Book Review: “Wilson”

 “Wilson”  By A. Scott Berg
(G. P. Putnam & Sons) 2013     818 pp
Review by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

Books for Kids: “Flyboys”

I am a Puffin children’s author and I’d like to tell you about my new children’s series, Wings which I hope will be of interest to aviation enthusiasts and their families associated with World War One Historical Association.

 I wrote Wings with RAF Museums as their children’s writer in residence in the run-up to the RAF’s 100th anniversary in 2018.  The Wings series is about four children at a football summer camp, who find themselves propelled back in time.  If they can learn how to fly the great RAF planes – the Sopwith Camel, Spitfire and Typhoon, history will lead them on a flightpath home to the present.

 “Tom is the RAF Museum’s Writer in Residence. His close relationship with the museums and his obsessive eye for detail mean that I was not at all surprised that his Wings books are both highly authentic and hugely exciting. These are Biggles books for the 21st century.” Phil Clayton, Education Office at RAF Museum 

 Publication dates:

Wings 1 : Flyboy 15 March 2016  available from Amazon now
Wings 2 : Spitfire 15 June 2016 
Wings 3 : Typhoon 15 August 2016 

 “Flyboy is like a cross between ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Alex Rider’. I liked the book because it was spooky. The main character is Jatinder and the story is about World War One. It’s a total page turner! I think it is an amazing book. It attaches you to it straight away on the first sentence. “ Kamran Mustfa aged 8

 The Wings series feature:

·         Hardit Singh Malik – the first Sikh Indian to fly into combat with the Royal Flying Corps

·         airshows

·         flight simulators

·         military museums

·         female pilots

·         making model aircrafts.

 And each book comes with a simple model plane you can make yourself!

 Wings: Flyboy is a wonderful, warm tale. Stories highlighting the diversity of Britain’s troops during both world wars are rare and this one deserves a wide audience.  It is a cracking read.” Bali Rai

There is more information here : http://tompalmer.co.uk/wings/.

 

Winner of the Tomlinson Prize announced

We are pleased to announce that the annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., prize for 2015 for the best work of history in English on World War I has been won by Dr. James Lyon, author of “Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914: The Outbreak of the Great War” (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015). Professor Lyon has studied the Balkans for over 34 years and currently works at the Austrian University of Graz’s Center for Southeast European Studies.
“Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914” is the first history of the Great War to address in-depth the crucial events of 1914 as they played out on the Balkan Front. James Lyon demonstrates how blame for the war’s outbreak can be placed squarely on Austria-Hungary’s expansionist plans and internal political tensions, Serbian nationalism, South Slav aspirations, the unresolved Eastern Question, and a political assassination sponsored by renegade elements within Serbia’s security services. In doing so, he portrays the background and events of the Sarajevo assassination and the subsequent military campaigns and diplomacy on the Balkan Front during 1914.

The book details the first battle of the First World War, the first Allied victory and the massive military humiliations Austria-Hungary suffered at the hands of tiny Serbia, while discussing the oversized strategic role Serbia played for the Allies during 1914. Lyon challenges existing historiography that contends the Habsburg Army was ill-prepared for war and shows that the Dual Monarchy was in fact superior in manpower and technology to the Serbian army, thus laying blame on Austria-Hungary’s military leadership rather than on its state of readiness. 

Based on archival sources from Belgrade, Sarajevo and Vienna and using never-before-seen material to discuss secret negotiations between Turkey and Belgrade to carve up Albania, Serbia’s desertion epidemic, its near-surrender to Austria-Hungary in November 1914, and how Serbia became the first belligerent to openly proclaim its war aims, “Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914” enriches our understanding of the outbreak of the war and Serbia’s role in modern Europe. It is of great importance to students and scholars of the history of the First World War as well as military, diplomatic and modern European history. 
James Lyon received a Ph.D. in Modern Balkan History at the University of California, Los Angeles (dissertation: The Forgotten Ally: Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914), an M.A. in International Relations from Brigham Young University (thesis: Yugoslavia’s Post-World War Two Economic Development), and a B.A. in Russian Language and Literature from Brigham Young University. 
Dr. Lyon directed Balkan projects for the International Crisis Group for ten years: an accomplished analyst, he has written three books, many scholarly articles, dozens of published reports, numerous Op/Eds, and has testified before the U.S. Congress and parliamentary panels of EU member states. He has twenty years’ experience in conflict/post-conflict areas of the Balkans, worked on EU and USAID projects and with the Office of the High Representative, as well as in the private sector.

