Bus, but of the two, I would recommend We Die Alone because it goes into more detail on a focused event, whereas The Shetland Bus is more of a big-picture look at the larger unit. (But both books are worth reading.)
Eventually the risks became so great and the Germans so suspicious of fishing boats that the group began looking for other alternatives. They were given a few American-made submarine chasers and finished out the war using those with great success.
The men involved were willing to risk long trips, initially in small boats through poor weather—something that required bravery even if Norway hadn’t been occupied by enemy troops. Their work helped keep ten German divisions in Norway throughout most of the war, rescued 350 refugees (most of them wanted by the Gestapo), delivered and picked up agents that kept Allied intelligence apprised of local conditions, and kept up Norwegian morale during an otherwise dark time. 5 stars. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In the 1920s, MI5 had Dr. Lucy E. Farrer go through their archives from WWI and write up all their counterintelligence achievements from that time perIn the 1920s, MI5 had Dr. Lucy E. Farrer go through their archives from WWI and write up all their counterintelligence achievements from that time period. Farrer’s work was classified for some time, and now Nigel West had taken Farrer’s extensive manuscript and made it into a more manageable book of about 500 pages.
The work is packed with examples of how German spies operated in Great Britain and in neutral countries during the war, and the ways the British found and caught them. It reads more like a catalog of achievements than a story (which may be the work’s intention). Overall, it’s informative, but a little on the dry side....more
I was introduced to the movie Dr. Strangelove in college, and this is the book the movie was based on. An Air Force general decides the only way to beI was introduced to the movie Dr. Strangelove in college, and this is the book the movie was based on. An Air Force general decides the only way to beat the Soviet Union is to strike first, so he initiates a plan designed in case of a nuclear attack on the US that leaves it leaderless, thus the plan doesn’t need a politician’s approval. Thirty-one bombers set out to drop their nukes on the Soviet Union, and no one but the general can stop them or communicate with them.
Bryant created an interesting scenario for the reader—you can’t help sympathizing with the crew of one of the B-52s, the Alabama Angel. They are, after all, just doing their job. They assume that if Plan R has been initiated, their country is in ruins. On the other hand, the Russians have a doomsday device hidden in the Ural mountains, one their leaders will detonate should their country be attacked with nukes, one that will kill the earth off within a few months from the massive radiation it releases. So the reader also wants the Alabama Angel to be shot down before it can complete its mission, because if they succeed, the earth will be destroyed.
How does this differ from the movie? It had a very different tone. The characters, from the Soviet Ambassador to the crew of the Alabama Angel, are more likeable (at least in my mind). No one on the bomber wears a cowboy hat. No fluoridation conspiracy. And the ending is far different from the movie’s ending.
Fast paced and frightening. During the Cold War, it must have been even more so....more
I gave the first two books in this series 5 stars. This one I’m rounding up from 4.5.
In the first book, the characters were trying to overthrow an evI gave the first two books in this series 5 stars. This one I’m rounding up from 4.5.
In the first book, the characters were trying to overthrow an evil tyrant. In the second book, they were trying to save their city from three different armies. In this book, they were trying to save the world, but they weren’t sure how to do it, leaving this book feeling slightly less focused. I also thought Sazed’s soul-searching would have been better had it been more concise.
On the other hand, I loved how things from earlier books played an important role, like Vin’s earring and all the religions Sazed had studied. Overall, I enjoyed the series enough that I wouldn’t mind reading it again, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of fantasy. ...more
Parts of this book were better than others. Many of the early chapters were summaries that didn’t offer enough details to be very interesting. The chaParts of this book were better than others. Many of the early chapters were summaries that didn’t offer enough details to be very interesting. The chapters on WWII and Vietnam were more interesting (at least for me) because they focused on a few men and their stories, rather than trying to cover an entire war in one chapter (or in a few paragraphs, which is all the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American war received).
This is probably a good starter book for a high school or junior high students. It includes some interesting information and stories of incredible bravery. Medics have come a long way from bleeding patients and assuming puss was part of a wound’s healing process to the care troops have now. McGaugh shows a pattern: when war starts, medical teams have usually been understaffed and unprepared. But war forces changes that have improved care for troops and sparked advances that help civilians too. ...more