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

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 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

The WI: A Centennial History

The WI: A Centennial HistoryThe WI: A Centenary History by Mavis Curtis
ISBN: 1445616920
Published by Amberley Publishing on March 15, 2015
Genres: Cultural, Social
Pages: 272

The Women’s Institute is the story of women helping women. The WI is a hybrid of a Canadian organization conceived by Adelaide Hoodless and an urbane British group founded by suffragist, Mrs. Nora Wynford Phillips. Both groups wanted to help women improve themselves and the lives of their families. Mrs. Hoodless was inspired by the death of her young son due to drinking milk improperly stored in the summer.

Initially, rural women were not interested as they felt their sons and husbands would belittle them. Things changed in 1915 as thousands of men went to war and women were forced to take on their work. Secretary of the British Agricultural Organization Society John Nugent Harris heard Mrs. Madge Watt, a Canadian who relocated to England, speak at an agricultural meeting where she proposed that a women’s Institute modeled on the Canadian one be started in Britain. Watt was employed by the Agricultural Society to start branches through out the country. The national association was created in 1918.

Many early members of the national Women’s Institute were active in the suffrage movement. The local groups were focused on improving women’s lives in practical domestic ways. In the public’s mind the WI was linked to the Suffragists.

The WI was not government funded. It was non-political, non-denominational and pacifist. During WW2, the Institute was invaluable in communicating within the civilian population, establishing once again produce markets for the home front population, and troop support.

After WW2 the WI groups were helpful in gathering data about the rural areas for the government and worked hard to lobby for improvements in living conditions, such as electricity and running water. Today the Women’s Institute continues to help ease the isolation of rural areas.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

Holding the Home Front: The Women’s Land Army in the First World War

Holding the Home Front: The Women’s Land Army in the First World WarManaging and Evaluating Healthcare Intervention Programs by Ian Duncan, FSA, FIA, FCIA, MAAA
ISBN: 9781625421128
Published by ACTEX Publications on January 20, 2014
Genres: Cultural, Social
Pages: 422

This is a well-researched history of the British Women’s Land Army in WW1 and how it paved the way for the success of the WLA in the Second World War. Unlike the United States that set up agricultural colleges after the American Civil War, Great Britain lacked a unified approach to agriculture until World War One.

The Great War forced Britain to organize the farmers and agricultural community on a national level, and the WLA was in the forefront of this initiative despite male farmers’ reluctance to accept women workers or their advice. One leading recruiter for the WLA wrote: “Farmers had been prejudiced and stupid about women.”

A harvest crisis in 1916 was caused by lower crop yields in both Britain and America, and Russian exports were curtailed by the Ottoman blockade of the Dardanelles. This required food rationing in 1917 as prices rose by 106 percent of July 1914 levels.

In 1918, the WLA helped insure that people would not starve as its members worked the land to feed England. The WLA was disbanded in 1919 leaving the groundwork for the next agricultural crisis.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

Bicycles, Bloomers and Great War Rationing Recipes: The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel OBE

Bicycles, Bloomers and Great War Rationing Recipes: The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel OBEBicycles, Bloomers and Great War Rationing Recipes: The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel OBE by Vicky Straker
ISBN: 1473828589
Published by Pen & Sword Books on August 5, 2016
Genres: Cultural, Social
Pages: 280

Dorothy Peel was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1918 by the Ministry of Food to recognize her creation of wartime recipes for householders. Peel’s great granddaughter wrote this book after finding Granny Dot’s cookery book on an attic shelf. Straker assembled more than 150 pages of recipes supported by color photographs and a table of measurement conversions. There is also a table that shows the compulsory ration amounts that helped cooks prepare pre-war recipes using the 1918 authorized quantities.

By 1917, Peel had a reputation for her domestic and culinary writing. The Ministry of Food contacted her to help in their task of insuring successful allocation and use of rations during the war. Using her contacts she insured nutritional content was maintained in her recipes during the rationing.

Peel wrote: “I did think that it was worthwhile to try to do what I was given a chance to do, to find … that those who do make the most mistakes! Still, if one is frightened of failing one is not likely to succeed.”

