Tag: World War II

One Farm Boy’s Experience Aboard USS Guadalcanal


Glenn Larson was a 19-year-old North Dakota farm boy when the United States entered World War II. He volunteered for the U.S. Navy in December 1942. He could have gotten an agricultural deferment, but wanted to serve. Later, he was aboard the USS Guadalcanal when it captured the U-505 German submarine.

“A World War Two Secret: Glenn P. Larson and the U-505” by Beverly Larson Christensen tells his story. Larson participated in the capture of the first enemy warship taken on the high seas by the U.S. Navy since the War of 1812.

Christensen gives a picture of her father growing up on the family farm. She recounts Larsen’s naval career when he joined up: boot camp in Idaho, training as an electrician, assignment to the Guadalcanal when not yet in commission, and how Larson became part of the submarine’s capture.

A GI View of the News


When World War II started newspapers and magazines were at a zenith in American culture. US military leaders, including George C. Marshall, decided the Army needed its own newspapers and magazines to inform troops. Surprisingly, they gave the GIs running the publications a remarkable freedom to report as they saw fit.

“The War of Words: How America’s GI Journalists Battled Censorship and Propaganda to Help Win World War II,” by Molly Guptill Manning, tells the story of the GI press in World War II. It shows they were a weapon leading to US victory as much as the tanks and artillery wielded by the GIs.

Manning makes Marshall the champion of the GI newspaper.  She also shows why. Marshall understood morale’s importance. He believed keeping GIs uninformed, with no place to gripe, contributed to low morale.  The book shows how and why Roosevelt supported Marshall. She shows how the Nazis harnessed propaganda to further their efforts. Marshall and Roosevelt believed a patriotic free press within the US military would counter that.

1939: Hinges of History


Clare Boothe Luce was one of the most famous women of 20th century America. Playwright (The Women), columnist, and political provocateur, she was married to Henry Luce, the biggest publisher and media baron of the Thirties and Forties. Try to picture a one-woman combination of Ann Coulter and Tulsi Gabbard, then imagine if that woman was married to Rupert Murdoch. The lady, in short, had clout, and was never shy about using it. She was many things in her long life; a Republican congresswoman, later an ambassador. Tart-tongued and always quotable, she said things like, “Remember, whenever a Republican leaves one side of the aisle and goes to the other, it raises the intelligence quotient of both parties.”

But no other remark had the public impact of her criticism of FDR, who was then widely revered: “He lied us into war, because he lacked the political courage to lead us into it.

Anatomy of a Failure


In 1918 the British Army was at a peak. In a hundred-day campaign, it shoved the German Army almost back to the German border – not through German exhaustion, but by outfighting and outmaneuvering them. By 1940, it abandoned World War I’s hard-earned lessons, deteriorating into the worst army of any major power.

“Victory to Defeat: The British Army 1918-40,” by Richard Dannatt and Robert Lyman traces this collapse, examining the reasons behind it.

The authors open describing how the 1918 British Army developed combined-arms tactics that peeled German defensive lines apart like rotted cardboard. Artillery, tanks, and aircraft played a role, but infantry armed with light machine guns and rifle grenades did the real work.

The Dambuster Raid In Detail


It has been 80 years since the Royal Air Force launched an airstrike against three dams in the German Ruhr. Flown at low level, it was one of the most daring, and successful, air raids of World War II

“Breaking the German Dams: A Minute-By-Minute Account of Operation Chastise, May 1943,” by Robert Owen, is the latest effort to document the raid. It may be the most successful.

Owen uses the perspective of time to produce what is probably the most comprehensive account of the Dambusters raid ever written.  This book covers all aspects of the raid, from its conception through its execution. It follows what happened to the participants – on both sides – after the raid was over.

Ernie Pyle in Europe


Ernie Pyle was the most beloved war correspondent of World War II. He covered the war from North Africa to Northern France in the European Theater before going to the Pacific to report on the Okinawa invasion.

“Brave Men,” originally published in 1944, is a classic collection of Pyle’s writings. It covers his activities from the invasion of Sicily in June 1943 through the liberation of Paris in September 1944. The book was made up of his newspaper columns. Some were updated to reflect changes since he wrote them, noting what happened to those he had written about.

In the book he lives in many different places: aboard an LST headed to Anzio, with engineers in Sicily, an infantry company and artillery unit in Italy, among the aircrews of a dive bomber unit, a light bomber unit, and medium bomber unit in Italy and England ordinance and antiaircraft units in France. He then told the story of the men (and occasional women) who belonged to it. Nothing grand, but rather relating the everyday experiences of life.

Gliding to Glory


Their tenure was short. Their heyday was 1941 through 1945. They flew into combat in unarmed, fabric-covered aircraft that lacked engines. Most completed only one combat mission. Almost none of them completed four. They were the pilots of the US Army’s gliders in World War II.

