Monday, March 21, 2011
List #7: Witness to the End...
I recently became obsessed about the end of wars. It started, not intentionally, with the book, Bloody Crimes about the last days of the Civil War. I can't imagine what the country went through to heal and come together. Lincoln was assassinated and Jefferson Davis was trying to evade capture to keep the Confederate cause alive, even after General Lee surrender. It’s unlikely the country will ever endure such a period of turbulence again. I began to wonder how people behave at the end of wars, at the end of causes. Why do some fight to the end, even when it's hopeless. What’s left for the living? How do the victors conduct themselves and how do the defeated return to society? In putting together this list, I found my interest goes all the way back to my junior high years when I was fascinated by WWII. The book Hitler: The Last Ten Days was my earliest purchase. The rest came in the last several years--mostly World War II.
1. Aftermath: The Remnants of War: From Landmines to Chemical Warfare--The Devastating Effects of Modern Combat, Donovan Webster (1996). Battlefields from WWI to Vietnam and nuclear test sites in the American west. Bought new.
2. Aftermath: Travels in a Post-War World, Farley Mowat (1997). Bought used, previously sold at a discount at the BYU bookstore dated April 20, 2001. The one on the list I still have to read. Farley Mowat will appear in other lists about sailing, the far north and memoirs of WWII.
3. After The War (Motta Photography Series) Werner Bischof (1995). Bought new. Poignant black and white photos of the Europe at the end of WWII. Often lone figures making their way through apocalyptic landscapes.
4. The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape, Brian Ladd (1997). Used bookstore purchase, BJ’s Books, Warrenton, VA.
5. Battleground Berlin: Diaries, 1945-1948, Ruth Adreas Friedrich (1990). Warrenton Library Used book sale. Diary of a Berlin woman--one of several books I’ve started.
6. Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I, Stephen O’Shea (1996). Bought new. Learned that France has a full time Department that does nothing but collect unexploded ordinance from the countryside. Finding a shell for a farmer is so common they pile them by fence posts for pick up.
7. Battlescapes: A Photographic Testament to 2000 years of Conflict, Alfred Bullensback (2009). Beautiful coffee table book.
8. Endgame, 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of WWII, David Stafford (2009). Kindle edition. Stories of soldiers, civilians and aid workers during the last ten days of the war. Amazing stories of survival and human responses to the end of the a horrible ordeal. Reading now.
9. Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse, James Swanson (2010). Bought new. See above. Started my current tear on this topic. Parallel stories of Lincoln’s funeral train and the manhunt for Jefferson Davis make it one of the most fascinating chapters in American history.
10. Scenes from the End : The Last Days of WWII in Europe, Frank Manuel (2000). Bought new. More black and photos.
11. The Last 100 Days, John Toland (1965). Purchased at a used book fair. Germany fighting on two shrinking fronts--Soviets to the east, America, Great Britain and Allies to the West. Compressed down to one final sliver.
12. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII, John Dower (1999). Little known story about the occupation of Japan immediately following the end of the war. Startling from the standpoint that American forces were preparing for an all out war on the main islands of Japan that was expected to be a fight to the death of every man, woman and child. Bought used.
13. Hitler: The Last Ten Days: An Eyewitness Account, Gerhard Boldt (1974). Read in the seventh grade. A period of fascination with WWII.
14. Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45, Max Hatings (2007). Same author as Armageddon. Hastings brings history and the end of an epic struggle to life building in personal stories of the foot soldiers and sailors.
15. The Last Battle, Cornelius Ryan (1966). A used book store find. The Soviets had arrayed an immense army against a last stand of German fanatics, boys and old men.
16. Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945, Max Hastings (2010). See Retribution. Another Kindle read. I marked it liberally. A series of heroic or tragic acts--one after the next. So many that I liberally marked numerous passages.
17. The Other Nuremberg, Arnold Brackman (1989). Read as a library book (not in keeping with my bookshelf criteria) but mention here as the book deserves mention. The Japanese war crimes trials, often overlooked. Noticed that it seems to be scarce. Going for $150 on Amazon.