Duel #85: Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18

Duel #85: Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18 by Jon Guttman, Jim Laurier, Gareth Hector
ISBN: 1472820339
Published by Osprey Publishing on March 20, 2018
Genres: Equipment, Uniforms, Weapons
Pages: 80

 

 

Duel #85: Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18German Infantryman vs Russian Infantryman – 1914–15 by Robert Forczyk, Adam Hook
ISBN: 1472806549
Published by Osprey Publishing on April 21, 2015
Pages: 80

Editor’s Note: Osprey Publishing’s “versus” books cover many historical eras and weapon systems, from ancient Roman Legionary versus Carthaginian Warrior (Combat #35) to F-15C Eagle vs MiG 23/25 (Duel #72). Each of these splendid studies contain 80 pages, photos, color illustrations and often color maps, a bibliography that sometimes includes foreign language sources, and a useful index despite their small size. The authors include PhD historians to veterans familiar with the weapon systems.

These publications should not be dismissed as something for “specialists” or hobbyists. These excellent books provide a unique view of soldiers, aircraft, or tanks, detailed images and notes on equipment and organization, plus show how tactics actually worked on the battlefield.

For World War One, two of the titles of this series are shown here. They include a study of Zeppelins over England by noted aviation historian and author Jon Guttman, research director for History.net, and U.S. Army veteran and National Security PhD Robert Forczyk’s book on German and Russian infantrymen on the Eastern Front, reviewed below.

Robert Forczyk’s book on combat in East Prussia in the opening months of the war is a thorough and illuminating work on a subject commonly misinterpreted or ignored. The sources reveal never-before-seen photos, detailed battlefield maps, and artist renditions of what the combatants looked like.

Forczyk provides a superb analysis of tactics and combat performance at three battles: Gumbinnen (20 August 1914), Göritten (7 November 1914) and Mahartse (16 February 1915). He examines the evolving nature of infantry warfare on the Eastern Front. Central to the tactical portrayal of the battles fought are Russian- and German language sources rarely seen in the West. The accounts on the battle of Gumbinnen alone make the book worthwhile.

Abridged from review by Terrence Finnegan in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

American Military Vehicles of World War I: An Illustrated History of Armored Cars, Staff Cars, Motorcycles, Ambulances, Trucks, Tractors and Tanks

American Military Vehicles of World War I: An Illustrated History of Armored Cars, Staff Cars, Motorcycles, Ambulances, Trucks, Tractors and TanksAmerican Military Vehicles of World War I by Albert Mroz
ISBN: 9780786454761
Published by McFarland on January 19, 2010
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Transportation, Automotive, General
Pages: 326

Hundreds of b&w photos, images of advertisements, and technical drawings appear throughout this outstanding book that examines American motor vehicles used in World War One.

The author researched a wide variety of sources, including the American Truck Historical Society, the Art Archives at the Imperial War Museum, the Society of Automotive Historians, and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, to name just a few. As the basis for the text, Mroz reprinted portions of prior articles he wrote that appeared in magazines such as American History, Autoweek, Army Motors, Militaria International and others.

Although not as exciting or as popular as tanks and armored cars, a standardized truck to haul supplies and men, and to tow artillery and other items was critical to the war effort. Mroz points out that American industry was able to produce only 9,364 Liberty trucks by the November 1918 Armistice. A July 1917 magazine editorialized that taking so long to design and approve a standard truck for the Army was “shameful.” That lesson would be learned and fixed in the Second World War.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to EndThe Vanquished by Robert Gerwarth
ISBN: 9780374537180
on November 7, 2017
Genres: History, Europe, General, Military, World War I, Modern, 20th Century, Tomlinson
Pages: 464

Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016

If it is true, as they say, that the victors write the history, then our understanding of World War I and the century that followed is at the very least incomplete. Take, for example, the seemingly basic question of when the war ended. The standard date–November 11, 1918–privileges the experiences of the victors, most notably France, Great Britain and the United States, all of which use it as a time for national holidays based on war memorialization.

At issue is more than simple semantics or the preferences of pedantic historians. … Robert Gerwarth cites German veteran and writer of Storm of Steel Ernst Jünger, who said in 1928, “This war is not the end but the beginning of violence.” Thus, we can understand the “First World War” as not having truly ended until at least 1945 or perhaps even 1991 when the Soviet Union, itself a product of the war, finally collapsed. Even discussing the war in terms of winners and losers misses the point. With the possible exception of the United States and Japan, all states came out of the war far worse off than when they went in—and the people of Europe knew it.

In his epilogue, Gerwarth notes that by the late 1930s only two of the new post-1918 states, Finland and Czechoslovakia, looked anything like the liberal democracies that were once supposed to be the basis of Europe’s future. By 1939 there were, in fact, fewer people living under democracies than had been the case in 1914. Violence and dehumanization (with Jews as a particular target across central and eastern Europe) had become the norm in many of the new regimes. Thus does Gerwarth make clear the need to understand two often forgotten legacies of this period: that the process of ending World War I was just as traumatic as the war itself and that even in total wars, the vanquished still play a critical role.

Abridged from the review by Michael Neiberg published on October 4, 2017 on the Lawfare: National Security and Law website lawfareblog.com

Pershing’s Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I

Pershing’s Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War IPershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I by Richard Faulkner
ISBN: 0700623736
Published by University Press of Kansas on March 17, 2017
Genres: Tomlinson
Pages: 784

Richard Faulkner’s incredible work on the doughboys of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) is imminently timely. …an extremely well researched and detailed account written by an Army veteran and World War I scholar…. It is based on the models of Bell Irvin Wiley’s The Life of Johnny Reb and The Life of Billy Yank, which makes it very readable and interesting…

Faulkner traces the steps of soldiers from their basic training until their discharge from active service. What should be readily apparent is that two million men of the AEF had two million perspectives of their experiences. While there are commonalities, the reader finds that each doughboy experienced something different as units were formed, broken apart, reformed, deployed, retrained, committed to action, committed to occupation duty, and then redeployed in different situations. Amazingly, most of this happened in the span of just over two years.

The Herculean efforts to raise, train, deploy, operate, and redeploy a huge force on very short timelines is a tribute to American know-how and ingenuity. What is also apparent is the total unpreparedness of the U.S. Army to fight in a modern, industrialized war. Faulkner covers the “down-side” of the doughboys’ experiences as well. The lack of trained leaders, the reliance on British and French trainers, the use of British and French armaments, and the complete unpreparedness to deal with chemical warfare are but a few of the issues covered….