He is the founder of the Foundation for the Preservation of Historical Heritage, which is working with the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina to digitize their endangered collections.  www.fphh.org He is also an associate researcher with the University of Graz in Austria. 

Learn more about the winning book:

http://bloomsburyhistory.typepad.com/bloomsbury-history/2016/01/dr-james-lyon-wins-2015-tomlinson-prize-for-his-book-serbia-and-the-balkan-front-1914.html

The Tomlinson award winner is chosen by a panel chaired by Professor Dennis Showalter of Colorado College, a past president of the Society for Military History. Other panel members are Dr. Michael Neiberg, Professor at the US Army War College, and Graydon A. Tunstall, senior lecturer at the University of South Florida. The prize is made possible through a grant from Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., director-emeritus of the Western Front Association – US Branch. (WFA-US became the World War One Historical Association in 2011.)
The panel chose this book because it takes a new look at the critical Balkan front using the latest archival evidence. Panel members were impressed that Lyon takes a transnational approach to the subject, setting the Serbian front into an international context. Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914 analyzes diplomatic, political, and military arenas to give the fullest picture yet of events on the Balkans, the true fulcrum of 1914.

Book review: “A Mad Catastrophe”

A Mad Catastrophe  by  Geoffrey Wawro  (2014)

Reviewed by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

Geoffrey Wawro is professor of history in Texas and has written a painful study of the role
of the Austro-Hungarian military in the first six months of World War 1.  He relates how in
these first months the empire of the Hapsburgs was doomed to extinction.  Most emphatically, he emphasizes the deliberate intention of the Austrian government and military in starting
the war.  Revenge for the killing of the heir apparent, Austria knew attacking Serbia, whom
they believed instigated the assassination, would draw Russia in.  Blatantly unprepared for
war, her infantry had little or no training, she attacked Serbia, only to be thoroughly defeated
three times by an inferior but determined enemy.  Conrad von Hotzendorf, a palace General,
enjoyed the reputation as the most incompetent supreme military leader.  Gen. Potiorek,
whose military experience was minimal, led the disastrous Serbian ventures.

The Hungarians were described by Wawro as continually undermining all the Austrian efforts
before and during the war.  They refused to fund or modernize their joint armies nor were
they willing to cooperate in battle!  When both faced the Russian army in the east, they were
unable to achieve even the the most modicum of victory.  Exhausted by heat, long marches,
little food, they died or surrendered in thousands.  Losing enormous territory, they begged
assistance from the Germans, who reluctantly complied.  The first winter in the Carpathian
mountains saw their Austrian-Hungarian troops frozen.  Gross incompetence by their leadership led to over 800,000 casualties in six months!  The end of the empire was guaranteed.  Wawro has painted a sorrowful & agonizing portrait of a mad reckless nation.

Book review: “Ring of Steel”

Ring of Steel  by Alexander Watson  (2014)

Reviewed by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

British historian Alexander Watson has written a voluminous book on the history of Imperial Germany and the Empire of Austria-Hungary in the First World War.  He offer no excuse for their culpability in  starting the conflict and places clear blame on Austria-Hungary more than
Germany, whose backing sparked the war. His judgement is clear, both created and
convinced themselves the war was necessary and just.  Nevertheless, the war was one
of total illusions.  Austria-Hungary was totally unprepared for a modern war and her
reverses on the battlefield in the first six months devastated her martial ability through
unbelievable incompetence.  The result was a decent into the collapse of her empire.
Germany, as he states, bit off more than it could chew.  Even its military prowess was
incapable of confronting a two-theater war.  Brilliant in tactics, her strategy guaranteed
defeat.