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During The First World War

All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During The First World WarAll Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War by Richard Van Emden, Steve Humphries
ISBN: 1473891949
Published by Pen & Sword Books on July 10, 2017
Genres: Cultural, Social

This reviewer has read a number of histories of the home fronts of Britain, the U.S., and France, and this oral history is by far the most fascinating. Authors van Emden and Humphries conducted about a hundred interviews from the late 1990s until the early 2000s with people who had grown up in Britain during the war. This rich trove of experience forms the core of the book, but the authors supplemented it with letters, diaries, and earlier recorded interviews. The chapters are a harmonious blend of distinct topics and a chronological approach. The oral histories bring alive such diverse topics as the shelling of East Coast cities by the German Navy, hunger and poverty, the poor treatment of people of German descent, the Zeppelin and airplane raids on Britain, the care of the wounded, the experiences of munitions workers, etc. The chapter “It is my painful duty…”, where the interviewees recount how they were notified of the deaths of their fathers or older brothers, is absolutely heart-wrenching to read.

This is a story about the home front from the perspective of children and teenagers, and a story primarily told by women. This reviewer did not find either of these demographic situations to be a weakness of this book. These oral histories are powerful enough to stand on their own, in addition to the fact that the interviewees often also recounted their parents’ perspectives on these events. If you’re going to buy only one book on the British home front, it should be this one.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA who In the 1990s interviewed about 40 people who had lived through the Zeppelin raids on Hull, England.

The First World War on Cigarette and Trade Cards: An Illustrated and Descriptive History

The First World War on Cigarette and Trade Cards: An Illustrated and Descriptive HistoryThe First World War on Cigarette and Trade Cards: An Illustrated and Descriptive History by Cyril Mazansky
ISBN: 0764347594
Published by Schiffer Publishing on March 28, 2015
Genres: Collectibles
Pages: 208

This impressive volume is the product of thirty years of cartophilic collecting by the author, in the category of warfare and the Great War specifically. Some cards with WW1 subjects were published after the war, but the vast majority of the cards in the book were published during the war as inserts in packs of cigarettes or as trade cards with biscuits and other non-tobacco products. Most are British-produced cards but some German language sets are included.

Mazansky notes that the tobacco companies were motivated by both patriotism and profit, and almost all cards served a propaganda purpose. Some of the images include well-known photos and illustrations that appeared in newspapers and books, including battle scenes and incidents where a soldier earned the Victoria Cross. The front of the cards shows the image and title with descriptive text on the opposite side.

This is a well-organized book with chapters on monarchs, political and military leaders, war scenes, weapons and equipment, uniforms, army life, the home front, and war humor.

A real pleasure to examine again and again.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Charles Edward Dilkes, Remembering World War One: An Engineer’s Diary of the War

Charles Edward Dilkes, Remembering World War One: An Engineer’s Diary of the WarRemembering World War I: An Engineer's Diary of the War by Dilkes E Charles
ISBN: 0692028617
Published by Juliet Publishing on September 15, 2014
Genres: Biographies and Memoirs, Unit Histories
Pages: 192

This memoir of a volunteer engineer covers Dilkes’s enlistment, journey to France, and the battles in which he was involved while serving in the 1st Division from May 1917 to September 1919. It is an invaluable source of information on what life was like for an American soldier on the Western Front. It is well written, informative, and, on occasions, even entertaining.

Dilkes’s memoir bears the hallmark of a literary man and is characterized by a refreshing honesty. Dilkes’s joy at the end of the hostilities prompts him to mention AEF commander General Pershing’s admiration for the division: “At this time there is great reason for our jubilee because we knew the feeling our esteemed General John J. Pershing held towards the First Division when on July 17, 1919, at London he delivered a speech from which an extract is here quoted:

‘You will recall that when our First Division entered the battle line and fought the small though brilliant battle—the first as an independent command—at Cantigny, that the success which attended the attack not only set an example for future American divisions to follow, but really had an electrifying effect through the Allied lines and gave new hope to the armies.’”

Dilkes’s memoir is enhanced by the meticulous editing work carried out by his three daughters. The numerous historical context features, under the heading “Living History,” provide valuable background information. Remembering World War One is beautifully illustrated, with maps, pictures of artifacts and photographs. There is an extensive register of notes, a comprehensive glossary of abbreviations, and a useful bibliography of primary and secondary sources, poetry cited, and assorted references. Remembering World War One is unusually detailed, unusually well edited, and, perhaps most importantly of all, very human.

