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The Barbed-Wire College

Reeducating German POWs in the United States During World War II

Ron Theodore Robin

From Stalag 17 to The Manchurian Candidate, the American media have long been fascinated with stories of American prisoners of war. But few Americans are aware that enemy prisoners of war were incarcerated on our own soil during World War II. In The Barbed-Wire College Ron Robin tells the extraordinary story of the 380,000 German prisoners who filled camps from Rhode Island to Wisconsin, Missouri to New Jersey. Using personal narratives, camp newspapers, and military records, Robin re-creates in arresting detail the attempts of prison officials to mold the daily lives and minds of their prisoners.

From 1943 onward, and in spite of the Geneva Convention, prisoners were subjected to an ambitious reeducation program designed to turn them into American-style democrats. Under the direction of the Pentagon, liberal arts professors entered over 500 camps nationwide. Deaf to the advice of their professional rivals, the behavioral scientists, these instructors pushed through a program of arts and humanities that stressed only the positive aspects of American society. Aided by German POW collaborators, American educators censored popular books and films in order to promote democratic humanism and downplay class and race issues, materialism, and wartime heroics. Red-baiting Pentagon officials added their contribution to the program, as well; by the war's end, the curriculum was more concerned with combating the appeals of communism than with eradicating the evils of National Socialism.

The reeducation officials neglected to account for one factor: an entrenched German military subculture in the camps, complete with a rigid chain of command and a propensity for murdering "traitors." The result of their neglect was utter failure for the reeducation program. By telling the story of the program's rocky existence, however, Ron Robin shows how this intriguing chapter of military history was tied to two crucial episodes of twentieth- century American history: the battle over the future of American education and the McCarthy-era hysterics that awaited postwar America.

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The Battle for North Africa

El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

Glyn Harper

In the early years of World War II, Germany shocked the world with a devastating blitzkrieg, rapidly conquered most of Europe, and pushed into North Africa. As the Allies scrambled to counter the Axis armies, the British Eighth Army confronted the experienced Afrika Corps, led by German field marshal Erwin Rommel, in three battles at El Alamein. In the first battle, the Eighth Army narrowly halted the advance of the Germans during the summer of 1942. However, the stalemate left Nazi troops within striking distance of the Suez Canal, which would provide a critical tactical advantage to the controlling force. War historian Glyn Harper dives into the story, vividly narrating the events, strategies, and personalities surrounding the battles and paying particular attention to the Second Battle of El Alamein, a crucial turning point in the war that would be described by Winston Churchill as "the end of the beginning." Moving beyond a simple narrative of the conflict, The Battle for North Africa tackles critical themes, such as the problems of coalition warfare, the use of military intelligence, the role of celebrity generals, and the importance of an all-arms approach to modern warfare.

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The Battle for Western Europe, Fall 1944

An Operational Assessment

John A. Adams

This engrossing and meticulously researched volume reexamines the decisions made by Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff in the crucial months leading up to the Battle of the Bulge. In late August 1944 defeat of the Wehrmacht seemed assured. On December 16, however, the Germans counterattacked. Received wisdom says that Eisenhower's Broad Front strategy caused his armies to stall in early September, and his subsequent failure to concentrate his forces brought about deadlock and opened the way for the German attack. Arguing to the contrary, John A. Adams demonstrates that Eisenhower and his staff at SHAEF had a good campaign strategy, refined to reflect developments on the ground, which had an excellent chance of destroying the Germans west of the Rhine.

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The Battle of Heligoland Bight

Eric W. Osborne

The battle of Heligoland Bight was the first major action between the British and German fleets during World War I. The British orchestrated the battle as a warning to the German high command that any attempt to operate their naval forces in the North Sea would be met by strong British resistance. Heligoland Island guarded the entrance to the main German naval anchorage at Kiel. Fought on August 28, 1914, the engagement was complicated by dense fog, the piecemeal engagement of German forces, and the unexpected appearance in the area of additional British ships, which were hard to distinguish from foe. Initial British damage was significant; however, fearing that the protracted battle would allow the bulk of the German fleet to join the battle, the British brought in their battle cruiser reinforcements and won the day, inflicting heavy losses on the Germans.

The battle was significant for its political and strategic ramifications for the two sides. The Germans became reluctant to engage large forces in an attempt to gain a decisive maritime victory. After this defeat, any plans for large-scale fleet operations had to be approved by the Kaiser, which hampered the German fleet's effectiveness. This left the North Sea to Great Britain for much of the war.