Pershing’s Crusaders superbly adds to the body of knowledge regarding American soldiers and marines in World War I.

Abridged from the book review by Lt. Col. Edwin L. Kennedy Jr., U.S. Army, Retired and is reprinted with the permission of Military Review, the Professional Journal of the US Army, Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was originally published in the June 2017 Military Review Online Book Review.

The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire

The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of EmpireThe World's War by David Olusoga
ISBN: 978-1-7818-5897-4
Published by Head of Zeus on August 1, 2014
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 432

Winner of the (UK) Political Book Awards 2015 World War One Book of the Year

This is a very good book. Olusoga rightly demonstrates that World War One was a multi-racial, multi-imperial conflict, waged in Asia and Africa as well as on better known fronts. This point has been largely downplayed by previous historians who inaccurately depict the war as “all white.” Olusoga argues that what made the 1914-1918 conflict a “world” war was that it pulled in men and resources from across the globe. This was primarily due to the fact that most of the major Western combatant countries possessed large overseas empires comprising millions of Asian and African subjects. Even the US—that did not—deployed thousands of its racially-downtrodden African-American population in the war. The harrowing story of the nearly 140,000 Chinese laborers on the Western Front is finally told.

Written as a vigorous narrative that mercifully avoids boring academic locution, Olusoga reveals the story of four million non-European, non-white participants in “the war that will end war.” This book deserves a place in every World War One buff’s library. Its 63 telling illustrations are a treat.

Reviewed by Chandar Sundaram, author of the article on the Indian Expeditionary Force in WWOI #6

Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918

Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918 by Michael Senior
ISBN: 178340065X
Published by Pen & Sword Military on October 30, 2016
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 240

Michael Senior identifies and analyzes why the development of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was “extraordinary” and shows how they led to the British Army becoming an infinitely more efficient force by 1918 than it was in 1914.

Although written in an impressively lucid style, this is not a quick read…. [and] there’s a danger, I think, of a reader unfamiliar with the truly global nature of WWI coming away from the book with the impression that this war was primarily Britain’s war.

Most of the book is devoted to technical improvements within the Royal Flying Corps, munitions, trenches, tanks, and artillery. Ultimately, Victory on the Western Front is a convincing antidote against the popular “Lions led by Donkeys” attitude toward the Great War that has sometimes been in vogue. It’s a well-written and well-organized book. All in all, an excellent read for those whose WWI interests include the workings of the British Expeditionary Force from 1914 to 1918.

Abridged from review by David F. Beer in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I

The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War IThe Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I by Peter Hart
ISBN: 0190872985
Published by Oxford University Press on March 1, 2018
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 464

The author is oral historian at the Imperial War Museum in London and has access to large archives of original testimonies…. describing and enlivening the final battles of 1918.

The author does admit that his “emphasis as a British historian is on the British Army with an appreciative reflection on the massive contributions of victory made by the French, American and Belgian forces.”

Politics and personalities involved in the cease-fire agreements were complex and often cantankerous…. [and left] “an unpleasant taste in the mouth when one considers that men were being maimed and dying in huge numbers with every day that passed.”

Ironically, it didn’t take long before the business of “battlefield tourism” began to flourish…. [while veterans now] “had to fight to retain their self-respect in a society that did not seem to care one iota for their welfare.”

This is a rich and comprehensive book, one I can certainly recommend.

Abridged from review by David F. Beer in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

Dennis Showalter: “…well-paced analytical text with first-hand accounts by participants.”

New York Journal of Books: “…an exceptional collection of personal narratives….”

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze
ISBN: 0670024929
Published by Viking on November 13, 2014
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 672

Winner of the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Author Tooze, a previous winner of the (UK) Wolfson Foundation History Prize, has written a richly detailed book of how France and Great Britain, working with the United States, formed a workable triumvirate that won the war in 1918, only to have it unravel over the following decade. The Deluge tackles the big picture from Tooze’s chosen turning point in the Great War and America’s economic rise to a major world power.

The New York Times review called it “Splendid interpretive history.” Reviewer Gary D. Bass explained, “Rather than starting at a conventional moment like the outbreak of World War I, Tooze begins midstream in 1916 — the year of the gory battles of Verdun and the Somme, but also the year when the economic output of the United States exceeded that of the British Empire. From then until today, writes Tooze, a professor of history at Yale, American economic might would be the decisive factor in the shaping of the world order.”

Professor Kevin Matthews of George Mason University stated in his review that “On reflection, America’s emergence should have surprised no one. As Paul Kennedy pointed out in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, by 1900 the United States was already the world’s leading manufacturing power, with Britain and Germany battling for second place. So, a change was coming; sooner or later, the world’s financial and political center of gravity would cross the Atlantic. What no one could have predicted was how sudden this move would be, a suddenness that ‘was a product of the Great War’ (pp. 40–1).”

President Woodrow Wilson so distrusted the European leaders that he offered his own 14 points and peace without victory, infuriating his two allies. Wilson was not interested in joining the Europeans in ruling the world, preferring his idea of a League of Nations.

Bass summarized: “So Tooze narrates the tumultuous and violent 1920s as a heartbreakingly avoidable tragedy, with the big democracies needlessly squandering their supremacy. Above all, grand liberal projects would never succeed without American engagement. With the United States emerging exponentially more powerful from the war, France and Britain would need its support to deter possible new German aggression. Even when the United States refused to assert itself, Tooze argues, the interwar order ‘was defined in large part by the absent presence of its most defining element — the new power of the United States.’”

America’s lack of engagement in world affairs left other nations to struggle with their own rebuilding. Many chose protective tariffs, a return to the gold standard, and austerity to pay down war debt. These decisions meant a post-war recession became the Great Depression as less money and limited credit left nothing to help rebuild.

The Deluge is an enormously worthwhile book, worldwide in scope, and recommended reading.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America

The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern AmericaThe Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America by Michael S. Neiberg
ISBN: 0190464968
Published by Oxford University Press on October 3, 2016
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 272

Winner of the 2016 Tomlinson Prize Award

Neiberg takes a bottom-up approach toward understanding why America finally associated itself with the Entente in the fight against Germany. His major thesis is that Americans were way ahead of the government, and especially President Woodrow Wilson, in understanding that we had to be part of the war “to save civilization” and suppress Germany’s aggressive ambitions.

Memoirs, newspaper columns, magazine articles, private and public letters, and the speeches of Preparedness advocates show us the organic change taking place from 1914 to 1917 in our so-called isolationist population, and how the pressure from ordinary people, and his own advisers, dragged Wilson to a place he did not want to go. The chapter titled “Awaiting the Overt Act” is especially suspenseful, even if you know what’s coming next.

Neiberg’s refreshing viewpoint emphasizing the idealism, thoughtfulness, and good sense of the American public is certainly persuasive. Once again, his natural writing style makes this book an enjoyable as well as informative endeavor that I can recommend without hesitation.

Abridged from review by Jolie Velazquez in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

[Army Times described it “…eminently readable, impressively researched, and remarkably thorough…”—Ed.]

Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency

Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in CounterinsurgencyOttomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency ISBN: 1137362200
Published by Palgrave Macmillan on November 12, 2013
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 316

Erickson’s book was called “courageous and provocative” by Tomlinson prize-winner Sean McMeekin. It offers a counterinsurgency military explanation for the 1915 relocation of the Armenians in eastern Turkey.

Erickson documents the beginning of the Armenian insurgency with the secret committees of the 1890s and their evolution into the Armenian armed resistance. When the Ottomans launched an offensive against Russia in late 1914 a small number of Armenians in the eastern provinces of Turkey rose in revolt and menaced the vulnerable Ottoman rail link to the Caucasus front. Threatened in the Dardanelles by Great Britain and France, pressured in the South by British forces, the Ottoman Army countered the Armenian uprising in the East using population relocation.

A successful counterinsurgency strategy against the Armenians became a public relations nightmare as thousands of Armenians were massacred or simply died of exposure during their relocation. The Ottomans were and remain defiant in defending their actions. Some Armenians continued to be killed for years, yet, as Erickson argues, more than 300,000 were allowed to remain in their homes in western Turkey. The “Armenian genocide” remains highly controversial.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

King of Battle: Artillery in World War I

King of Battle: Artillery in World War IKing of Battle: Artillery in World War I by Sanders Marble
ISBN: 978-1-0043-0524-3
Published by Brill on 2015
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 380

As the editor points out in his preface, “Artillery dominated the battlefields of World War I…. Artillery even holds the dubious distinction of causing a new diagnosis, shellshock.” Despite its crucial role in the conflict and since, and numerous books about the types and capabilities of weapons, this is the first major work that compares national organizations, new technologies, and evolving training and doctrine.

A distinguished array of authors examines the battlefield artillery—the guns that would be included in fire plans. Mortars are covered to some degree, but naval artillery is excluded. Coastal artillery, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank guns receive limited attention.

The essays included in this volume explain how the major combatants of Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the United States handled artillery and how it affected the Great War. Additional chapters explore the artillery of the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Italy, India, Serbia, and Romania.

This is an essential book for anyone trying to understand combat and the competition for increased firepower and its application from 1914-1918.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Instrument of War: The German Army 1914-18

Instrument of War: The German Army 1914-18Instrument of War: The German Army 1914–18 by Dennis E. Showalter
ISBN: 1472813006
Published by Osprey Publishing on November 22, 2016
Genres: Reference
Pages: 328

Winner of the 2016 Tomlinson Prize Award

This is not a chronological presentation of campaigns and battles with maps and combat statistics, yet it is perhaps one of the most important books written about the German Army in the First World War.

Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires, 1914 (Brassey’s, 2004), was recently chosen for the Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. He has spent more than 50 years researching and teaching military history. This book represents his fresh perspective on the German Army during WW1. It explores that army’s internal dynamics and operational strategy, showing how both the army and nation were changed by war.

By 1916 the German Army had proved itself as “the Great War’s most comprehensively effective fighting force….” But “Strategic planning was not its forte. Its high command’s record was at best questionable.” And “after eighteen months, without any reasonable doubt fighting a war of attrition … [it] could not win.” Showalter concludes “the kaiser’s army … existed not to serve state and society but to sustain [itself]…. A recipe for defeat and dissolution.” Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Empires in World War I: Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global Conflict

Empires in World War I:  Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global ConflictEmpires in World War I: Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global Conflict by Andrew Tait Jarboe, Richard Fogarty
ISBN: 1780764405
on March 27, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 336

This anthology moves away from the decisive Western Front to dwell upon the ramifications of the war on outlying, but not necessarily peripheral areas of the globe. These essays range from Europe, the Indian subcontinent and Japan, through the Pacific Islands, North and sub-Saharan Africa to the Caribbean.

Just one example in West Africa details how the French focused on recruiting cannon fodder for the Western Front and controlled popular unrest. African citizens of the four communes of Senegal elected a representative to the National Assembly and served in the French metropolitan army and received French pay and allowances; other colonial subjects were conscripted into the Tirailleurs Senegalais at lower pay and allowances.

The World War One service of many colonial troops led to demands for self-rule, but for most that dream would not be fulfilled until after the Second World War.

Dennis Showalter praised the book in his review: “What makes the discrete chapters fit together is their high individual quality…and the author’s success in presenting case studies and niche studies in a genuinely global context. The result is a major contribution….”

Len Shurtleff, former president of WW1HA

The British Imperial Army in the Middle East: Morale and Military Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, 1916-1918

The British Imperial Army in the Middle East:  Morale and Military Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, 1916-1918The British Imperial Army in the Middle East: Morale and Military Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, 1916-18 by James E. Kitchen
ISBN: 1474247857
Published by Bloomsbury Academic on July 30, 2015
Genres: Reference
Pages: 320

The 1918 battles in the Sinai and Palestine ultimately destroyed the Ottoman Empire and paved the way for the British and French to redraw the Middle East map and create the unstable nations whose dramas still give indigestion to diplomats a century later.

This excellent book has received numerous accolades, including Kristian Ulrichsen in the Journal of Palestine Studies: “Kitchen’s meticulously researched book makes extensive use of primary source materials ranging from contemporary soldiers’ letters and official (and unofficial) documentation to postwar memoirs and oral historiography.” The (UK) Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research called it “…a breakthrough work….”

When General Sir Edmund Allenby assumed command from the lackluster Archibald Murray in the fall of 1917, he injected new confidence into a demoralized staff officer corps and vastly improved training. Fresh reinforcements of newly recruited British Indian Army formations performed well in the battles against the still formidable Ottoman Army. What started out as a defense of the Suez Canal became a war of imperial expansion far more vicious and sophisticated than the over-rated and over-hyped hit-and-run campaign orchestrated by T. E. Lawrence.

Reviewed by Len Shurtleff, former president of WW1HA

Over the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World War

Over the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World WarOver the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World War by Peter G. Tsouras, Spencer Jones
ISBN: 1848327536
Published by Frontline Books on October 1, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 240

One of the intellectual challenges and delights of reading history is imagining how past events could have followed different paths. This anthology offers ten short alternate histories, each driven by a single change to the First World War’s actual history. In one the Brusilov Offensive is more successful than it was, as the Russian Empire defeats the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and as a result the 1917 Russian Revolution never occurs. [Others] include a German breakthrough at the First Battle of Ypres (1914), a British amphibious attack on the Ottoman port of Alexandretta, the Greeks joining the Entente at Gallipoli to seize Istanbul, Teddy Roosevelt elected president in 1912 and taking America into the war in 1915, a clear British victory at Jutland, a clear British victory at the Somme, plus an earlier and more massive deployment of tanks on the Western Front.

The deviations from history are thought provoking, giving readers a good sense of just how many different ways the Great War could have gone, and shedding insight into strategic decision-making.

Abridged from review by Bryan Alexander in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection (5 volumes)

World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection (5 volumes)World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection by Spencer C. Tucker
ISBN: 1851099646
Published by ABC-CLIO on October 28, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 2307

Full disclosure: This reviewer contributed to ABC-CLIO’s previous The Encyclopedia of World War II (2005) and The Civil War encyclopedia (2013), but did not write for this WW1 series.

A host of knowledgeable experts provided the entries that form the basis of this massive work. Spencer Tucker, the series editor, is an award-winning author or editor of 49 books and encyclopedias. A former U.S. Army captain and intelligence analyst at the Pentagon, he retired from teaching at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

Each of the first four volumes consists of maps followed by alphabetically-organized entries. The first volume also includes three special essays: The Origins of World War I; The Outbreak of World War I (after June 28, 1914); and World War I Overview.

The fifth volume presents 207 key primary source documents, organized by dates, including pre-war and post-war periods. For example, Document 42 presents the report of German U-9 commander Lieutenant Otto Weddigen, who sank three British cruisers in the first major submarine engagement of the war on 22 September 1914, juxtaposed against the report by Royal Navy Commander Bertram W.L. Nicholson who was on the Cressy, one of the cruisers that was lost.

Other documents include official treaties and communiqués such as President Woodrow Wilson’s correspondence with the German government in 1918, and even famous popular items such as Canadian surgeon John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” published in the British magazine Punch in December 1915.

A few entries have become outdated by recent research and scholarship and the maps are often too general, not even identifying armies let alone subordinate units. Using a modern tank silhouette to indicate Ottoman mobile howitzer battalions on the Gallipoli-Dardanelles map in volume two (page 635) looks very odd as well as anachronistic.

Despite these minor complaints, these volumes sit on a shelf within easy reach of my desk. I refer to them regularly as a starting point and/or fact-checking reference. They are indispensible to my work. Highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in the study of the First World War.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

And the World Went Dark: An Illustrated Interpretation of the Great War

And the World Went Dark: An Illustrated Interpretation of the Great WarAnd the World Went Dark: An Illustrated Interpretation of the Great War by Steven N. Patricia
ISBN: 1612003486
Published by Casemate on 2016
Genres: Reference
Pages: 96

Short but comprehensive summary of WW1 illustrated throughout (see sample pages). The author, an artist and historian, offers a thoughtful, elegant, and inclusive history of the Great War with well-presented data and illustrations that work together to incorporate the information while conveying the sense of the times. The format is similar to a graphic novel, but as written by a scholar. The title references the famous quote by British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey in 1914: “The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

The book is organized into six parts: an Introduction outlines the forces that led to war and the (major) “players” plus three chapters called “Acts” that describe the war in the air, at sea, and on land. A short summary chapter called “Finis” explains why and how the war ended. The bibliography indicates the amount of research used to assure the accuracy of the illustrations, but an index would have made it easier to locate key points and quotes.

This is the book I would give to a young reader or an adult who interested in learning more about the war. A most impressive effort!

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 by David R. Stone
ISBN: 0700620958
Published by University Press of Kansas on April 10, 2015
Genres: Reference
Pages: 368

Histories of the Eastern Front in WW1 written and published in the West have relied upon German and Austrian sources, supplemented by writings of Russian exiles. David Stone was able to access Russian archives, including Soviet staff studies published after 1918, but he admits that some statistical data are still difficult if not impossible to obtain due to disorganized record keeping and the chaos of the revolution.

This is an illuminating and outstanding source book, as well as an engaging narrative of a major theater of the war not well known and underappreciated. Russia’s importance is evident in Germany’s decision to keep 47 of its 89 divisions in the East despite the launch of attacks in the West in the spring of 1918. Even in defeat, Russia played a role in weakening Germany’s offensive ability.

The review in The Journal of Military History noted that Stone “very deftly weaves into the narrative what the forces of the Central Powers were doing in reaction to and in anticipation of Russian strategy and tactics.”

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Armies of the Great War: The French Army and the First World War

Armies of the Great War: The French Army and the First World WarThe French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh
ISBN: 1107605687
Published by Cambridge University Press on September 30, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 400

The Journal of Military History review was mixed on this volume. The reviewer noted it is “a great primer for … learning more about the French” army, but also “It is imperfect, sometimes could go into more depth, and makes a few minor errors….”

What are these “minor” errors? Elizabeth Greenhalgh, a QE II Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Australia, makes regrettable and “irreconcilable” mistakes in French casualty figures, and misses important aspects of French artillery; for example, referring to French guns only by their caliber and not by their make. Artillery was a huge factor in the Great War, so knowing if a 155-mm cannon was the 1882 de Bange model that fired one aimed round per minute or the 1905 model Rimailho capable of ten to fifteen aimed rounds per minute is a big deal.

Her analysis of the French view of British BEF commander Haig as selfish and uncooperative is interesting, and her section on the French mutinies was called “the best treatment of the phenomenon in English” by the reviewer.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Armies of the Great War: The British Army and the First World War

Armies of the Great War: The British Army and the First World WarThe British Army and the First World War by Ian F.W. Beckett, Timothy Bowman, Mark Connelly
ISBN: 052118374X
Published by Cambridge University Press on May 30, 2017
Genres: Reference
Pages: 482

This volume was a collaborative effort of three professors at the University of Kent. Unlike the other volumes of this series reviewed in this issue, this one has no statistical tables; unfortunate since there are anecdotal numbers presented throughout the narrative.

It assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the British Army between 1914 and 1918, and discusses debates about the adequacy of British generalship and the so-called “learning curve” in the development of combat operations. Their conclusion is that despite limitations of initiative and innovation among the British high command, the British Army succeeded in developing effective combined arms warfare necessary for achieving victory in 1918.

The Western Front receives the lion’s share of attention with British Army operations “throughout the rest of the world” relegated to 26 pages. The index has “BEF, See British Expeditionary Force” but there is no such listing which means any pages where the BEF’s changing organization, such as the increase in machine-guns per battalion and decrease in battalions per division are lost (or nonexistent).

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Armies of the Great War: The American Army and the First World War

Armies of the Great War: The American Army and the First World WarThe American Army and the First World War by David R. Woodward
ISBN: 1107648866
Published by Cambridge University Press on July 10, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 481

The Journal of Military History review declared this “a well-researched and nicely written volume for the ‘Armies of the Great War’ series.” It went on to say “One of the major strengths of this work is the careful integration of the context in which the American Army is roughly jerked out of its wary complacency….”

David Woodward, an Emeritus Professor of History at Marshall University, covers the American Expeditionary Forces’ battles at the Saint-Mihiel salient, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, plus U.S. soldiers in Russia and Siberia. American politics, Allied debates about various strategies, and the arguments and negotiations among the coalition partners are also examined, especially on how the U.S. divisions were integrated into the Allied order of battle.

Professor Woodward’s overview is supported by seven statistical and organizational tables. The maps are adapted from the American Armies and Battlefields in Europe, 1938 published by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Dennis Showalter: “…seminal work presents America’s creation of an army that suffered every possible shortcoming resulting from improvisation.”

Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great War

Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great WarGermany’s Western Front: 1914, Part 1: The Battle of the Frontiers and Pursuit to the Marne, by Mark Osborne HumphriesJohn Maker
ISBN: 9781554583942
Published by Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press on October 31, 2013
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Europe, Germany, Strategy
Pages: 580

 

 

Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great WarGermany’s Western Front by Mark Osborne HumphriesJohn Maker
ISBN: 9781554588268
Published by Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press on June 30, 2010
Genres: History, Europe, Germany, Military, World War I, Strategy
Pages: 462

This multi-volume series in six (perhaps seven) parts is the first English-language translation of Der Weltkrieg, the German official history of the First World War. It was originally produced between 1925 and 1944 using classified archival records that were destroyed by aerial bombing in April 1945 at the end of the Second World War. This series presents the inside story of Germany’s experience on the Western Front. Hopefully, future volumes will cover other fronts.

This account by official historians is fundamental to the study of the Great War and official memory in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Although some new document sources have been found in former Soviet archives, the original Der Weltkrieg work remains one of the most important resources on Germany in WW1. This translation makes it accessible to English readers.

Confusingly, the 1915 volume was released initially. It has the official explanation of the first use of poison gas against French and Canadian troops at Ypres. It also explains the conflict raging in the German High Command over the political and military direction of the war, setting the stage for Verdun that sealed the fate of the German Supreme Commander, Erich von Falkenhayn.

The 1914 volume is part one of that year, covering the outbreak of war in July–August, the German invasion of Belgium, the Battles of the Frontiers, and the pursuit to the Marne in early September. The first month of war was critical for the German army and, as the official history makes clear, the German war plan was a gamble that seemed to present the only solution to the riddle of the two-front war. But as the Moltke-Schlieffen Plan was gradually jettisoned through a combination of intentional command decisions and confused communications, Germany’s hopes for a quick and victorious campaign evaporated.

The English editors’ extensive footnotes are outstanding and a treasure for researchers. They include explanations of German terminology, other countries’ perspectives on events, as well as current debates and controversies such as the argument by author Terrence Zuber that the Schlieffen Plan was a myth propagated in the 1920s (see WWOI issue #3, page 10).

The second part of 1914 is due next, but sadly no dates for it or future volumes could be obtained from the publisher.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Letters From the Boys: Wisconsin World War I Soldiers Write Home

Letters From the Boys: Wisconsin World War I Soldiers Write HomeLetters from the Boys: Wisconsin World War I Soldiers Write Home by Carrie A Meyer
ISBN: 0870208519
Published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press on March 6, 2018
Genres: Reference
Pages: 200

A collection of letters published in newspapers starting in 1917. Despite opposition to the war in Wisconsin, only 2 percent of eligible young men failed to register for the draft. Men from Wisconsin and Michigan formed the 32nd Division, a National Guard unit that was the sixth division to arrive in France. Seven thousand of its soldiers were transferred to the 1st (Regular Army) Division to provide replacements for casualties, but eventually the 32nd fought as an independent unit. These letters provide an interesting and sometimes humorous glimpse of their experiences.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The Great War Comes to Wisconsin: Sacrifice, Patriotism, and Free Speech in a Time of Crisis

The Great War Comes to Wisconsin: Sacrifice, Patriotism, and Free Speech in a Time of CrisisThe Great War Comes to Wisconsin: Sacrifice, Patriotism, and Free Speech in a Time of Crisis by Richard L. Pifer
ISBN: 0870207822
Published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press on October 31, 2017
Genres: Reference
Pages: 240

Political support for the war was weak in the Midwest in general and nowhere more so than in Wisconsin. Dubbed “The Traitor State,” its Senator Robert LaFollette became the voice and face of opposition to the war. But many Wisconsin residents served in the 32nd Division, “Les Terribles,” that fought from 30 July to 20 October 1918. It suffered the third highest casualties among American divisions.

I recommend this for anyone with an interest in the effect of the war on America’s warriors and its home front.

Abridged from review by James M. Gallen in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

Unheard Voices, Untold Stories

Unheard Voices, Untold StoriesUnheard Voices, Untold Stories by Nancy J. Cramer
ISBN: 978-0985760311
Published by Walsworth Publishing Company on 2015
Genres: Reference
Pages: 163

 

 

 

Unheard Voices, Untold StoriesUnheard Voices, Untold Stories, Volume 2 by Nancy J. Cramer
ISBN: 978-0-9857603-2-8
Published by Walsworth Publishing Company on 2015
Genres: Reference
Pages: 176

An interesting collection of documents and interviews with family members of deceased WW1 veterans. The author’s volunteer work at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City both inspired her and provided access to archives and artifacts to help assemble these two books.

Stories cover 35 categories including New Immigrants, American Nurses, Poison Gas, Veterinary Hospitals, African-American Troops, Engineers and Pioneers, Army of Occupation, After the War, Songs of World War I, and more. Cramer is a good writer who shows sympathy for her subjects.

One example is a letter from Private John Lewis Barkley who wrote to his brother from France about a combat action on 7 October 1918—a rare occurrence considering that censors usually deleted such details. Cramer unites Barkley’s letter and photograph with the U.S. War Department’s official description of his actions that led him to receiving the Medal of Honor.

As reference books, however, these two volumes suffer from a lack of an index and footnotes, making it difficult to cite them for other works. They are still entertaining reads.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Admiral Frank H. Schofield: A Portrait in Letters of An American Navy Family (1886-1942)

Admiral Frank H. Schofield: A Portrait in Letters of An American Navy Family (1886-1942)Admiral Frank H. Schofield: A Portrait in Letters of an American Navy Family (the Years 1886-1942) by Richard S MacAlpine
ISBN: 1495811859
Published by Infinity Publishing (PA) on October 18, 2016
Genres: Naval

The Naval Historical Foundation declared MacAlpine’s book “amazing….” using 12,000 letters plus other documents to tell Schofield’s story. Graduating first in the Naval Academy Class of 1890, by 1915 Schofield commanded the Navy’s first scout cruiser Chester in the Mediterranean, dealing with the Turks during the Armenian troubles.

In 1917 he was on Admiral William Sims’s staff who commanded U.S. naval forces operating from Britain. His performance in anti-submarine measures led Sims to assign him as a naval advisor in the preparations for the Versailles Treaty of 1919.

Reviewed by CAPT Richard F. Church, USN (Ret.)

Hunters and Killers, Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943

Hunters and Killers, Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 by Norman Polmar, Edward Whitman
ISBN: 1591146895
Published by Naval Institute Press on November 30, 2015
Genres: Naval
Pages: 224

Part of a two volume history of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), this covers the innovative but rudimentary sensors and weapons the Allies used to counter German U-boats in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, although the U-boats were never completely defeated in the Great War. In August 1914 Germany had only 30 operational submarines compared to Britain’s 75, France’s 50, and Russia’s 25. Unrestricted U-boat attacks were curtailed in 1915 in response to protests by the USA. Includes short bios on key scientists and naval leaders. Fine overview.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

America’s Sailors in the Great War: Seas, Skies, and Submarines

America’s Sailors in the Great War: Seas, Skies, and SubmarinesAmerica's Sailors in the Great War: Seas, Skies, and Submarines by Lisle A. Rose
ISBN: 082622105X
Published by University of Missouri on November 29, 2016
Genres: Naval
Pages: 344

Rose presents both the big picture of the U.S. Navy’s role in the war as well as anecdotes of the individual sailors. It’s expansion after the Spanish-American War left the Navy as America’s best-prepared force in 1917… building destroyers, sub chasers, and mine layers to counter the submarine threat… only three troop ships were lost and then on lightly escorted return trips while empty of their human cargoes. An excellent introduction.

Abridged from review by James M. Gallen in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

The Yanks Are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army

The Yanks Are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus ArmyThe Yanks Are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army by Glen Craney
ISBN: 0981648444
Published by Brigid's Fire Press Genres: Fiction
Pages: 562

Glen Craney is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and journalist. He is a Chaucer Awards First-Place Winner, a two-time indie BRAG Medallion Honoree, and a three-time Foreword Reviews Book-of-the-Year-Award Finalist. Craney’s research for this book included the Daughters of the Texas Republic Library, the UCLA Special Collections Library, and the Raymond H. Fogler Library. Fans of historical fiction should read his books.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Military Writers Society of America: “…a vivid picture of not only men being deprived of their veterans’ rights, but of their human rights as well….[an] admirable book.”

The Wilson Deception

The Wilson DeceptionThe Wilson Deception (Dr. Jamie Fraser & Speed Cook, #2) by David O. Stewart
ISBN: 0758290691
Published by Kensington on September 29, 2015
Pages: 304

Constitutional lawyer David Stewart writes history books about America’s early republic, but his novels touch on other eras. This is a mystery/spy thriller that takes place in Paris during the 1919 Versailles Treaty negotiations.

Dr. Jamie Fraser, middle-aged American Expeditionary Force medical officer, is assessing his troubled family life back in the States as he decompresses from the horrors of war. An old friend appears to engage his help in freeing an African American soldier wrongfully convicted of cowardice. Fraser is in the perfect position to do so as he has just accidentally become doctor to both Wilson and Clemenceau.

Stewart captures character traits and speech, although sometimes he leans toward caricature. Fortunately, Stewart creates a story with enough tension and plot twists to keep the reader engrossed and characters the reader can cheer on. Also refreshing is a protagonist who is not your typical young dashing hero. This book would make a good introduction to the era of the Great War for any fan of historical fiction and political intrigue.

Reviewed by Jolie Velazquez

National Flowers: The Battle of Verdun 1916

National Flowers: The Battle of Verdun 1916NATIONAL FLOWERS: The Battle of Verdun 1916 by Kermit R. Mercer
ISBN: 9781312048447
Published by Lulu.com on July 21, 2014
Genres: History, General
Pages: 384

WW1HA member Kermit Mercer has found a unique way to understand the war with his novel about Verdun based on conversations with World War One poilu (French soldiers).

Mercer lived in the Verdun area while serving with the USAF. He got to know many of the veterans when they were in their early 60s and wrote down their stories in the year after he returned home. His notes were not appropriate for a formal history so he turned them into a gripping novel with insights into the hell that was the war’s longest battle.

This is not summer beach reading. The long-forgotten details about life in the Verdun trenches are surprising and enlightening, like the need to always hold utensils over a candle before eating to avoid dysentery, or how seasoned poilu could tell from the location of shell bursts that an inexperienced German artillery team was at work. In many ways, National Flowers is an excellent supplement to the recently translated memoir Poilu by Caporal Louis Barthas. This is a novel for the serious historian.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA

The Kaiser’s American

The Kaiser’s AmericanThe Kaiser's American by Edward J. Klekowski
ISBN: 9781539382423
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on October 16, 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 292

This is the story of a Brooklyn man of German descent and his adventures in Belgium in the opening campaign of World War One. It presents an entertaining, almost unbelievable, series of events in compelling detail. Klekowski has written other non-fiction books, including Americans in Occupied Belgium, 1914-1918, and created several TV documentaries, including one on WW1 volunteer ambulance drivers.

The protagonist, Paul Meyer, enlisted in the German Navy at the beginning of the war and survives a crash landing of the Zeppelin on which he was serving as an engineer. His American attitudes clash with many in the German military, but somehow he lurches from event to event learning survival skills and giving the reader a look at the chaos behind the front lines of the German advance on the Western Front.

Unfortunately, the author adds lots of historical detail even when it interrupts the story—what eventually happens to famous historical figures who appear briefly in the book does not advance the story. An appendix or afterword would have been more appropriate. Despite this flaw it’s a good read.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Wide World Trilogy

The Wide World TrilogyThe Ways of the World (The Wide World Trilogy #1) by Robert Goddard
ISBN: 0802123597
Published by Mysterious Press on June 2, 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 416

 

 

The Wide World TrilogyThe Corners of the Globe (The Wide World Trilogy #2) by Robert Goddard
ISBN: 0802125220
Published by Mysterious Press on June 7, 2016
Pages: 400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wide World TrilogyThe Ends of the Earth (The Wide World Trilogy #3) by Robert Goddard
ISBN: 0802126561
Published by Mysterious Press on April 25, 2017
Pages: 400

 

Kirkus Reviews enthused that the Edgar Award-winning best-selling author Robert Goddard’s James Maxted Thrillers are “A sophisticated spy story with serious historical chops.” Publishers Weekly noted that “Characterization and dialogue are topnotch … Readers will look forward to seeing these characters spar again.”

Royal Flying Corps veteran Lieutenant James “Max” Maxted was introduced in the first volume in 2013. His diplomat father Sir Henry is in Paris for the Versailles Treaty and is found dead after a fall from a roof. The French police conclude it’s an accident but Max finds evidence of espionage and government double-crossing.

The second volume finds the young ex-aviator working as a double agent as he tries to learn more about his father’s murder. Working with legendary German spy Fritz Lemmer, who claims responsibility for Max’s father’s death, he makes yet more disturbing discoveries.

In the third and final volume the action shifts from Paris and the signing of the Versailles Treaty to Japan where Max was born. The ending should satisfy fans of Goddard’s work.

One of the things to savor in this series is the slower passage of time and information dissemination one hundred years ago. An attempt to outsmart surveillance with changing trains; the need to obtain and protect photographic negatives; and the rare use of weapons are eloquent reminders of how the world has changed.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

Treacherous Passage: Germany’s Secret Plot Against the United States in Mexico During World War I

Treacherous Passage: Germany’s Secret Plot Against the United States in Mexico During World War ITreacherous Passage: Germany’s Secret Plot against the United States in Mexico during World War I by Bill Mills
ISBN: 1612348548
Published by Potomac Books on January 1, 2017
Genres: History, Latin America, Mexico, Military, World War I, United States, 20th Century, Espionage, Sabotage
Pages: 256

The infamous Zimmerman telegram proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico if the USA entered the Great War. The secret diplomatic communication sent by the German Foreign Office was intercepted, deciphered, and revealed to the American public by British intelligence and caused a furor in 1917. What was not then publicly known was how extensive German clandestine operations were in Mexico. These included training an embryonic German-Mexican invasion force, dispatching saboteurs to the U.S., planning submarine bases on the western coast of Mexico, and an idea to launch sea raiders from the port of Mazatlán to attack merchant shipping in the Pacific.

Author Mills weaves a lively story of German Consul Fritz Unger, head of the powerful trading house Melchers Sucesores, and his efforts in Mexico that were thwarted by a top American spy who was a trusted member of the German secret service there. A cast of colorful characters provide drama and intrigue that reads more like a novel but is true history.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History

The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in HistoryThe Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History by Joseph A. Williams
ISBN: 1613737580
Published by Chicago Review Press on September 1, 2017
Genres: Espionage, Sabotage
Pages: 352

The Sunken Gold is the story of how 43 tons of England’s gold was sunk off the coast of Ireland en route to the United States and later was mostly recovered by the British. The salvage, which took a number of years, was conducted by a small group of divers working in harsh conditions without benefit of modern technology such as sonar or underwater diving tanks.

On 25 January 1917 the HMS Laurentic was sailing to New York when it struck two mines during a storm and sank off the coast of Ireland. The Admiralty kept the lost cargo secret and immediately started looking for ways to salvage the vessel. The recovery of the gold was assigned to England’s nascent salvage group. Britain had one of the innovative divers of the time, naval officer Guybon Damant, and he was assigned the job.

It was 1919 before the divers could concentrate on the wreck since during the war the diving group was busy looking for intelligence on sunken U-boats to help break the German communication codes to counter U-boat attacks.

Over a seven-year span after the war, the divers brought up 3,186 of the 3,211 gold bars, worth almost $22 million in 1924 (worth more than $300 million in 2018). At that point the British government stopped funding, leaving commercial salvagers an opportunity to find some but not all of the rest of the bars.

Each chapter focuses on either the treasure or Damant, and this repeated shifting back and forth makes it a chore to concentrate on the main story—the treasure. There are two interesting stories here, but the author’s choice of alternating chapters makes the reader work to stay until the end.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Baltimore Sabotage Cell: German Agents, American Traitors, and the U-Boat Deutschland During World War I

The Baltimore Sabotage Cell: German Agents, American Traitors, and the U-Boat Deutschland During World War IThe Baltimore Sabotage Cell by Dwight Messimer
ISBN: 9781612518695
Published by Naval Institute Press on March 15, 2015
Genres: History, Military, Naval
Pages: 280

The book’s focus on U-Boat Deutschland makes it easy to understand the experimental vessel and keep track of the groups connected with it. Deutschland was one of two subs designed as underwater freighters to avoid the British blockade. The other, the Bremen, was lost at sea on its initial voyage.

Support of the U-Boat was only one of the activities of the Baltimore sabotage group; it also attempted to spread diseases to horses being sent to the Allies.

Deutschland made only two successful trips before it was re-commissioned as a standard submarine after America entered the war.

The Germans and Americans in the U.S. who acquired the trade goods for shipment to Germany were in peril once the U.S. entered the war; most escaped. While some people, civilian and military, toured and inspected the Deutschland while docked in Baltimore, it was not until after the war that interviews with the cell’s surviving participants revealed how extensive and successful the Baltimore group had been.