“The Brotherhood of the Flying Coffin: The Glider Pilots of World War II,” by Scott McGaugh tells their tale. It is the first major history of American glider pilots.

The book starts by introducing the combat glider and their pilots. The opening chapters present the history of the combat glider, showing how and when it was first used. McGaugh discusses its introduction into the US Army Air Force and the plans to incorporate it into future air assaults.

Wreck of U-Boat Found Near New Orleans


There’s exciting news for all you World War II buffs — a U-boat was recently discovered in Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans. Local lore has long told of a Nazi submarine in the lake, and there are vague references to it in Kriegsmarine archives. But it’s never been proven — until now. The local paper, The Statesman-Picaroon, has the story; but it’s behind a paywall. I can’t link to it, so here’s a synopsis.

Early in 1942, Admiral Donitz, commander of the U-Boat arm of the Kriegsmarine, authorized unrestricted submarine warfare off the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.  One piece of the Gulf operations was a secret mission to cripple the vital oyster industry around New Orleans. The idea was to interrupt the US supply of oysters (a well-known aphrodisiac), thus driving down birth rates and leaving the US with insufficient manpower to fight a protracted war.

Member Post


I grew up idolizing Winston Churchill.  I was a devotee of the American branch of something close to a post-WWII religion, which we might call “We Won The War.”  I came to recognition of this — well, almost cult — through Peter Hitchens’s book, “The Phoney Victory,” in which he describes the original, British version […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

This week on The Learning Curve, cohosts Cara and Gerard and guest host Patrick Wolf, distinguished professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas, mark National Catholic Schools Week with George Weigel, author of the international bestselling, two-volume biography of Pope St. John Paul II. They explore how Karol Wojtyła’s education, deep faith, and experiences during World War II shaped his life as a spiritual leader and led him to play a pivotal role in the fall of Communism in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe. Pope John Paul II’s popularity among the world’s youth, Weigel explains, was grounded in a spirituality that defied contemporary culture and challenged young people to seek the “greatness that the grace of God makes possible in your life.” The interview concludes with Mr. Weigel reading from his biography of Pope St. John Paul II.

Stories of the Week

The Anatomy of a Victory


The Battle of Midway, fought in the Northern Pacific during World War II, changed everything. Four Japanese fleet aircraft carriers were sunk.  Japan’s advance stopped and its retreat began. Fought only 80 years ago one of the most written-about battles in history.

“The Silver Waterfall: How America Won the War in the Pacific at Midway,” by Brendon Simms and Stephen McGregor shows more remains to be said. They offer a fresh look and a fresh interpretation of the events of the battle.

They contend the outcome when beyond a lucky accident. Simms and McGregor argue the “luck” achieved by the US Navy was the luck Thomas Edison meant when he said, “I believe in luck. The harder I work, the luckier I get.” It was the product of hard work. The United States Navy had the right tool (the Douglass Dauntless dive bomber) manned by professional and highly skilled pilots. They show how aircraft and aircrews were in the right spot due to superb strategic level management.

Victory Through Engineering Prowess


Many nations have created military alliances over the centuries. Few have gone beyond coordination of military activities. Yet in World War II, the United States and Great Britain forged a collaborative association virtually unique in history.  It led Winston Churchill, in his post-war Iron Curtain speech to speak of a special relation between the two nations.

“Churchill’s American Arsenal: The Partnership Behind the Innovations that Won World War Two,” by Larrie D. Ferreiro, examines that alliance and the fruits that emerged from it, including victory.

Ferreiro shows it could have gone differently. His opening chapter shows the rivalries and jealousies that existed between the two nations in the years leading up to World War I and between the two world wars. Both nations suspected the motives of the other. He also shows how an accommodation formed due to the threat posed by Hitler, and examines the results of that partnership.

Discussion Question: Did We Need to Ally with Stalin?


There’s a line you get all the time in debates: “After all, we allied with Stalin to beat Hitler.” I don’t like it much as an argument because the implication is that anyone who isn’t worse than Stalin is fair game, and there are very few people who can’t clear that bar. But never mind that, what about it as a historical question; should we have allied with Stalin?

Take the same history right up until June 22, 1941. The Wehrmacht rolls Panzers into the Soviet Union. Roosevelt cables Churchill, “The important thing is to beat Hitler, but do we really need to supply the communists?” Churchill cables back, “If Hitler invaded hell, I wouldn’t invite the devil to tea.”

Enigma Fully Revealed


One thing “everybody knows” about World War II is Allied cracking of the German Enigma code machine allowed the Allies to win World War II. It has become an article of faith since the secret was first revealed in the 1970s. Is that accurate?

