Although originally written almost forty years ago, this book remains an important work on a controversial figure. Roskill was sympathetic to his subject, but does not shy away from the less attractive aspects of Beatty’s personality. A balanced portrait of a man who served successively as commander of the British battlecruisers, then as commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet, and after the war became a successful First Sea Lord.
Although strictly speaking not a book about naval history, the group that deciphered the Zimmermann Telegram was the Royal Navy’s Room 40OB, so I think it is only just to include it with the naval titles. This major reexamination by an expert on military intelligence investigates how the infamous telegram was intercepted, deciphered, and exploited. It reaches very different conclusions from earlier studies (including Tuchman’s The Zimmermann Telegram). A thought-provoking and well-written book.
I include this title with some reluctance, as I contributed some of the text and prepared the book for publication after the death of my friend, Bill Schleihauf. Nevertheless, I think it rates as an important work on the battle. The core of this book is a secret appreciation of the battle, written after the war by a pair of Royal Navy officers and suppressed because of its extreme criticism of Admiral Jellicoe. Despite its suppression, it has been used by a number subsequent historians (including Arthur J. Marder) and so has played an important part in the historiography of the battle. The notes added by Schleihauf and McLaughlin supplement the original text and point out its errors, and a collection of valuable documents is appended.
FULL DISCLOSURE: As noted above, I added some text and prepared the manuscript for publication, so I am not an unbiased reviewer!
Written by the grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, who commanded the British Grand Fleet at Jutland, this is a fresh examination of the battle and its aftermath, offering many new perspectives on both the British and German sides of the battle, and on the bitter controversies that have surrounded it since the moment the battered ships returned to harbor.
This anthology, originally published in Germany, includes articles by both British and German scholars. They offer fresh perspectives on the battle, especially from the German side. The translations of the articles originally written in German are not as readable as one might wish, but the collection is nevertheless a valuable contribution to our understanding of the battle.
A remarkable work of scholarship; Brooks went back to the original reports submitted by the British commanders—Jellicoe, Beatty, and all their subordinates, as well as communications logs, gunnery logs, and other supplemental materials. The result is a detailed examination of the battle that strips away a hundred years of claims and counter-claims and provides a detailed, minute-by-minute account of the battle. Along the way Brooks offers many fresh insights into the actions of the British naval leadership. One warning: This is not a book for casual reading—to extract its full value the reader must pay close attention!
A reassessment of Churchill’s role in the conception, planning and execution of the Dardanelles fiasco, as well as an examination of the subsequent inquiry and the long-standing controversy over the operation. Bell previously wrote Churchill and Sea Power, and is an expert on the great man’s relationship with the Royal Navy. His account draws on a mass of archival material, and provides a more nuanced view of the people and politics that contributed to the decision-making process.
An important collection of 153 documents from the British and German archives, edited and annotated by a pair of recognized experts on the naval history of the era—Seligmann for the British side and Epkenhans for the German. The commentary by the editors is excellent, and the book is produced to the usual high standards of the venerable Navy Records Society.
Another innovative way to look at the First World War at sea, this book has separate chapters on the navies of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the United States. The navies of Japan and the Ottoman Empire receive more limited coverage in a single chapter. Each chapter is written by an expert on the navy it covers. For each of the major navies, there are detailed descriptions under various headings, e.g., “Backstory” (outlining the navy’s pre-1914 history), “Organization” (with subheadings for Command Structure, Fleet Organization and Order of Battle, Communications, and Intelligence), “Infrastructure, Logistics, and Commerce,” “Personnel,” etc. Other sections cover doctrine, ships, aviation and weapons, as well as “War Experience and Evolution.” The result is a unique portrait of each navy that highlights its strengths and weaknesses.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I contributed the chapter on the Russian Imperial Navy.
This innovative book looks at every single surface action involving ships of over 100 tons displacement—that is, it excludes only the smallest of patrol craft. The coverage is comprehensive, and is broken down by year, and then by theater. Each entry includes a listing of the ships involved, the commanding officer on each side, the weather conditions, the missions the two sides were engaged in when the action took place, and a succinct description of the action. Not to be overlooked are the excellent strategic overviews that begin each major section, and the analysis in the final chapter. There are superb charts throughout, specially drawn by O’Hara.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I helped the authors research the actions involving the Russian Navy.
In 5 volumes: vol. I: The Road to War, 1904-1914; vol. II: The War Years to the Eve of Jutland; vol. III: Jutland and After (May 1916-December 1916) (second edition, revised and enlarged); vol. IV: 1917, Year of Crisis; vol. V: Victory and Aftermath, January 1918–June 1919. London: Oxford University Press, 1961, 1978; a paperback edition, with introductions to each volume by Barry Gough, was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2014.
Long the standard work on the topic, Marder’s volumes have in recent years been subjected to some criticism; yet the work still stands as a monumental contribution to the field, and no reader interested in the history of the Great War at sea can ignore it. The recent reissue in paperback makes it possible to obtain at a reasonable price what had become a rare set.
This work is still regarded as the gold standard for overall histories of the First World War at sea. It covers every theater of the war, and the author consulted not only English-language sources but made extensive use of French and German documents and publications as well. Originally published as a hardback, it has been reissued several times in paperback.
A mammoth and well-illustrated work by an expert in naval affairs and a prolific author. This book delves into the details of the war, with chapters on (for example), “Blockade, Trade Warfare and Economic Attack,” “The Chessboard—Naval Geography,” “Fleets in Battle,” “Inshore Operations and an Inshore Fleet,” etc.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….”
The 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 byBloomsbury 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
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/
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
A Message from the WW1HA President:
14 March 2022
On Saturday March 12 the WW1HA hosted its first ever online quiz night. This was a fun way to get geographically distant members together virtually. We are considering doing this a few times a year.
The next issue of World War One Illustrated (WWOI) will be printed shortly. Members/subscribers should receive their printed issue in the next month or so.
Members are encouraged to participate in the monthly online seminars hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter; and we plan to announce a gathering of WW1HA members at the National World War I Museum’s Fall 2022 symposium. Stay tuned!
Do you have a special interest or knowledge regarding a WW1 topic? Consider sharing your knowledge by writing an article for WWOI or a shorter blog post (500 – 1,000 words) for the WW1HA Facebook page. Talk to Editor Ed Klekowski (email@example.com) or Charles Van Way (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details.
Finally, you can always reach out to me with your thoughts or questions.