Jane M. Ekstam, professor at Hogskolen i Ostfold, Halden, Norway

Rags: Hero Dog of WWI, A True Story

Rags: Hero Dog of WWI, A True StoryRags Hero Dog of WWI: A True Story by Margot Theis Raven, Petra Brown
ISBN: 1585362581
Published by Sleeping Bear Press on August 2, 2014
Genres: Biographies and Memoirs, Unit Histories
Pages: 32

Mascots were some of the most beloved members of military units during World War 1. A statue of the German shepherd who served with the Marines in France is on proud display at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia.

This book for children is the story of Rags, a mangy stray rescued from the streets in Paris by an American Army enlisted man named James Donovan serving in the 1st Division. Rags served with distinction, delivering messages and endearing himself to the unit. He won citations and was wounded.

Near the end of the war, both Rags and his owner were wounded in a gas attack. Rags was treated at an aid station and then smuggled on board the ship returning his owner to the U.S. for treatment. Private Donovan did not recover. Rags continued to serve in the division until his death in 1936. His long life and contributions are included at the end of story enabling the reader to answer the “What happened after that?“ question. The story is an endearing one and the illustrations well done.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Life and Times of a World War I Soldier: The Julius Holthaus Story

The Life and Times of a World War I Soldier: The Julius Holthaus StoryThe Life and Times of a World War I Soldier The Julius Holthaus Story by Clyde Cremer
ISBN: 9781491729786
Published by iUniverse on April 3, 2014
Genres: Biographies and Memoirs, Unit Histories
Pages: 436

An affectionate work about an ancestor by a U.S. Army veteran who found the spot in the Argonne forest where Julius Holthaus’ body was recovered and then wrote a story about him using Holthaus’ diary and extensive research.

The amount of detail is impressive, including notes about the German 76th Reserve Division that fought against the American 77th Division in 1918. Images display some of the German officers as well as scenes of American doughboys during the war, Julius’ mother and aunt at his grave during the Gold Star Mothers pilgrimages in the early 1930s, modern photographs of relatives and friends visiting in France, and the remnants of fortifications and trenches Cremer discovered.

This book really needed an editor. Too many ALL CAPITAL words and exclamation points (!) detract from the narrative. Tables on monthly production rates of artillery pieces are mixed with a table of brass used in military equipment, food prices in 1776 (yes, it says 1776), market reports for 1916, etc., etc. An end-of-book data dump that does nothing to further the story of Holthaus.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Football Team That Fought the Great War

A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Football Team That Fought the Great WarA Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Football Team That Fought the Great War by Andrew Beaujon
ISBN: 0897337360
Published by Chicago Review Press on May 1, 2018
Genres: Biographies and Memoirs, Unit Histories
Pages: 288

Tells the story of eleven Scottish football players and their fans who volunteered for the 16th Royal Scots Battalion in November 1914. Seven months later the battalion lost 80 percent of its 800-plus men during the nearly-five-month-long Battle of the Somme. In May 1918 the battalion was disbanded to provide its 400 soldiers as replacements for other units.

A Bigger Field is not a narrow examination of a famous battle viewed through the lens of one infantry battalion. It reads like a work of fiction but is an excellent short history of the Somme offensive with well-placed photos throughout the text.

Beaujon covers political maneuverings, sneaky journalists, early motion pictures, 1,700 footballs sent to British soldiers held in German prisoner-of-war camps, the war beyond 1916 including the Battle of Arras in April 1917 where the battalion’s operational strength was under 300 officers and men, and postwar myth making and cover ups such as the British Ministry of Information that was disbanded in November 1918 and all its records destroyed.

A wonderful, unexpected book.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Written in Blood: The Battles for Fortress Przemysl in WWI

Written in Blood: The Battles for Fortress Przemysl in WWIWritten in Blood: The Battles for Fortress Przemyśl in WW1 by Graydon A. Tunstall
ISBN: 0253021979
Published by Indiana University Press on August 16, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 408

Winner of the 2016 Tomlinson Prize Award

A series of battles to capture and relieve the besieged Habsburg Fortress of Przemyl during the fall of 1914 and early 1915 was bloodier than Verdun. By the time the fortress finally fell to the Russians on 22 March 1915, the Austro-Hungarian Army had sustained 800,000 casualties; the Russians, over a million.

