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Search tags: world-fiction
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review 2019-07-15 04:30
A VERST TOO FAR
The Polar Bear Expedition: The Heroes of America’s Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919 - James Carl Nelson

As someone who grew up in the Midwest U.S., I first gained some awareness of the 'Polar Bear Expedition' of 1918-19 --- in which a U.S. Army regiment was sent to Northern Russia in the summer of 1918 ostensibly to guard stores of Allied military equipment at the port of Archangel, but was later used in battle against the Bolsheviks as part of a larger Allied (i.e. British) scheme to overthrow the Bolshevik government in Moscow and bring Russia back into World War I as a way to force Germany to recommit military forces there --- from a story I read in the late 1970s in a local paper about an elderly gentleman in Detroit whom mention was made of as having served in Northern Russia with the U.S. Army in 1919. I never forgot that newspaper story. And so, when I became aware of this book, I was determined to read it.    And I'm glad I did, because I learned so much.    For instance, who knew that, in addition to the U.S. and Britain, French, Canadian, and some Chinese military forces were involved in military actions against Bolshevik forces in Northern Russia in 1918-1919?

I highly recommend "THE POLAR BEAR EXPEDITION: The Heroes of America's Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919" for anyone interested in learning about a long overlooked chapter of U.S. history that can provide valuable lessons for policymakers, academics, U.S. civilian and military leaders, and the general public as to the need (as stated by the White House) to deploy military forces in any part of the world identified as vital to U.S. security interests.
 

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review 2018-11-28 19:00
SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT
She Landed by Moonlight: The Story of Secret Agent Pearl Witherington: the Real 'Charlotte Gray' - Carole Seymour-Jones

"SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT" is a fantastic story of a most remarkable woman, Pearl Witherington, an Englishwoman born in Paris of English parents, who carried a deep love and devotion for her adopted country France as great as her love for Britain.   

 

During the Second World War, Witherington managed to spirit herself, her mother, and two of her sisters out of France to Britain following France's capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940.   Three years later, Witherington joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), trained as an agent and was parachuted into German-occupied France in September 1943.    The book goes on to describe Witherington's achievements in the field over the following year against heavy odds.    Indeed, at one point, the Germans had learned of her identity after the leader of the spy network of which she was a part had been captured by the Gestapo in May 1944.    As a result, a ƒ1,000,000 bounty was put on Witherington's head.    Undeterred, Witherington took on a new code name ('Pauline') and led the SOE Wrestler network in operations against German forces in the Valencay–Issoudun–Châteauroux triangle of central France.     The 4,000 marquisards she organized, armed, and trained would play a significant role in tying down thousands of German soldiers after the Allies had landed in Normandy in June 1944.       

 

This is a story that seems too incredible to be true.  But it was all too real.    Witherington survived the war, married the man she had long loved (who had also fought with her as a member of the Resistance in 1944), and went on to live a long life.     

 

"SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT" also provides an interesting overview of SOE, how it came to be in July 1940, the opposition it faced from Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (i.e., MI-6), its organizational structure, and the contributions made by SOE's F Section (of which Pearl Witherington was a part) in France towards defeating Nazi Germany.    I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about a true 'Warrior Queen.'

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review 2018-10-26 07:08
'QUEEN OF THE FLAT-TOPS' OFFERS UNIQUE YOU-ARE-THERE VIEW OF WAR
Queen of the Flat-Tops - Stanley Johnston

The U.S.S. Lexington (aka "the Lady Lex") was one of the earliest aircraft carriers. Originally designed as a battlecruiser, it entered service with the U.S. Navy in 1925 and helped to usher in a new type of naval warfare. 

Here in "QUEEN OF THE FLAT-TOPS", Stanley Johnston, a journalist who was assigned to the Lexington in the earliest days of World War II in the Pacific, shares with the reader his experiences aboard her (based in large part on what he observed, as well as on interviews he had with various members of the crew - officers, pilots, and enlisted men) from the time the Lady Lex left Pearl Harbor to its final days in May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea. This battle was in unique in that it was the first naval battle in history in which the opposing ships never fired on each other, whose outcome was wholly dependent on the weight and might of air power. 

Originally published in the latter half of 1942, "QUEEN OF THE FLAT-TOPS" offers to the reader a vicarious you-are-there perspective of life aboard an American aircraft carrier at a time when odds were heavily stacked against the U.S. Navy in the Pacific War.
 

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review 2018-10-23 18:26
THE ODYSSEY OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN VETERAN OF WORLD WAR II
Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond - Emiel W. Owens

Born in Texas in 1922, Emiel W. Owens went on to live an extraordinary life as an educator and economic/financial consultant. He shares with the reader his life experiences from growing up under Jim Crow segregation in Texas, through his service in the U.S. Army during World War II with the 777th Field Artillery Battalion (which was engaged in almost constant combat in Europe between October 1944 and V-E Day in May 1945), and his subsequent reassignment to a quartermaster unit that was shipped to the Philippines shortly before the end of the Pacific War.

Owens was honorably discharged from the Army shortly after returning to the U.S. in early 1946. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Prairie View A&M University and graduate degrees (a Masters and doctorate) in economics from Ohio State University. He would go on to teach and serve in a variety of educational and consultative endeavors both in the U.S. and abroad.

I very much enjoyed reading this memoir. It is well-written and a rare work, because there are very few memoirs from African American veterans of World War II. That in itself makes "BLOOD ON GERMAN SNOW" a book to treasure.

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review 2018-10-15 15:32
A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary 1939–1940 - Iris Origo

A very compelling and eloquent account by Iris Origo which conveys both the tempo and temper of life that existed in Italy as she went from being a sometimes uneasy German ally and neutral to a full-fledged co-belligerent with Germany after June 10, 1940. The diary begins on March 27, 1939 and ends on July 23, 1940.

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