suggestions on books - Re:starting of WW2

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Paul Bartlet, Jul 15, 2004.

  1. Paul Bartlet

    Paul Bartlet Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2000
    Messages:
    88
    Likes Received:
    0
    Could anyone recommend a few books on World War 2. I have been viewing a number of shows on History channel, and just finished seeing "Hitler - Rise of Evil". A book that would kinda take over from where that movie left off would be great.
    Who did Hitler declare war on first, what did he tell the people of Germany why they were going to war.

    I'm embarrassed to say, but I'm really lacking in the history dept..
    I want to learn more about it, funny in school I hated History, now I can't get enough. Only now at the age of 36 do I understand the importance of History.

    I realize that this is a large scope of time and events, perhaps there is set of books that cover it better.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2001
    Messages:
    7,270
    Likes Received:
    1
    Fascinating stuff isn't it? There's no shortage of books or movies on this topic and the local library is a great resource. Try "Rise & Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer. For a spectacularly well done and acted movie, HBO's "Conspiracy" is not to be missed as it clinically and chillingly discusses the plans for The Final Solution.
     
  3. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12
    It is very easy in studying WWII to concentrate too much on Hitler and the Nazis, thereby missing the bigger picture.

    (1) You need to know what led to the Nazis taking power - they didn't appear out of a vacuum. A large part of the problem was that Germany was crippled by financial reparations after WWI, and blame for this largely rests on the vindictiveness of the French, to a lesser extent on the Americans, and to a Britain too weakened or blase to stop them making ludicrous demands of Germany that were certain to ferment unrest and a desire for revenge. You don't need to read in detail of WWI (but if you want to, Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War is an excellent read), but you need a decent overview. Try the relevant sections of Martin Gilbert's History of the Twentieth Century.

    (2) Similarly, you need to know what was going on in the rest of the world, particularly Japan, and why it turned from an essentially civilised but insular country to a military state. Did you know that Japan was praised for its treatment of prisoners in WWI (indeed, many of them elected to stay in Japan after the war, they liked it so much)? How did it move from this to the Rape of Nanking and the hell of the WWII POW camps? Start with a general history (Gilbert again is recommended) and follow up the bibliography.

    (3) If you want to know about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in more detail, then start with Bullock's 'Hitler: A Study in Tyranny'. This is a bulky book, but very readable. Then move from that to Ian Kershaw's two-volume biography of Hitler (IMHO not very hot on military details, but brilliant at dissecting Hitler's mind and the everyday workings of evil).

    (4) If all that reading sounds too much, then the early episodes of the TV series The World at War (available on DVD in R1) will give you a large amount of the key information. [The only criticism of the series is that it was made before the full details of 'Ultra' (i.e. code-breaking of Enigma) were known. The result is that at times there is a little too much attribution of luck or brilliant strategic planning to Allied successes, whereas the real reason was that the German plans were known in advance. However, it is easy to overplay Ultra's importance. The highest-ranking German codes were never broken (Enigma was for relatively routine secure traffic), and a lot of the intelligence that was gathered was usually available from other sources as well]. If you want something more specific on the rise of the Nazi party and Hitler, then try 'The Nazis: A Warning From History' (available in book form and has just been released on DVD in R2; don't know about R1).
     
  4. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 1997
    Messages:
    19,357
    Likes Received:
    293
    Real Name:
    Cees Alons
    Excellent post, Andrew.

    A sidenote to Japan's involvement: they initially also had the sympathy of many Eastern countries, because effectively they fought the Western colonial empires, driving them out of those countries.


    History is written by survivors/winners. See the image we have of Good King Richard III.


    Cees
     
  5. Craig

    Craig Second Unit

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 1999
    Messages:
    467
    Likes Received:
    0
    For the war in the Pacific:

    The Rising Sun - John Toland An excellent general overview the Pacific war, and of the events leading up to the war, and very readable.

    At Dawn We Slept - Gordon Prange - Very detailed study of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and the personalities involved. An almost a minute by minute account of what was happening during the attack on Pearl from both the U.S. and Japanese side, as well as the political aftermath of the attack.

    And I Was There - Edwin Layton - Essential reading. Layton was the Fleet Intelligence Officer for Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor and was kept on by Kimmel's replacment, Admiral Nimitz. The book covers both Pearl Harbor and Midway. A lot of details about intelligence activity before the war. Layton spills the beans on the bureaucratic infighting at the upper levels of Washington, about military officers who were either incompetent or more concerned about advancing their careers and protecting their turf than protecting the nation.
     
