The Armistice Day centennial has stoked interest in World War I, inspiring books on myriad aspects of the conflict. They include an account of a cinematic escape from a POW camp, in-depth looks at pivotal battles, and a chronicle of the doomed “Lost Battalion.”
Black September 1918
Norman Franks, Russell Guest, and Frank Bailey. Grub Street, Nov.
In their follow-up to Bloody April 1917, the authors examine a single month of deadly air combat in which U.S., British, and French fighter pilots contended with their German counterparts. They argue that this was one of the most arduous months for Allied pilots during the war.
Cycling in the Great War
Patrick Cornille. Lannoo, Sept.
History buffs will recognize June 28, 1914, as the date on which Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, effectively starting WWI. Those more attuned to cycling may also pinpoint it as the start date of the 12th Tour de France. Here, Belgian author Cornille traces these parallel histories, establishing points of connection between the war and the world of professional cycling during the same years.
The Escape Artists
Neal Bascomb. HMH, Sept.
In the last months of WWI, a group of Allied soldiers escaped from Holzminden, a POW camp in Germany. Bascomb, whose previous books include The Winter Fortress, shows how the captives used an array of techniques, including disguises and forged documents, to flee the camp and travel 150 miles to safety in the Netherlands.
Flesh and Steel During the Great War
Michel Goya, trans. by Andrew Uffindell. Pen & Sword, Dec.
Goya, a former colonel in the French army who teaches military history at Sciences Po in Paris, provides an account of how, over the course of WWI, the French military grew from an inauspicious corps into a powerful and sophisticated army. The war, in his telling, brought about the most dramatic transformation in the army’s history.
The Forgotten Front
Edited by Gerhard P. Gross, trans. by Janice W. Ancker. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Sept.
Gross, who headed the department of German military history before 1945 at Germany’s Bundeswehr Center for Military History, collects the work of eight scholars on WWI’s Eastern Theater, which included operations in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Europe, and which, in the century after the war, has received less attention than the Western Front.
Edited by Rhys Crawley and Michael Locicero. Helion, Aug.
In this collection of essays, scholars offer insights into the Allies’ famously disastrous bid to capture Constantinople by way of a naval attack on the Gallipoli peninsula. Among the topics covered are the role the Royal Navy nurses played and contributions by Irish and New Zealand forces.
How America Won World War I
Alan Axelrod. Lyons, Sept.
Axelrod, whose previous books include The Battle of Verdun and The Battle of the Somme, offers evidence that American contributions played a vital role in the Allied victory. One early proponent of this view was Paul von Hindenburg, the chief of the German general staff, who told a journalist that the American infantry was to blame for the Germans’ defeat.
Never in Finer Company
Edward G. Lengel. Da Capo, Sept.
In October 1918, some 600 U.S. soldiers broke through enemy lines and entered France’s Argonne Forest, where they were quickly surrounded by German forces. Seven days later, only 194 members of the so-called Lost Battalion remained. Military historian Lengel (To Conquer Hell) centers his story on four figures, including Alvin York, whose role in rescuing the battalion earned him a Medal of Honor and whose heroics during the war became the basis for a 1941 film, Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper.
101 Things You Didn’t Know About World War I
Erik Sass. Adams, Sept.
Sass, a coauthor of The Mental Floss History of the World, has been writing a series about the lead-up to and events of WWI for the Mental Floss website since November 2011, the centennial of the Treaty of Berlin, which aimed but failed to ensure lasting global peace.
Edited by Lawrence M. Kaplan. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Oct.
Military historian Kaplan draws on previously unknown, firsthand accounts by soldiers to track the development of the U.S. Army’s Tanks Corps, and shows how this first generation of “tankers” helped pave the way for the tank force that was later used in WWII.
Sons of Freedom
Geoffrey Wawro. Basic, Oct.
Historians sometimes characterize America’s role in WWI as merely symbolic: the U.S. declared war on Germany in April 1917, almost three years after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and just 18 months before the end of the conflict. Here, Wawro, a professor at the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, writes against this characterization, arguing that the British and French would have lost the war without the aid of their American allies.
Treat ’Em Rough
Dale E. Wilson. Casemate, July
Wilson, a Vietnam veteran and a former history professor at the U.S. Military Academy, looks at the evolution of the Tanks Corps. Among those officers who realized the potential of the emergent technology was a young Dwight Eisenhower, who trained tankers at Camp Colt in Pennsylvania.
William F. Buckingham. Amberley, July
Historian Buckingham details the events of the Battle of Verdun, a 10-month conflict that, he writes, claimed 300,000 lives and reduced 200 square kilometers to an unsalvageable blast zone. It was here that, according to the author, Germany’s storm troop techniques and the “man-pack flamethrower” made their first appearances.