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

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

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

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 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

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: 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

Soldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great War

Soldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great WarSoldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great War by Martin Pegler
ISBN: 9781472804150
Published by Osprey Publishing on August 20th 2014
Genres: History, Military, General, World War I, Europe, Great Britain, Technology & Engineering, Military Science, Social History
Pages: 408