  6. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 1998
    Messages:
    8,937
    Likes Received:
    347
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Real Name:
    Dennis
    And another background to the European war is contained in Winston Churchill's first volume of his six-volume set, the volume entitled The Gathering Storm. This is probably the most personal and contemplative book in his series. The entire work is brilliant, although exemplary of the "history written by the victor" genre.

    Andrew, I'm not sure I would recommend Martin Gilbert to a novice. I've read most of his Churchill bio. and am currently working through his history of Israel. The man is thorough and scholarly, but somewhat boring. Actually William Manchester's second volume of his Churchill bio. entitled "Alone" - a spectacular book that reads like a thriller - could be a useful background to the pre-WWII story.
     
  7. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12

    For most of Gilbert's output, I'd agree 100%, but his general history is pretty readable. However, having posted, I did realise that it's a three volume set, so a more compact version might be a good idea. I'd say that practically any competent general world history book that's aimed at first year university students is likely to be readable and reasonably scholarly. The one caveat I'd make is to ensure that it really is *world* history, and not Europe and North America with a token nod towards 'the far east'.

    Oh yes, and I'd endorse 'The Gathering Storm' as well. If you want a quick(ish) overview of Churchill's life from a different perspective, try the recent biography by Roy Jenkins. Jenkins was (he died v. recently) a politician considerably to the left of Churchill, but he knew him and it's clear respected him enormously. However, he is also good at identifying the limits of Churchill's skills and I think gives a very balanced view. At least I think it's a balanced view, but it's nigh-on impossible for Brits to have a rational view of Churchill - he's either the one person who rescued world civilisation (for all his faults, I tend to agree with this, though credit to Roosevelt as well) or a warmongerer who got lucky.

    I should perhaps have also added that as soon as you get past the basic facts, practically any event in history is open to different interpretations. This is either confusing or fascinating, depending upon your viewpoint. However, what it does sometimes do to scientists is to make them realise that arts subjects aren't necessarily the easy option they first appear. There's a lot more to history than just memorising facts and dates.
     
  8. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2002
    Messages:
    6,531
    Likes Received:
    15


    Yeah, cause us science types never have differing interpretations of scenarios presented to us. We're all just boring numbers crunchers with no creativity, no thinking and no "art" whatsoever in our systems[​IMG] .

    My father, a student of fine art (graduated Vesper George 1954) and a commercial artist for almost 50 years, once said in the 80's that "computer scientists are this generation's bohemians. The wild, elegant, half mad world you (meaning me) live in reminds me of my days studying and producing art. There is as much creativity in what you do as any painting I've ever done".

    Sorry to hijack the thread, but all scientists are not arts ignorant. To get it back on topic, I second the Kershaw Hitler bio and Shirer's "Rise and Fall". Shirer's book can be quite dated (it was written in the 50's) but even with updates it gives a fascinating look at what interpretations were without the benefit (or detriment) of decades to color the view.
     
  9. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12

    Jeff, I didn't say they were. Sorry, I should have phrased my comments differently. What I was trying to say is that I can think of several scientists I've known who preened themselves on how 'difficult' their subject was who were pulled up short when they realised how much work goes into 'proper' historical research. Whereas pretty much all science is difficult even when you're just reading a gloss of it, the superficial levels of history appear very easy and if that's your only exposure to it, then you can get a simplistic view.

    However, I was referring to just *some* scientists, not all of them.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Samuel Elliot Morrison’s Two Ocean War is a very fine account of the navel portion of the war (from a US perspective).
     
  11. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 1998
    Messages:
    8,937
    Likes Received:
    347
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Real Name:
    Dennis
    The most important thing you should come away with from your study of pre-WWII is how utterly unnecessary the whole thing was. Had the WWI allies shown any resolution at all in any number of cases, WWII wouldn't have happened. One of my most poignant items in my collection is a Czech VZ-24 dated 1938. It's a very fine rifle, and about 1 million were in the hands of the Czech army. Had the British and the French backed the Czechs that year, even if war had broken out the Nazis would have quickly lost when attacked by the Czechs in the East and the Brits/French in the West.
     
  12. Michael Warner

    Michael Warner Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 1999
    Messages:
    737
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you're interested in reading a very controversial classic about the origins of the war in Europe check out A.J.P. Taylor's "The Origins of the Second World War." Many historians consider it a piece of rubbish (see "The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered" by Gordon Martel) but the book raises some serious questions as to why the democratic nations of Europe never stepped in to crush Nazism back before Germany had amassed any real power or influence. I certainly don't agree with all of Taylor's arguments but it was the first WWII book I ever read that was willing to look at things from a new perspective.
     
