This is not only a good book, it’s an important book. Streckfuss argues convincingly that the least-studied segment of WW1 aviation, aerial reconnaissance, was also the most important. The landplanes, seaplanes, and captive balloons devoted to observation turned artillery into a dominant force on the battlefield by extending its range and accuracy to an extent unimaginable in past wars.
Aerial photography conducted by planes and balloons became the most important intelligence source by far for battlefield commanders at all levels. For the first time in history, commanders did not have to wonder what was over the next hill—weather permitting, they had photographs and photo-based maps, some of which were only hours old.
Despite its critical role, aerial reconnaissance aircraft ended up taking a back seat to the fighters and bombers then and since. The mystique of the fighter pilot is well known, but the offensive “air power” of bombers between the wars eclipsed everything.
This well-researched history belongs on the shelf of anyone with a serious interest in the air war or the ground war of 1914-1918.
Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA
Peter Kilduff is recognized as an authority on WW1 aviation and the Red Baron (Manfred von Richthofen) in particular. As an expert on German records, Kilduff describes what the German records say and don’t say regarding each of Bishop’s 72 aerial victories.
The German aviation records are incomplete due to WW2 aerial bombing, others were lost or didn’t make it into WW1 records, and some are too vague for verifying particular aerial combats.
It quickly becomes clear, however, that no conclusions about the veracity of a victory claim by Bishop or anyone else is possible simply because of a lack of German records regarding that event. This is not a hagiography, however. Kilduff points out that Bishop “inflated” the drama of his combats in his private letters home and “embellished” his stories in later years.
Billy Bishop VC contains all of the qualities that have made Peter Kilduff’s biographies such outstanding works. This is an indispensable work for anyone seeking to understand Billy Bishop’s story.
American born Lambert apparently went to Canada in late 1915 and tried to enlist, but instead became a chemist making explosives in a factory. Before the U.S. declared war, Lambert sought to join the British Royal Flying Corps that was recruiting in Toronto. He was accepted in June 1917 and received only four rather than the standard six to eight weeks of basic training. Wilson speculates that it was shortened due to the heavy losses suffered by the RFC during “Bloody April” of 1917. Surprisingly, he was sent home to Ohio for a brief visit before being sent overseas.
Lambert flew old Avros and the single-seat Sopwith Pup (“one of the nicest machines that any pilot could want”). He disliked the Sopwith Camel, and enjoyed the SPAD although “it would fall like a brick.” Lambert scored his 22 aerial kills flying the S.E.5a in No. 24 Squadron starting in March 1918. A nervous breakdown in August ended his WW1 career.
Wilson’s book is well written, entertaining, and covers Lambert’s post-WW1 experiences without ignoring his caustic personality. Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI
Soldiers’ Song and Slang of the Great War is an update and enlargement of a book first published in 1931. The current book includes phrases that were deemed inappropriate in earlier editions. The slang is both mystifying and well known. For example, a “goo wallah” is the sanitary man. Other items such as a “flapper’s delight” for a young officer are self-explanatory even now.
The songs lack any musical notations and only the lyrics are printed. Many use melodies set to well-known tunes—those by Gilbert and Sullivan seem to be popular as are folk melodies from the British countryside. The lyrics are commentaries on life at the front, the memories of home, and patriotic themes. By war’s end parodies are widespread. Songs from America and France are included, even “Adieu la Vie” (Chanson of Craonne) which was banned in France until 1974. The English translation is buried in the appendix, but is worth finding. The song is an indictment by the soldiers in the field of their treatment by the French army and government.
The Home Front in the Great War covers the British home front and the Hull area in detail. There is a chronological section at the beginning that provides an overview of events back in “Blighty,” followed by short essays on the efforts by groups from the Royals to the YMCA to support of the war effort. The report on the Boy Scouts is especially laudatory.
Both books use a good variety of images and are entertaining to read. Unfortunately, neither book has an index, making it almost impossible to use them for reference purposes.
Len's Summary: A candidate for the 2004 WFA Annual Book Award in which the author finds the seeds of WWII Nazi occupation policies in Belgium of 1914-1918. Covers the same ground as the award-winning A History of Denial (Yale University Press), but is less scholarly in approach and is more readable narrative. Lacks maps.