Control of the fortress changed hands three times during the fall of 1914. In 1915, several Austro-Hungarian armies launched three major offensives to penetrate the Russian encirclement and rescue the 120,000 men trapped in the fortress. Tunstall argues that Przemyl had served its purpose: the besieged garrison kept the Russian army from advancing farther and perhaps causing the collapse of the weakened Habsburg forces.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Dennis Showalter: “A valuable and unique contribution to the history of both WWI and European fortress war. This work will be cited long after ones on more glamorous subjects have been relegated to library shelves, and in my professional judgment, Tunstall is the only scholar who could have done it.”

With Their Bare Hands: General Pershing, the 79th Division, and the Battle for Montfaucon

With Their Bare Hands: General Pershing, the 79th Division, and the Battle for MontfauconWith Their Bare Hands: General Pershing, the 79th Division, and the Battle for Montfaucon by Gene Fax
ISBN: 1472819233
Published by Osprey Publishing (UK) on February 21, 2017
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 496

Gene Fax earned well-deserved praise for this very detailed presentation of the U.S. 79th Division’s famous assault on the heavily fortified German position on Montfaucon at the start of the 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive.

Although concentrating on this one engagement, Fax uses half the book to explain the background of this seemingly impregnable location, America’s entry into the war, the recruitment and raising of the 79th, a chapter on what was wrong with Army doctrine, another on what was wrong with training (that also notes the first cases of influenza initially not regarded as a serious threat), American troops’ introduction to combat by helping to stop the German 1918 spring offensive, plus a description of the Meuse-Argonne terrain and the German Army. The actual struggle for Montfaucon is told over three action-packed chapters.

Nicely written, filled with anecdotes, this terrific book was a finalist for a Distinguished Writing Award by the Army Historical Foundation. Gene is an Official Partner of the U.S. World War I Commemorative Commission.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Dennis Showalter: “A masterful study.”

Verdun: The Lost History of the Most Important Battle of World War I, 1914-1918

Verdun: The Lost History of the Most Important Battle of World War I, 1914-1918Verdun: The Lost History of the Most Important Battle of World War I by John Mosier
ISBN: 0451414632
Published by Dutton Caliber on October 7, 2014
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 400

John Mosier is controversial, even reviled by some historians. His other works include The Myth of the Great War and The Blitzkrieg Myth, which exemplify his approach.

The review in The Journal of Military History by Robert A. Doughty noted that Mosier “charges military leaders such as Joseph Joffre and Ferdinand Foch with incompetence, ignorance, and, even worse, not caring about casualties.” Donkeys indeed!

Mosier consulted an “impressive” list of memoirs, diaries, and secondary sources published in France during and after the war that were highly critical of the high command. But Doughty also observed that “Mosier did not research in the French archives by saying, ‘We should be extremely wary of official documents.’”

Doughty concluded “this is an interesting, well-written, provocative book, but if there is anything new in the book, it is the author’s inclusion of the nine different battles that occurred in the vicinity of Verdun, not his unearthing of the supposed ‘lost history.’”

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The Washington Times: “…one of the more entertainingly contrarian military historians writing today.”

Verdun: The Left Bank

Verdun: The Left BankVerdun: The Left Bank by Christina Holstein
ISBN: 9781473880375
Published by Pen and Sword on February 29, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 190

This is the author’s fourth book in Pen and Sword’s Battleground Europe series covering the Battle of Verdun in 1916. Although there is a short 2-page section at the beginning called “Advice to Tourers,” it is not meant to be a battlefield guide. The book includes a plethora of historical and modern black & white photos.

Most of the histories of the 11-month battle focus on the German capture of Fort Douaumont in February in the initial attack, the offensive of 23 June when French commander Pétain considered withdrawing, or the final attempt on Fort Souville that summer. These all took place in the central area of the Right (East) Bank.

There were nine battles in the area of the Left Bank, generally referred to as the battle of the flanks, that included the struggle to reach Fort Vaux. As author Holstein points out “During that period [end of February through May] the flanks were not a sideshow to the battle; they were the battle….”

