How many times have you gone to the bookstores, scanned titles,
and thought, “Already read that!” Maybe so, but if you
had looked more closely, you might have seen that many of the newest
books covering key historical events have so much more in them,
even though the subject seems to have been covered quite nicely
Take a look at “U-Boats: The illustrated History of the Raiders
of the Deep,” by David Miller. (Dulles, Va., Brassey’s,
$27.95) Classify this as an excellent source of information, drawings
and photos (black and white), with just about everything you wanted
to know about U-boats in a single, not-too-expensive book.
Many of the photos and diagrams are new. They cover not only the
boats—by class, design and a host of technical specs—but
also the weapons and equipment, including some that never got off
the drawing board. There is excellent coverage of the Enigma machines,
with a diagram explaining how they worked.
A section of the book covers U-boat operations, explaining their
deployment, as well as the famous U-boat map-grid reference system.
Key commanders, training, decorations and missions are all included.
This is a “must-acquire” for naval historians.
Since we are brushing across Enigma, code breaking and their importance
to the outcome of World War II, consider: “Battle of Wits:
The Complete Story of Code Breaking in World War II” by Stephen
Budiansky (New York, Free Press, $27.50). This is an excellent explanation
of a highly technical military capability, developed under wartime
The book focuses on the unique individuals who broke into the secret
world of codes and ciphers, affecting the very outcome of the war.
From the Battle of Midway to the very end of the conflict, we were
able to read the intentions of the enemy. The urgency of the task
is depicted vividly.
The author provides considerable insight into the creativity of
the cryptographer’s mathematical schemes and permutations
that yielded the secrets of the “unbreakable” codes.
Maps, diagrams, appendices and photos show how, why and where the
secret war was won. This book is loaded with new material.
Round this subject off with “Decoding History: The Battle
of the Atlantic and Ultra,” by W.J.R. Gardner (Annapolis,
Md., Naval Institute Press, $34.95). This is more of a text book
than an-easy-to-read story, with chapters titled “Case-Study
I: 1941” and “Case-Study II: Mid-1942-1943.” Nevertheless,
the impact of Allied code breaking on the Battle of the Atlantic—historically
recognized as “the longest continuous battle of World War
II”—cannot be ignored.
To celebrate one outstanding saga from the war, Seven Dials Publishers
(Cassell, London, UK) has published “The Few: Summer 1940,
The Battle of Britain,” by Philip Kaplan and Richard Collier.
(Distributed by Sterling Publishers, New York £14.99).
Churchill’s “few” are portrayed with memories
of participants and vintage photos from scrapbooks on both sides.
Cassell also reprinted a paperback that we have always felt was
one of the best stories of the Battle of Britain, “Reach for
the Sky” by Paul Brickhill (£6.99). Brickhill’s
book is about Douglas Bader, one of the most dynamic flyers of World
Bader had lost both of his legs in an air accident in the 1930’s,
one at the knee, the other at the hip. He rose above the handicap
to fly again during the Battle of Britain, leading a Canadian squadron
and becoming a wing commander. Shot down and captured, he tormented
his German captors until they threw him into Colditz—the so-called
“inescapable” prisoner-of-war camp for “bad-boys.”
It was made into a riveting movie of the same title as the book.
You can read this one 10 times and still reach for it again.
Bouncing from World War II to the next historical era is “To
Save A City: The Berlin Airlift 1948-1949,” by Roger G. Miller
(Texas A&M University Press, College Station, Texas, $34.95).
The Iron Curtain descends across Europe, with Berlin, a city of
over 2 million people, caught as a political pawn between the Soviet
Union and the United States.
Drawn from Air Force declassified files in the National Archives
are airlift veterans’ memories of their monumental achievement—the
first total support of a major city by airlift. The only previous
attempt, Stalingrad, was a miserable failure. For some reason, the
Berlin airlift has never been celebrated as the victory that it
was. Mark this down as outstanding reading.
A fresh look back at 19th century military history is provided
by the audio book “The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson
and America’s First Military Victory,” by Robert V.
Remini (unabridged, Blackstone Audiobooks, Ashland, Ore.). A ragtag
army of citizen soldiers hand Britain’s crack troops, fresh
from victories against Napoleon, a stunning defeat. A colorful cast
of characters includes the pirate Laffite, frontiersmen, free blacks,
Indians and local townspeople. The triumph would catapult a once-poor,
uneducated orphan boy into the White House. Contact Blackstone Audiobooks
at 1 (800) 729-2665 for a free catalog.
Some time ago, we received several videotapes from the LOTI Group
for review, including: “Navy SEALs: The Silent Option,”
“SEAL BUDS Training,” “SEALs in Vietnam: An Inside
Look,” “SEAL Ambush: Red Cell” and “SEAL:
Evolution of the Teams.”
It is worth noting that the LOTI Group supported the UDT/SEAL Museum
with their videos. Since that time, LOTI has published many more
excellent videos (over 53 of them) that are listed and individually
described on its Web site at www.navysealteams.com. Or you can contact
LOTI at (305) 386-1154 (voice) or (305) 382-3872 (fax).
Dr. David LL. Silbergeld is a member of the Special Operations
and Low-Intensity Conflict Division of the National Defense Industrial
Association. His e-mail address is email@example.com.