A well written and unexpectedly interesting case study of an unusual aspect of the war.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

Spy of the Century Alfred Redl & the Betrayal of Austro-Hungary

Spy of the Century Alfred Redl & the Betrayal of Austro-HungarySpy of the Century: Alfred Redl and the Betrayal of Austria-Hungary by John Sadler, Silvie Fisch
ISBN: 1473848709
Published by Pen & Sword Military on March 5, 2017
Genres: Espionage, Sabotage
Pages: 240

A New York Times review provided an irresistible description of this book’s topic: “The Redl Affair had everything: sex, espionage, betrayal, a fall from greatness and a sensational climax in which Redl went to his death like a figure of high tragedy.”

Alfred Redl was an Austro-Hungarian army officer and former head of the Empire’s counterintelligence. In 1913, he was discovered selling military secrets to the Russians and perhaps others. After being confronted, he was allowed to commit suicide and shot himself. Notably, Redl had passed to the Russians the Empire’s mobilization plans, eventually raising the important question of whether his betrayal had been a cause of Austria-Hungary’s poor performance once the war started in 1914.

In the preface, the authors argue convincingly that this is the first “factual” biography of Alfred Redl in English and state clearly that there is much about his case that will never be known for certain. Sadler and Fisch do an excellent job of describing Redl’s life and his situation as a perpetual outsider—a non-aristocrat homosexual of modest means, modest family background, and high intelligence. Combined with the stultifying culture of the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its army, they make a convincing case for their explanation of Redl’s motivations for betrayal.

Sadler and Fisch could have done a better job in guiding readers through the difficult thicket of disinformation, cover-ups, yellow journalism, and politically motivated allegations that followed in the wake of the Redl affair. Despite this confusion, the book is a valuable addition to the histories of the Empire, of WW1, and of espionage itself.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of the World War One Historical Association and a retired CIA analyst

I Was a Spy! The Classic Account of Behind-the-Lines Espionage in the First World War

I Was a Spy! The Classic Account of Behind-the-Lines Espionage in the First World WarI Was a Spy! by Marthe McKennaWinston Churchill
ISBN: 9781910860052
Published by Pool of London Press on September 19, 2015
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Europe, Germany, True Crime, Espionage, Political Science, Intelligence & Espionage, Social History
Pages: 288

The author and her family were overrun in Belgium at the outbreak of the war. Instead of completing her medical studies to become a physician, Marthe became a nurse in a hospital run by the Germans. She also fed information to the British who had set up an underground network as they retreated. Marthe proved to be intelligent, fast thinking, reliable and cautious.

An excellent nurse, she was honored with others for their efforts by the King of Württemberg. As the war continued the Germans were able to staff and monitor the occupied areas with troops whose job was to suppress resistance and locate spies. When she was finally captured for her participation in sabotage the Germans wanted to shoot her. However, her former supervisors at the hospital vouched for her work and reminded the review board that it would look awfully bad to be killing heroines with German medals. She escaped the firing squad, spending the remainder of the war in prison.

Well-written, the reader comes to appreciate the stress that accumulates back when communications were much slower than today.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

Verdun: Looking at History

Verdun: Looking at History
Directed by Léon Poirier
Kino Lorber Home Video, 2016
151 minutes, in B&W with color extras
DVD, $21.00

Léon Poirier’s silent classic, Verdun, Visions d’histoire, cast veterans as actors and extras in 1927-28, providing the most realistic view of the battle possible since 1916. Poirier filmed outdoors, unusual for the 1920s, and on the original battlefield using actual explosives. He mixed a documentary-style history of the 10-month battle with stories of fictional French and German soldiers and their families. It’s a seamless weaving together of 1928 film footage with footage shot during the battle, including re-creations with the original participants, like Pétain delivering for the camera his famous declaration, “They Shall Not Pass.”

Poirier did not portray the Germans as subhuman brutes but as fellow victims of the real enemy, War itself. (This was very controversial in 1928 France, sometimes eliciting violent reactions in theaters.) Some of the most emotional scenes use “special effects” extremely well, like the double-exposure sequence of ghost-like French and German mothers retrieving together the souls of their dead sons from the battlefield.

Three supplemental features discuss the creation of the original film, the 2006 restoration of it, and show footage filmed at Verdun in 1916. The only complete print of the film was found in a Moscow archive. It was seized in Berlin by the Soviets at the end of WW2 after the Nazis stole it from France. Fortunately, the entire music score was with that print. This allowed the restoration team at La Cinémathéque de Toulouse to add the piano music that would have been played live in the theater with the film in 1928.

Verdun: Looking at History not only provides an important window into the Battle of Verdun but is also a significant milestone in the history of world cinema. It has French and German intertitles (depending on who is speaking), and optional English subtitles.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president WW1HA

Real Stories of Love and Loss: 14 War Stories

Real Stories of Love and Loss: 14 War Stories
Directed by Jan Peter
BBC America, 2014
430 minutes, in color and B&W
Standard Edition DVD, $29.98

14 War Stories deftly presents a human perspective on the First World War that is simultaneously wide-ranging and personal. The title is a pun in that it dramatizes the lives of 14 ordinary people whose lives were upended by the events of the summer of ’14. All of their words are from their diaries and letters; some have been published and others have languished unseen in archives and private collections for a century.

Among the fascinating people you’ll meet are Yves Conger, a young boy from Sedan who lives under German occupation for four years; Marina Yurlova, a Russian Cossack girl who becomes a soldier fighting on the Caucasian Front; and Louis Barthas, a forty-something barrel maker and socialist who survives the war as a French poilu. Even WW1 readers who have read widely will probably know how the lives of only a few of the 14 turned out, creating true suspense.

This is truly an international production. Jan Peter is a German documentary filmmaker who insisted that the 14 storytellers speak in their own languages—seven in all. Curiously, these are rendered into English sometimes in subtitles and sometimes with voiceovers. The dramatized footage was filmed in Alsace, a place that combines German and French history, and in Quebec, where the use of an abandoned quarry made it possible to construct realistic trenches and create actual explosions. The dramatizations are juxtaposed with carefully restored archival footage that creates a realistic feel to the unfolding events.

This documentary consists of eight episodes that follow the lives of the 14 storytellers in roughly chronological order. There is a bonus feature that describes how 14 War Stories was made.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president WW1HA