What renders his study most fascinating is the effect of the war on the peoples in each
country.  To the Germans, Russia was the real threat with deep feelings of being overrun
by a barbaric hoard.  This fear galvanized the German people to support wholeheartedly
their military effort extending the support to the Western Front.  But the price was phenomenal. The war was not even a year old when food shortages became evident in both empires and grew progressively worse as the war dragged on.  Stubbornly, they persisted in the downward spiral to total exhaustion.  The Austro-Hungarian army, short of every valuable resource, became totally dependent on Germany.  Her internal disintegration undermined her resolve to be a competent ally.

Watson is very careful and detailed explaining how the lack of resources, especially food, became so critical in both areas. An urgent & vociferous cry to end the war became paramount and unstoppable.  He emphasizes how the last desperate and most blundering act when Germany allows unrestricted submarine activity brings in the United States & its failure ended any possibility of victory.  With over 118 pages of notes, Watson has created a formidable study how both in military and domestic areas intertwined in a catastrophic war.

Book Review: “Dark Invasion”

Dark Invasion” by Howard Blum

Review by WW!HA President Sal Compagno

What reads like a novel, but  clearly rooted in historical research, is Howard Blum’s
study of German sabotage in the U.S. in 1914-15.  Germany, a prisoner of geography,
found itself cut off from access to America’s resources due to the British naval blockade.
With the war becoming clearly a war of attrition, access to resources would determine
victory or defeat.  America, as a neutral  nation, gifted with vast resources, found itself
supplying the voracious appetite for war essentials largely to the Entente (France-Britain
etc)  with Germany and her allies cut off.  Neutrality was making America rich!!

Germany was keenly aware of America’s notsoconvincing neutrality and set up a
clandestine sabotage system, financed and promoted through its consulates but
largely leaving their embassy untouched.  The east coast ports became the focus
of their actions.  Cleverly developing a vast spy network on the east coast with
assistance from disgruntled Irish stevedores, delayed bombs were placed on
allied ships with devastating results.  Their successes were crippling the Entente’s
war.

Tom Tunney, a New York policeman, trained in dealing with gang warfare, set up a
team of experts who would infiltrate some of the collateral members of the German
plan, eventually closing down their objectives. When the press divulged the role these
saboteurs were attempting, the nation was outraged and demanded government
action.  It too another two years before an Espionage Act was created.  Luck and
chance opportunities with British intelligence finally ended the first phase of German
espionage in the U.S.  Dark Invasion is a fascinating and highly engaging historical
study of desperate acts and an insight into America of the early 20th century.

Book Review: The First World War”

The First World War”  by Michael Howard 

Review by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

Now that we are in the 100th anniversary of The Great War—  or World War I as it is
now more commonly expressed — a short introduction to the seminal event of the
20th and now 21st century, is available.  Michal Howard, British historian, has offered
a short but inclusive introduction to that cataclysmic event.  As he states in
the foreword of  the book: “This book, as its title suggests, is intended
simply to introduce the vast subject of the First World War to those who know
little or nothing about it.”  He does brilliantly.  Merely 148 pages, he encapsulates
the key battles, effects and costs.  A few photos, maps and etchings add a certain
relevance to his approach.  Michael Howard has written a formidable and clear
understanding for those who wish to acquaint themselves with the most significant
event in our time.

Book review: “Wounded”

“Wounded” by Emily Mayhew

Reviewed by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

In any war the term “casualty” includes many elements, e.g. killed, wounded, captured etc.  Too often war historians concentrate on the “killed” to summarize battles, final outcome and costs.  But in most modern wars, the wounded figure greater in number than killed.  They are often marginalized and ignored in the total picture.  Emily Mayhew, a British historian, found the neglected issue of the wounded not given enough focus by military or war historians.  She set about researching the treatment of the British wounded in World War 1.  This short, but fascinating study, enlightens a part of that war unseen nor
reported by the media and deliberately kept from the public.  Her research took considerable time as documentation was not often accessible, but her perseverance revealed a broad effort to provide medical care to a war whose massive and brutal  casualties overwhelmed the then medical capabilities.

