I’ve been on a real World War Two kick lately, precipitated by an old NPR interview I heard with author Rick Atkinson on the sadly now-defunct “Talk of the Nation” (I miss you, Neal Conan). Atkinson was talking about his then-new book, “An Army At Dawn,” which discusses the entry of the US Armed forces into World War II, and their deadly sandy slog through North Africa. I bought it and read it. Then I read the follow-up volume, “The Day of Battle,” which is about the US Forces’ deadly mountainous trudge up the spine of Italy. After reading this book, and while awaiting the third volume in the so-called “liberation trilogy,” I realized that, typical American that I am, I didn’t know much about WWII before the Americans got there. I knew even less about any of the events or political machinations that led up to the war. Thus I looked for something that could educate me about the very beginning of the whole mess and found a charming little book called “August ’39: The Last Four Weeks of Peace,” by Stephen Howarth, which you can buy from Amazon for 80 cents. Howarth paints portraits of British, German, Russian, Polish, Italian, and French diplomats scurrying to and fro trying to prevent all hell from breaking loose in Europe (with the exception of the Germans and Italians, who were, with a few exceptions, going along with whatever Hitler wanted, which was to loose Hell on Europe as soon as possible). It’s a fascinating read, although I could do without so many of Howarth’s portraits of “common folk” — fishermen, farmer’s daughters, mail carriers, and schoolboys, who are not as interesting to read about, as, say, Admiral Sir Reginald Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, who must have gotten exhausted introducing himself at parties, as this was before the days of those little white “Hello My Name is” stickers.
Here is an old 18-part radio documentary on WWII. The music is ponderous and melodramatic but over all it’s really top-drawer stuff. Good for a roadtrip or a walk by the river.
Lastly, I discovered an fascinating blog and a new obsession: WW2today.com, which reports the war “as it happened, 70 years after the event.”
Time magazine said of this site: “The news at Martin Cherrett’s blog is precisely seventy years out of date — because he’s covering World War II one day at a time, with posts rich in photos, documents and eyewitness accounts. It’s an addictive daily read, and a reminder that even most of us who know how the war turned out are sketchy on many of its details.”
That’s what I’m into lately, y’all. Happy Veteran’s Day!
(I took some pictures today of some kids who were marching around wearing military uniforms, and of the red white and blue Empire State building, but I can’t find the little thingie that connects my camera to my laptop. So I’ll add them later).