As the 75th anniversary of World War II’s end approaches, new books consider events leading to and coinciding with the victories in Europe and the Pacific.
Barrett, a military historian, takes readers behind the closed doors of American and Japanese war cabinet meetings in the final months of the conflict and, through alternating Japanese and American points of view, discusses Japan’s refusal to acknowledge that it could be anything but victorious. PW’s review praised the way Barrett “generates drama despite the inevitability of the book’s conclusion.”
All the Horrors of War
Among the British forces who liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on Apr. 15, 1945, was Brigadier Hugh Llewelyn Glyn Hughes, a physician who committed to caring for the 60,000 starving and ill prisoners they found. Fifteen-year-old Rachel Genuth, a Hungarian Jew, was among the survivors. Lerner, Genuth’s daughter and a senior scholar at Boston University’s Center for Character and Social Responsibility, relates how the doctor and her mother got to the camp, where their stories converged.
In March and April 1945, Allied forces undertook Operation Tombola to free Italy of the Nazis’ last remaining stronghold in that country. Lewis, a war correspondent whose numerous books include the The Dog Who Could Fly, writes of a hodgepodge of experienced and inexperienced combatants with the common goal of ousting the Germans. The team of paratroopers was made up of former POWs, Italian resistance fighters, some U.S. forces, and David Kirkpatrick, a kilt-wearing Scotsman who piped the men through the invasion and victory.
Major General James A. Ulio
Debut author Mesches, who served in the Air Force as a public relations officer, details how Adjutant General James Ulio helped the Allies win WWII from his office in the War Department in Washington, D.C., acting as the public face and voice of the Army and eventually leading the demobilization that brought the troops home. His contributions included ending segregation on military transportation and in Army post recreational facilities and helping grow the Army from 200,000 troops to nearly eight million in under five years. But his name was primarily known to the hundreds of thousands of families who received telegrams that began, “The Secretary of War regrets to inform you...”—he signed each one.
The last time the U.S. insisted on an unconditional surrender was in 1943, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He died in April of 1945, and in May, Germany agreed to the terms. But by that time, even within the U.S., unconditional surrender no longer seemed a reasonable end to the war in the Pacific. Gallicchio, a history professor at Villanova, discusses how policymakers continued to debate the idea of “peace with honor”—as opposed to unconditional surrender—during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
Through contemporaneous Associated Press news articles and photos, this book highlights major events as well as human interest stories spanning WWII, from Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, through the Sept. 2, 1945, signing of the Japanese surrender. Each chapter features introductory text by historian Axelrod (Patton on Leadership).
Victory in Europe
Military historian and former Royal Marines officer Thompson (Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory) gives a graphics-heavy account of the final 11 months of WWII in the European Theater of Operations, from D-Day through Germany’s surrender. He includes media from Britain’s Imperial War Museum such as journals, correspondence, maps, and illustrations.
Whatever It Took
At age 19, Langrehr, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, parachuted into occupied France during the invasion of Normandy and was captured by German troops three weeks later. In his memoir, written with American Sniper coauthor DeFelice, he tells his story of D-Day, his imprisonment at a Nazi work camp, and his eventual escape. It wasn’t until July 1945 that he was able to explain to his family in person where he’d been for nearly a year. Now 95, Langrehr earned two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts as a result of his actions in WWII.