Her approach was to take the whole medical spectrum through personal accounts and divides the book into chapters titled: Stretcher Bearers, Regimental Medical Officers, Surgeons etc.  As the war progressed and the wounded approached enormous numbers, innovations  such as mobile Xrays, proceeded accordingly but not always with the success perceived.

Frustrations, delays, lack of supplies, plagued all medical units and she carefully categorizes the response.  New and innovative procedures had to developed and some truly remarkable attempts to save lives were achieved. Mayhew has done a worthwhile investigation of a shadow element of the war.

Book review: “A Shattered Peace”

Review by Sal Compagno

“A Shattered Peace” by David Andelman,

When the First World War ended the fighting on the Western Front on Nov. 11, 1918, a war-ravaged Europe stood facing the opportunity to remake the world for a lasting peace.  David Andelman’s book, “A Shattered Peace,” provides a detailed account how the peace treaty of Versailles shaped the
modern world and whose creators deliberately made a lasting peace impossible.  He spares no one and is especially critical of  the famous “Big Four” who, grounded in the 19th-Century power-politics, would not bend or envision a different world.  Andelman is particularly severe on Wilson’s self-determination goal for reshaping borders and his strident demand for a League of Nations.

To say that Versailles caused most of the modern global instability is the principal point.  The author valiantly reveals how personality and individual misgivings governed decisions which had lasting effects to our own day.  Take the Middle East’s current instability as an example.  Sharply defined borders there became irrational and insecure due to greed and ignorance of local conditions.  Ethnic, religious, social and economic elements were totally ignored! Thus, chaos and bloodshed were guaranteed. Oblivious to essential conditions in their judgements, in spite of expert testimony, the leaders in the “peace” making doggedly stuck to their selfish desires in all areas the war covered.   Andelman has portrayed a dismal and tragic drama whose influence is still vividly being felt.

Book review: Freedom Struggles

Crowds waiting for the parade of the famous 369th [African American] Infantry, formerly 15th New York regulars, New York City. From the U.S. National Archives.

Crowds waiting for the parade of the famous 369th [African American] Infantry, formerly 15th New York regulars, New York City. From the U.S. National Archives.

Review by Len Shurtleff, WW1HA president

Freedom Struggles: African-Americans in World War I. Adriane Lentz-Smith, Harvard, 2009, 318 pages, illustrations, index, notes, ISBN978 0 647 03592 8, $35 cloth. The author is a Professor of History at Duke University.

This is an elegant yet powerful social history of a crucial point in America’s history. The author identifies the decade of World War I as a watershed in black America’s fight for political equality and social justice.

Heeding the call of leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, African Americans volunteered in large numbers for military service in hopes of validating their claims to full citizenship. As many as 200,000 served overseas in WWI mainly as laborers, construction workers and stevedores. Unfortunately, the Army enforced the segregated Jim Crow social norms of the Southern and border states, both at domestic training camps and overseas in France.

Many thousands more black people moved north to escape segregation, work in war industries and seek new educational opportunities, sparking racial tensions there as well.

The Wilson administration was not sympathetic to the calls of the newly founded (1909) NAACP for full citizenship for black people and, indeed, proceeded after 1913 to segregate the federal government, which had previously largely integrated its work force and opened post office and other patronage jobs to black people in the South. Though France had its own peculiar racial mores and barriers,white Army officers and politicians feared that French men (and particularly women) would undermine their efforts to keep black Americans under Jim Crow regimens.

Service overseas brought young African Americans in contact with many other men of color from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean, widening their horizons and opening their minds to the concept of a vibrant African diaspora. Returning home in the “Red Summer” of 1919, black veterans found little had changed in American society.

The Red scare, which came in the wake of the November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, was accompanied by widespread racial violence. Some 38 violent riots rocked American cities from Detroit to Omaha. Black soldiers were lynched in the South. The Ku Klux Klan rode again in the North and Midwest. Expectations of birth of a new freedom for African Americans were crushed.

On the positive side, it was also a period during which African Americans developed the sophistication they would need to expand the fight for equal rights. What was hoped for after 1919 was demanded and won after 1945 by determined and patriotic African Americans who had learned from the Great War.