  13. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2000
    Messages:
    1,317
    Likes Received:
    60
    Real Name:
    Rob
    I just ordered a book called They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-35 by Milton Mayer. It looks into the disturbing psychology of why Hitler was so popular and why ordinary Germans went along with the lawful roll-back of their civil rights until the country quickly devolved into totalitarianism.

    Rob
     
  14. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 1999
    Messages:
    3,756
    Likes Received:
    1
    I vaguely remember a qoute something like "he who ignores history is doomed to repeat it."

    I'm sure someone here can elaborate.
     
  15. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 1998
    Messages:
    8,937
    Likes Received:
    347
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Real Name:
    Dennis
    "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it." - philosopher George Santayana, as quoted on the flyleaf of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
     
  16. Cary_H

    Cary_H Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2003
    Messages:
    280
    Likes Received:
    0
    A bit off the subject, but I have read more than a couple of accounts around the breaking of the German codes since the events were made unclassified; and one prior that broke the events out into the open.
    The Poles were initially responsible for getting the whole ball rolling. They had been real active for some time working on cracking German code.
    One of the big hurdles for the codebreakers once they were able to make some sense from intercepted traffic was the huge manpower required to go over the enormous amounts of traffic they were receiving continuously, and making sense of the good bits in a timely enough fashion to have it be of some use. The Brits were extremely careful around how they acted upon the information they got in order to avoid any chance of tipping off the Germans to their code being compromised.
    What also helped the Allied cause was continued German belief that their code was secure. More than one German operator became complacent at times aiding the codebreakers efforts when they were stuggling to determine new wheel settings after a change. There were always stretches where the codebreakers were in the dark after the Germans introduced changes to their machines or wheel settings.
    There were also some long, continuous periods of time where the codebreakers enjoyed full access to just about every bit of U-boat radio traffic from Berlin. The biggest single factor for successfully countering the U-boat threat.
    The same goes for the success of Montgomery's Desert Rats against Rommel in North Africa. Virtually none of Rommel's radio traffic escaped Allied ears after they had gained access. His fate at El Alamein was a direct result of Montgomery being made privy to his communications.
    The latter examples are just two of a fair number of events that went in favour of the Allies due to reading German code.
    They had knowledge of things from Hitler having fallen for their ruse to lead him away from believing Normandy was the target of the D-Day invasion, right down to things like a frontline troop getting a Dear Franz letter from home.
     
  17. Paul Bartlet

    Paul Bartlet Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2000
    Messages:
    88
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you all for the suggestions, I will be visiting my local book store shortly.
    While I did request books, I'm very open of course to movies/documentaries as well.
    Funny how I had forgotten just seeing "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" with Tom Selleck a month or so back. In fact, I watched it twice the same night. A&E showing it back to back, I found myself having to stay up for the second viewing.
    CNN did an hour or 2 show on D-Day, again, I found myself not able to turn away. I just had to see it.

    This is something I only understand now. My Dad (gone 9 years now), was a human computer when it came to WW2. Knew dates of events dealing with WW2 as well as his kids birthdays. First movie he took me to was "A Bridge to Far", I was about 10-11, (of course I was there for the company). Only mention this to say how involved he was in the subject. I would often wonder why he was so involved in this subject, today at my age, I think I understand.

    Again, thanks for your suggestions. I do believe I may find a number of books mentioned in my Dads collection.
    Also, a movie can pack a lot of information into 2 hours, so please suggest them too.
     
  18. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 1999
    Messages:
    1,609
    Likes Received:
    0
    There is also some good fiction revolving around WWII that gives other perspectives.

    I enjoyed Leon Uris' "Armeggedon" (end of European conflict and the division of Berlin - gives a lot of insight into the German collective that allowed the rise of Hitler) and "Battle Cry" (Pacific theater),
     
  19. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    8,311
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Joseph DeMartino
    For the military side of the war in all theaters it is hard to imagine a better one-volume history than John Keegan's The Second World War. Keegan may be the best military historian of his generation and all of his books are well worth reading. (In fact, I would start with his excellent one volume study of The First World War because it is impossible to understand the second war and its origins without understanding the first. Studying the inter-wars period really isn't enough. Churchill was right when he called the two wars together "a new Thirty Years War" with an intermission of 20 years between its two acts.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  20. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2001
    Messages:
    7,270
    Likes Received:
    1
    HBO's conspiracy is available in both VHS and DVD, starring Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci. It's a retelling of the the sole surviving minutes if you will of a meeting at Wannasee.

    If the world had stopped Hitler, would we have stopped Stalin?
     

Share This Page