Well researched and a nicely done short history.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War

Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great WarVerdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War by Paul Jankowski
ISBN: 0190619716
Published by Oxford University Press on October 1, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 336

Winner of the 2014 Tomlinson Prize Award

This new look at arguably the most famous battle on the Western Front earned well-deserved praise. It mixes traditional military history with social and cultural history that considers the soldiers’ experiences, the institutional structures of the military, and the impact of war on national identity.

The review in Army History felt that “the author exposes many of the myths about the battle that have developed over a century of narrative.”

Publishers Weekly noted “Jankowski has written a superb, definitive popular account of Verdun through the eyes of soldiers, military leaders, and citizens of the two nations.”

Philip Jenkins in Books & Culture exclaimed “Jankowski’s revisionist book is a major achievement…The writing throughout is of the highest order… At every stage, Jankowski integrates the military narrative with broader political and cultural dimensions… Jankowski’s book offers a model history of warfare.”

An exceptional history, and the photos and captions are first rate, but the publisher’s decision to not include any maps with Jankowski’s excellent narrative is extremely disappointing.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Los Angeles Review of Books: “Brilliant.”

The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers’ own Words and Photographs

The Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers’ own Words and PhotographsThe Somme: The Epic Battle in the Soldiers' Own Words and Photographs by Richard Van Emden
ISBN: 1473885175
Published by Pen & Sword Books on August 5, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 355

This is a wonderful book, filled with new or rarely-before-seen sepia-tinted photographs, many from the soldiers’ own private collections. These images are linked to appropriate text such as these observations on the first day by Rifleman Giles Eyre of the 2nd Kings Rifle Corps:

“We are now scrambling over what must have been the British front line trenches, a maze of humps and hillocks, half-filled-in ditches, mounds of faded and burst sandbags, barbed wire clumps sticking out here and there, shell holes, smashed trench boards and a litter of rusty tins, pieces of equipment, broken rifles and goodness knows what else.” Eyre continues: “We strike out into what was once no-man’s-land, … Here all the casualties have not been gathered in yet, and horrible-looking bundles of khaki, once men, still lie in shell holes.”

Van Emden is not trying to write a study of the Somme campaign, but he does form some opinions: “Before the Somme, there was still public optimism that the war could be won with one great masterstroke … idealism did perish on the Somme.”

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The 1916 Battle of the Somme: Reconsidered

The 1916 Battle of the Somme: ReconsideredThe 1916 Battle of the Somme Reconsidered by Peter H. Liddle
ISBN: 178340051X
Published by Pen & Sword Books on August 5, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns

Twenty-four years prior to the release of this book, historian Peter Liddle’s “classic” The Soldier’s War, 1914-1918 introduced readers to the four-and-a-half month Battle of the Somme. Here “Liddle reconsiders the battle in the light of recent scholarship” although without using even one German source or citing even one German unit in the index.

His narrative of “one of the most significant and controversial episodes in British military history” is “based on the graphic and revealing first-hand testimony of [British] soldiers….” An analogy might be to read the description of a football game (American or British) that presents only one side’s actions, decisions, and feelings.

Liddle’s end chapter “Verdict” claims “that in 1916-17 terms, a British victory was won on the Somme,” and “that the resolve of the soldier of the [BEF] had not been broken by the experience….” Compared to Passchendaele a year later, the Somme could be considered a wildly successful operation.

The book has a very nice British order-of-battle for the beginning of the battle on 1 July 1916, as well as its 12 phases through 18 November.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

A Companion to the Meuse-Argonne Campaign

A Companion to the Meuse-Argonne CampaignA Companion to the Meuse-Argonne Campaign by Edward G. Lengel
ISBN: 1444350943
Published by Wiley-Blackwell on May 5, 2014
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 552

This impressive work contains essays by 29 historians on a variety of aspects pertaining to the largest and bloodiest battle in U.S. Army history until the Battle of the Bulge in World War Two. As B. H. Allen wrote in the Literature Review of the book, the battle “is barely even mentioned in most general histories of the Great War.”

The 47-day offensive in 1918 involved 1.2 million doughboys who suffered 122,000 casualties, including more than 26,000 dead. Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces John Pershing wrote that 22 American and 4 French divisions engaged and defeated 47 German divisions. Although the German divisions were smaller, they had the advantage of good defensive terrain and a well-established trench system. They also represented 25 percent of Germany’s divisional strength on the Western Front.