“The Enigma Story: The Truth Behind the ‘Unbreakable’ World War II Cipher,” by John Dermot Turing tackles that question along with many others. It provides a fresh look at the history of Enigma, dispelling many myths and placing World War II codebreaking in proper historical context.

Turing opens the book with a history of the Enigma machine. He tells of its development in post-World War I Germany. Originally intended for commercial purposes, improved version were eventually used by the German government, and licensed abroad. (Italy’s military used a simpler version, while Britain used a much-improved version for their Typex coding machines.)

Defiance in the Philippines


Lt. William Frederick “Bill” Harris was an officer with the China Marine, the elite 4th Marine Regiment stationed in Shanghai, China, prior to World War II to protect American citizens. In the summer of 1941, with war clouds gathering, Harris and the 4th Marine were withdrawn from China to the presumably safer Philippines.

“Valor: The Astonishing World War II Saga of One Man’s Defiance and Indomitable Spirit,” by Dan Hampton, shows how illusory that presumption was. Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941. The 4th Marine ended up defending the American Philippines, first in Bataan and later as part of the garrison at Corregidor, the island fortress guarding passage into Manila Bay.

Harris led a platoon during the siege, commanding a company after Japan landed on Corregidor in May 1942. The overwhelmed and outnumbered Americans were forced to surrender. Although Harris was taken prisoner, he refused to quit. With two fellow officer friends he escaped, swimming eight hours in the shark-infested channel between Corregidor and Bataan to reach freedom.

A Socialite Turned War Correspondent


In 1935 socialite Virginia Coles was a society-girl columnist for toney magazines like Harper’s Bazzar, writing about fashion and gossip. She traveled the world writing light pieces about the places visited. Then in Italy she encountered Mussolini and his fascists and her career took a different turn. She became a war correspondent.

“Looking for Trouble: The Classic Memoir of a Trailblazing War Correspondent,” by Virginia Cowles tells that story. It is her memoirs during the period 1936 through 1941, collected from the columns she wrote for various US magazines over that period.

During that period she was everywhere. She covered the Spanish Civil War, her first attempt at being a war correspondent. She was the only correspondent to report from both sides of the conflict, visiting both Republican and Nationalist Spain during the struggle.  It proved addictive. From there she went on to cover events in Europe as the continent slid into World War II.

Jim and Greg set aside the usual format to discuss the life and legacy of Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at age 96 after more than 70 years on the throne. They discuss her steadfast support of the United States, her commitment to tradition and a stoic public demeanor, her astonishing connection to so much world history, and some fun anecdotes that show a surprisingly feisty side.

A Pilot’s View of the Battle of Britain


Ian Richard Gleed was one of Churchill’s few, the RAF fighter pilots who fought the Battle of Britain and defeated the Luftwaffe. He put his experiences down on paper, detailing his experiences during the Battle of France, The Battle of Britain, and the 1941 nighttime Blitz.

“Arise to Conquer: The ‘Real’ Hurricane Pilot,” edited by Dilip Sakar is a new release of this classic. Sakar adds an extensive introduction, framing this forgotten story for the modern reader. It also contains footnotes that explain Gleed’s slang and technical terms which might baffle today’s readers.

Gleed’s memoirs were originally published in 1942. It was one of the earliest first-person accounts of the battle available to the public. Although fictionalized, it shows what it was like to be a fighter pilot during the opening days of World War 2. You experience Gleed’s triumphs, terrors, and disappointments.

The Filipino Struggle Against Japan


The United States suffered its biggest World War II defeat in the Philippines. More US soldiers were captured there than in any other campaign in United States military history. The number of Filipino soldiers surrendered dwarfed the US totals. Despite that, after the surrender of US forces, the war in the Philippines continued in a guerilla struggle.

“War and Resistance in the Philippines, 1942-1944,” by James Kelly Morningstar, documents that struggle. It is the first generally-accessible attempt to place the guerilla struggle in the Philippines in a single, coherent story.

Morningstar starts by describing the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the conventional struggle that followed. He shows the difficulties faced by Allied forces in the Philippines, both US and Filipino. He captures the tensions between the US and Philippine government. The Philippines were a reluctant colony of the United States, but on a path to independence when Japan invaded. The nascent Philippine Army was still forming and unprepared. US forces were underequipped, despite major commitments of aircraft.

For the Love of a Child


Stories of heroes during the Holocaust are abundant, but every now and then a particular story catches my eye and grabs my heart, especially if it connects to current events. The story of Janusz Korczak is one of those stories.

Janusz Korczak was born into an assimilated Jewish family in Poland in 1878. He became a writer, then a pediatrician, and even served as a doctor in the military in the Russo-Japanese war. Eventually, he realized that his true passion rested with education, and in 1911 he founded an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland, called Dom Sierot.

He loved teaching and empowering children, too: