The sinking of the Lusitania by the German U-boot U-20 in 1915 has not remained as prominent in historical memory as the loss of the Titanic. Until IThe sinking of the Lusitania by the German U-boot U-20 in 1915 has not remained as prominent in historical memory as the loss of the Titanic. Until I read this book, it was not aware of more than the bare historical fact that this ship had been sunk during the Great War, with great loss of life. And that it had been politically significant because of the presence on board of a many US citizens, at a time when their country was neutral.
This book brings the bare historical fact to life. Perhaps almost to excess, as Diana Preston overwhelms the reader with the names, personalities, and fate of numerous passengers and crew, so that as reader you feel compelled to choose a few favourites and track them amongst the throng. It does effectively convey the scale of the human loss, converting statistic to tragedy. Her account of the sinking is intertwined with endless quotes from the accounts of the survivors, embedded in almost every other sentence: It does bring memory to life.
Fortunately the book also wraps the story of the victims and survivors into the political context, not to say machinations, of the time. It explains why the tragedy happened, where responsibility and blame can be assigned, and what the consequences where. This takes a bit of preparation, and the ship does not sail from New York until chapter 7. But Preston deals effectively with conspiracy theories in her account of the investigations, the facts, and the attempts to obscure them. Though her technical explanation of why the Lusitania sank so quickly is rather hard to understand without a basic grasp of naval architecture, and perhaps wisely, has been put in an appendix. Also, Preston seems to have been denied the use of documentation and materials from Robert Ballard's investigation of the wreck, which is understandable as he also has a book to sell, but from the reader's point of view, is unfortunate.
Was the sinking by U-20 of one of the great passenger liners of the time an event that changed the course of history? When history repeated itself, and the U-30 sank the Athenia in September 1939, the German Navy kept it secret until the war was over, clearly worried about the consequences. Perhaps they were right. While the events of May 7, 1915, did not decisively alter the course of the Great War, they gave it a firm nudge.
This is a great book of naval history, combining the great sweep of tragic historic events with careful analysis of the people who ultimately carriedThis is a great book of naval history, combining the great sweep of tragic historic events with careful analysis of the people who ultimately carried the responsibility for initiating them, and with some but not overwhelming technical detail.
The most important chapters of this book are devoted to the battle of Gallipoli, how the operation was conceived, how it failed, and what the strategic and personal consequences are. It is as much an account of (bad) decision making as of warfare, and might as well be required reading for managers as well as for historians. The author is, on the whole, surprisingly positive about it.
The qualities that professor Marder sought in an effective leader are, paraphrasing, the ability to inspire others, a fertile intelligence, and the ability and willingness to use the brainpower of others. Against these standards, he measures the personalities of this period carefully but swiftly. For many pages of this book, Winston Churchill as First Lord and Admiral Fisher as First Sea Lord were the power duo at the Admiralty, and even a hundred years later these characters continue to fascinate.
This work is perhaps, a bit dated, for Marder was not allowed to make full use of the archives at his disposal, as he was writing close enough to the time of events that they were still controversial. But it retains its value.
In an age when a fleet of battleships was the hallmark of a world power, Japan was so committed to building such a fleet that reportedly, schoolgirlsIn an age when a fleet of battleships was the hallmark of a world power, Japan was so committed to building such a fleet that reportedly, schoolgirls cut off their hair and sold it to wig-makers to raise money for the Imperial Navy. Maybe the story is apocryphical, but the determination and controversy were very real. Unfortunately for Japan, when war did come, it found that its battleships, including the biggest ever built, were not very useful. This book makes a good effort to explain why and how this happened, and the efforts that were made to rectify this. ...more
This work started as three chapters on the history of Japanese naval aviation, which were excised from Kaigun, the history of the Imperial Japanese NaThis work started as three chapters on the history of Japanese naval aviation, which were excised from Kaigun, the history of the Imperial Japanese Navy, to limit the volume of that already voluminous work. Sunburst is a worthy complement to it, which has the merit of using source materials in Japanese to provide information not previously available in the West. The work has some minor flaws that are probably due to Peattie being a naval historian more than an aviation historian. But these a more than compensated for by the wealth of new information. Admittedly, long chapters on Japanese service politics will not be to everyone's taste, but to those who persevere will be rewarded with a better insight in the creation, the successes, and the dramatic, total destruction of the Japanese Imperial Navy. ...more