Allen noted that why the American accomplishment is ignored “is a controversy whose lines have predominantly been drawn along national borders. British and Canadian historians, with the notable exceptions of Basil Henry Liddell Hart and John Keegan, have largely dismissed the U.S. contribution as ‘above all psychological.’”

Hopefully, this book will help adjust that impression.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Images of War: Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives

Images of War: Rare Photographs From Wartime ArchivesThe British on the Somme 1916: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives by Philip Gibbs
ISBN: 1473837812
Published by Pen and Sword Military on April 3, 2017
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 128


Images of War: Rare Photographs From Wartime ArchivesFrench Army at Verdun by Ian Sumner
ISBN: 1473856159
Published by Pen and Sword Military on April 30, 2016
Pages: 121

The photo albums in the Images of War series each contain up to 250 black and white archival photographs. The Somme photographs are accompanied by text written by Official War Correspondent Sir Philip Gibbs, who was an eyewitness to the events. Some of his captions are questionable. For example, on page 42 there is a photo of a British 6-inch howitzer with the notation “there were too few heavy guns available to the British on 1 July.” This sounds like an official excuse to explain the lack of success. The British Army had 427 heavy guns on 1 July, nearly four times the number available at the Battle of Loos nine months earlier in September 1915. And the claim on page 123 that the Somme was the bloodiest battle of the Great War ignores Verdun and the battle for Przemyl on the Eastern Front.

By comparison, the Verdun book’s captions are longer and much more detailed and interesting. Unfortunately, neither book has an index, making it impossible to relocate interesting images and text.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I

Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War IForty-Seven Days: How Pershing's Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I by Mitchell A. Yockelson
ISBN: 0451466950
Published by NAL on March 1, 2016
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 432

This is a skillful re-telling of the Meuse-Argonne battle, focusing on the key American leaders and heroes and select events during the 47 days of the offensive.  This is followed with an “Aftermath” chapter that contains concise post-WW1 biographies of many of the main characters, including their WW2 experiences.  The book is largely told from the point of view of General Pershing using numerous sources, including the general’s diaries.

It is hard to put the book down once started. Yockelson is able to weave his narrative of the entire campaign, without getting bogged down in detail.

However, this reviewer wishes there was more critique, assessment, or analysis of Pershing or of the AEF based on the author’s years of researching WW1 and employment at the National Archives. Was General Pershing the right man for the job? Mark Grotelueschen’s 2007 The AEF Way of War and Alexander Watson’s 2008 Enduring the Great War are such books.

Reviewed by Randy Gaulke

[Kirkus Reviews called Yockelson’s book “An accessible, elucidating study by a knowledgeable expert.” Seven excellent maps explain the staged movement across the front at various times.—Ed.]

Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915

Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915 by Graydon A. Tunstall
ISBN: 0700618589
Published by University Press of Kansas on May 11, 2010
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 258

Winner of the 2010 Tomlinson Prize Award

This is the first book-length account of the Carpathian campaign of 1915, described by some as the “Stalingrad of the First World War.” It was also the first English-language account of WW1 Eastern Front military operations in more than 30 years.

Tunstall did research in Vienna’s and Budapest’s War Archives, and his narrative incorporates material drawn from eyewitness accounts, personal diaries, army logbooks, and correspondence among members of the high command. He shows that the roots of the Habsburg collapse in Russia in 1916 were established in the winter campaign of 1915. Its accolades and Tomlinson award were well deserved.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The U.S. Army War College Quarterly Parameters: “The book is a detailed case study, based on extensive primary source research, of an attempt to devise a viable strategy to meet drastically-changed, unforeseen conditions with impending crisis….”

New York Military Affairs Symposium, NYMAS Review: “In giving a full account of the winter war, Tunstall has rendered a vital service to our understanding of World War I. This is a must book for experts and novices alike.”