Len's Summary: Consists mainly of translations of German planning documents upon which Zuber's book Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914 (Oxford, 2003) and related articles are based. The author, a retired American army officer, asserts the controversial and much contested thesis that the Schlieffen Plan never really existed.
Len's Summary: Some 16 thousand women served overseas with the AEF. Some joined for patriotic reasons, others for economic motives, to search for adventure or challenge gender boundaries. A useful addition; to the study of womens' roles in The Great War.
A Question of Loyalty: General Billy Michell and The Court Martial that Gripped the Nation by Douglas C. Waller ISBN: 0060505478 Published byHarper on September 7th 2004 Genres:Law, United States Pages: 448
Len's Summary: The story of the seven-week 1925 trial of WWI Army General William Mitchell, American aviation pioneer. Available from the History Book Club. This story was made into an excellent and largely historically accurate 1955 Republic motion picture starring Gary Cooper, and directed by Otto Preminger based on the book by Burke Davis. In their December 2004 issue the editors of American Heritage picked this movie as one of the 10 greatest historical films. For an excellent recent biography see Billy Mitchell by James J. Cooke published by Lynne Rienner in 2002.
Len's Summary: Key sections from Strachan's history To War revised and reprinted as individual essays on the gold standard, financial mobilization, budgets of the belligerents, taxation, domestic and foreign borrowing. First in a series of individual paperbacks be excerpted from Strachan's award-winning trilogy on The Great War still in progress. The author is a member of the panel which selects the winner of WFA's Annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. Book Award.
Len's Summary: A distillation of Strachan's (pronounced Strawn) of massive three-volume history of the War, which is still in progress. Remarkable for the contemporary color photos (not tints) found in the center section of the US edition. Dr. Strachan is a member of the WFA's annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. book award panel.
Len's Summary: A survey history which breaks no new ground, but rather is a recapitulation of the last 20 years of scholarship. Published in the UK under the title 1914-1918: The History of the First World War, Allen Land, 729 pages, index, illustrations, ISBN 0 713 99208 5, £25 boards from Amazon.co.uk.
Len's Summary: Fifteen contributors examine the vast material legacy and constantly evolving significance of WWI from trench art to post cards, unexploded ordnance to prosthetic limbs. Saunders wrote a 2002 book on Trench Art for Pen & Sword in the UK.
Len's Summary: The story of an American nurse with the AEF in France written by her niece. Based largely on Helen Fairchild's letters home written before her tragic death from a liver infection in January 1918. Available from Nelle Fairchild at email@example.com.
Len's Summary: Examines how the BEF learned from early mistakes to fight effectively through to victory in 1918; the development of modern combined arms doctrine that broke the trench stalemate and has dominated all wars thereafter.
Len's Summary: Presents a cautionary tale of a typical inexperienced and under trained AEF division, the 35th Missouri-Kansas National Guard. // Analysis of the 35th Division collapse in the Meuse-Argonne that spotlights the steep learning curve faced by AEF commanders and soldiers in 1917 and 1918. Ferrell faults Major General Robert E. Traub, the divisional commander, for insensitivity to the tactical situation in fighting in the Argonne around Felville and Varennes, territory familiar to participants in recent WFA-USA tours. Divisional artillery commander Brigadier General Lucien D. Berry also comes in for criticism for failure to comprehend his guns role in infantry support. It was divisional engineer Colonel Thomas C. Clark who saved the day and prevented retreat from turning into rout. Other brigade, regimental, battalion commanders performed adequately; some preformed brilliantly before the Division was withdrawn from the line on September 30, 1918.
Len's Summary: An analysis of German strategy, tactics, and leadership as well as that leadership's limited ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Reviewed in the January 2005 edition of Stand To!
Len's Summary: The true story of a French soldier who survives the war with permanent loss of memory and who is never identified. Recommended by WFA Director-emeritus Norman B. Tomlinson., Jr. Reminiscent of Japrisco's novel A Very Long Engagement.
Len's Summary: An analysis of the impact of the war on Portugal which -- despite being gripped with political and economic chaos -- entered the conflict on the side of the Entente and fought on several fronts.
Ambassador Shurtleff, a retired American Foreign Service officer who served as President of The World War One Historical Association and as a past President of The Western Front Association – U S Branch, passed away on January 22, 2014. The searchable version of Len’s Bookshelf was created and will be maintained in his honor.