Betrayal at Little Gibraltar: A German Fortress, a Treacherous American General, and the Battle to End World War I

Betrayal at Little Gibraltar: A German Fortress, a Treacherous American General, and the Battle to End World War IBetrayal at Little Gibraltar: A German Fortress, a Treacherous American General, and the Battle to End World War I by William T. Walker
ISBN: 1501117912
Published by Scribner on April 11, 2017
Genres: Battles & Campaigns
Pages: 464

The attack on the Montfaucon fortified position on 26-27 September 1918 resulted in thousands of casualties to the 79th Division. In With Their Bare Hands there is a one-page explanation of the roots of the controversy. Here an entire book examines this event and lays out a more sinister reason: a deliberate “betrayal” by III Corps commander Robert Lee Bullard and a post-war cover up.

The 79th Division was in the V Corps. The unit on its right, 4th Division, was in Bullard’s III Corps. Walker alleges that Bullard and his chief of staff were the ones that prevented the 4th Division from “turning” to support the 79th assault.

Pershing relieved many other generals during the war. Why was Bullard promoted to command the new American 2nd Army if there were any doubts about his abilities? Readers can decide if Walker uses tabloid “facts” or has discovered an intriguing true story.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Library Journal: “… nicely balanced with the stories of individual participants….”

Knoxville News Sentinel: “Well-written, … lavishly illustrated … gripping … compelling….”

Walking the Western Front: The Somme 1916, The First of July

Walking the Western Front: The Somme 1916, The First of JulyWalking the Western Front: The Somme in Pictures by Ed Skelding
ISBN: 1781592020
Published by Pen & Sword Books on September 19, 2016
Genres: Battlefield Guide
Pages: 208

This book is a companion to the BBC DVD series Walking the Western Front. It includes 150 prints in color and black and white taken during multiple filming trips to the Somme. Historical photos taken 100 years ago are accompanied by shots in the exact same spot today. Many of the modern photos are beautiful, in sharp contrast to the carnage and destruction that occurred in these locations. The captions and narrative accompanying the images is well written and includes interesting historical stories.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Ancestor’s Footsteps: The Somme 1916

Ancestor’s Footsteps: The Somme 1916Ancestor S Footsteps: The Somme 1916 by Andrew Rawson
ISBN: 1473864208
Published by Pen & Sword Books on July 31, 2016
Genres: Battlefield Guide

The publisher explains that the purpose of this book is to answer “questions asked by visitors to the Somme; where did my ancestor fight?” It uses battle accounts with modern notations on historical trench maps, intended to help the reader locate individual units. The index has an impressive list of military units, but it may not be easy for someone standing on the battlefield today to locate where their ancestor’s unit actually would have been 100 years ago looking at these historical b&w maps.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

A Visitor’s Guide – The First Day of the Somme: Gommecourt to Maricourt

A Visitor’s Guide – The First Day of the Somme: Gommecourt to MaricourtThe First Day of the Somme: Gommecourt to Maricourt, 1 July 1916 by Jon Cooksey, Jerry Murland
ISBN: 147382799X
Published by Pen & Sword Books on August 5, 2016
Genres: Battlefield Guide

This guidebook uses a different approach from the previous one above that covers Ypres, and it is much less effective and rather old fashioned. There are no color maps or color photos and the book is not as well organized. For example, the modern map of Serre shows twelve numbered locations, but these appear over the next 28 pages and are not easy to follow. There are many historical photos, including several of the soldiers who fought there with brief descriptions of what these men did.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Understanding the Ypres Salient: An Illuminating Battlefield Guide

Understanding the Ypres Salient: An Illuminating Battlefield GuideUnderstanding the Ypres Salient: An Illuminating Battlefield Guide by Thomas Scotland, Steve Heys
ISBN: 1911512501
Published by Helion & Company on June 19, 2017
Genres: Battlefield Guide
Pages: 291

This is a well-organized and lavishly illustrated guidebook that identifies dozens of key locations around the town of Ypres in Belgium. Three major battles were fought there, in 1914, 1915, and 1917, resulting in massive casualties but moving the frontline at most a few miles. There are dozens of color historical maps and color modern photos with key locations noted on the photos. These are interspersed with the text and are easy to follow. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Zeppelins Over the Midlands

Zeppelins Over the MidlandsZeppelins Over the Midlands: The Air Raids of 31st January 1916 by Mick Powis
ISBN: 1473834198
Published by Pen & Sword Books on April 14, 2017
Genres: Aviation
Pages: 224

The author’s approach is to make the single massive nine-airship raid of 31 January 1916 the center of a broader history by following the crews, their airships, and the targeted cities and towns through the war and beyond. The author’s grandmother and mother narrowly survived this raid, prompting Powis to devote years of research to this book. His appendix listing those killed is probably the first time that all their names have been published in one place.

Mick Powis’s meticulous work and unique insights are impressive to a reviewer who has studied the Zeppelin raids for almost 25 years. For example, his study of the pattern of bomb strikes shows conclusively that Zeppelins did hover to drop their bombs if weather and a lack of antiaircraft guns allowed it. He created maps from multiple sources that showed the path of each of the nine Zeppelins, often correcting errors in Britain’s official history, The War in the Air. Unfortunately, the maps as printed almost require a magnifying glass to read the town names, a minor annoyance in an otherwise excellent book.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA

Vintage Aviation Series

by Claude Sykes, Louis Arbon Strange, Rudolph Stark
Genres: Aviation

Casemate is republishing a number of classic pilot autobiographies and histories from World War One. These include works by James McCudden, Charles Biddle, Rudolf Stark, L.A. Strange, and others. Most of these books were originally published in the 1930s and several times since, but are now out of print. While these reasonably priced hardcover books are reprints of the originals, they are not facsimiles, so the type is clear and very readable.

Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA

Brief descriptions of the five books available to this reviewer follow:

Recollections of an Airman
By Lt-Col Louis Arbon Strange
224 pages, 19 photos, first published 1933

L.A. Strange was one of the original Royal Flying Corps pilots to fly to France in August 1914 and served in various capacities through the end of the war. In addition to flying reconnaissance, bombing, and fighter missions, he served in various leadership roles in RFC training schools, ending the war back in France as a Royal Air Force Wing Commander. His varied career makes this an important source for first-hand information on the RFC and RAF.

Wings of War
By Rudolph Stark
200 pages, 14 illustrations, first published 1932

Leutnant Rudolf Stark flew in Jadgstaffel 34 and commanded Jadgstaffel 35 in the last year of the war. His autobiography provides a thoughtful look at the decline of Germany, its military, and its air force in the last half of 1918. Stark was also a very good painter and his vivid paintings of aerial combat provide most of the b&w illustrations.

Fighter Pilot
By “McScotch” (William MacLanachan)
236 pages, 15 photos, first published 1936

This is a well-written description of MacLanachan’s transition from fighter pilot neophyte to expert and gives the reader a good feel for life at the front in a British squadron. It is also noteworthy in that it thoroughly describes the famous ace “Mick” Mannock during the seven months that the two flew together. The book’s clarity is enhanced by the inclusion of a map of the front during the time the author was flying there.

The Way of the Eagle
By Major Charles J. Biddle
346 pages, 21 photos, first published 1919

Charles Biddle first flew with the French Lafayette Flying Corps in summer 1917 as part of Escadrille N.73, one of the fighter squadrons in the elite “Storks” group. After the U.S. entered the conflict, he flew in the 103rd Aero Squadron and later commanded the 13th Aero and the 4th Pursuit Group, U.S. Air Service. His autobiography consists of his letters home during the war, sometimes supplemented by information he could not write originally due to censorship.

German War Birds
By “Vigilant” (Claude Sykes)
245 pages, 24 photos, first published 1931

This classic is greatly enhanced with an introduction the exceptional British historian Norman Franks, who puts this work into historical context—one of the first exposures of the English-speaking public to information about individual German and Austrian aviators. Claude Sykes’ wide-ranging book goes beyond fighter aces of the Western Front to include reconnaissance, bomber, airship, and even kite balloon aviators in Galicia, Salonika, the Middle East, and the Far East.

There are seven other books in this Vintage Aviation Series:

King of Air Fighters: The Biography of Major “Mick” Mannock, VC, DSO, MC, by Ira Jones

Immelmann: The Eagle of Lille, by Frantz Immelmann

Flying Fury: Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps, by Major James T.B. McCudden

Knight of Germany: Oswald Boelcke, German Ace, by Johannes Werner

An Air Fighter’s Scrapbook, collection of experiences by British pilot Ira “Taffy” Jones

Jagdstaffel 356: The Story of a German Fighter Squadron, by M.E. Kähnert

Night Raiders of the Air, by British bomber pilot A.R. Kingsford