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The Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Last Fleet Action

H. P. Willmott

"The Battle of Leyte Gulf was an extremely unusual battle. It was unusual on five separate counts that are so obvious that they are usually missed. It was unusual in that it was a series of actions, not a single battle. It was unusual as a naval battle in that it was fought over five days; historically, naval battles have seldom spread themselves over more than one or two days. It was unusual in terms of its name. This battle involved a series of related actions subsequently grouped together under the name of just one of these engagements, but in fact none of the actions were fought inside Leyte Gulf.... More importantly, it was unusual in that it was a full-scale fleet action fought after the issue of victory and defeat at sea had been decided, and it was unusual in that it resulted in clear, overwhelming victory and defeat." -- from Chapter One

The Battle of Leyte Gulf -- October 22-28, 1944 -- was the greatest naval engagement in history. In fact the battle was four separate actions, none of which were fought in the Gulf itself, and the result was the destruction of Japanese naval power in the Pacific. This book is a detailed and comprehensive account of the fighting from both sides. It provides the context of the battle, most obviously in terms of Japanese calculations and the search for "a fitting place to die" and "the chance to bloom as flowers of death." Using Japanese material never previously noted in western accounts, H.P. Willmott provides new perspectives on the unfolding of the battle and very deliberately seeks to give readers a proper understanding of the importance of this battle for American naval operations in the following month. This careful interrogation of the accounts of "the last fleet action" is a significant contribution to military history.

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Battle of Surigao Strait

Anthony P. Tully

Surigao Strait in the Philippine Islands was the scene of a major battleship duel during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Because the battle was fought at night and had few survivors on the Japanese side, the events of that naval engagement have been passed down in garbled accounts. Anthony P. Tully pulls together all of the existing documentary material, including newly discovered accounts and a careful analysis of U.S. Navy action reports, to create a new and more detailed description of the action. In several respects, Tully's narrative differs radically from the received versions and represents an important historical corrective. Also included in the book are a number of previously unpublished photographs and charts that bring a fresh perspective to the battle.

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The Battle over Peleliu

Islander, Japanese, and American Memories of War

The expansionist Japanese empire annexed the inhabited archipelago of Palau in 1914. The airbase built on Peleliu Island became a target for attack by the United States in World War II. The Battle over Peleliu offers an ethnographic study of how Palau and Peleliu were transformed by warring great powers and further explores how their conflict is remembered differently by the three peoples who shared that experience.
 
Author Stephen C. Murray uses oral histories from Peleliu’s elders to reconstruct the island’s prewar way of life, offering a fascinating explanation of the role of land and place in island culture. To Palauans, history is conceived geographically, not chronologically. Land and landmarks are both the substance of history and the mnemonic triggers that recall the past. Murray then offers a detailed account of the 1944 US invasion against entrenched Japanese forces on Peleliu, a seventy-four-day campaign that razed villages, farms, ancestral cemeteries, beaches, and forests, and with them, many of the key nodes of memory and identity.
 
Murray also explores how Islanders’ memories of the battle as shattering their way of life differ radically from the ways Japanese and Americans remember the engagement in their histories, memoirs, fiction, monuments, and tours of Peleliu. Determination to retrieve the remains of 11,000 Japanese soldiers from the caves of Peleliu has driven high-profile civic groups from across the Japanese political spectrum to the island. Contemporary Japan continues to debate pacifist, right-wing apologist, and other interpretations of its aggression in Asia and the Pacific. These disputes are exported to Peleliu, and subtly frame how Japanese commemoration portrays the battle in stone and ritual. Americans, victors in the battle, return to the archipelago in far fewer numbers. For them, the conflict remains controversial but is most often submerged into the narrative of “the good war.”
 
The Battle over Peleliu is a study of public memory, and the ways three peoples swept up in conflict struggle to create a common understanding of the tragedy they share.

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Battlefield Surgeon

Life and Death on the Front Lines of World War II

Paul A. Kennedy. edited by Christopher B. Kennedy. foreword by Rick Atkinson and afterword by John T. Greenwood

In November 1942, Paul Andrew Kennedy (1912--1993) boarded the St. Elena in New York Harbor and sailed for Casablanca as part of Operation Torch, the massive Allied invasion of North Africa. As a member of the US Army's 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group, he spent the next thirty-four months working in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, in close proximity to the front lines and often under air or artillery bombardment. He was uncomfortable, struck by the sorrows of war, and homesick for his wife, for whom he kept detailed diaries to ease his unrelenting loneliness.

In Battlefield Surgeon , Kennedy's son Christopher has edited his father's journals and provided historical context to produce an invaluable personal chronicle. What emerges is a vivid record of the experiences of a medical officer in the European theater of operations in World War II. Kennedy participated in some of the fiercest action of the war, including Operation Avalanche, the attack on Anzio, and Operation Dragoon. He also arrived in Rome the day after the Allied troops, and entered the Dachau concentration camp two days after it was liberated.

Despite the enormous success of the popular M*A*S*H franchise, there are still surprisingly few authentic accounts of military doctors and medical practice during wartime. As a young, inexperienced surgeon, Kennedy grappled with cases much more serious and complex than he had ever faced in civilian practice. Featuring a foreword by Pulitzer Prize--winning World War II historian Rick Atkinson and an afterword by U.S. Army medical historian John T. Greenwood, this remarkable firsthand account offers an essential perspective on the Second World War.

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BattleFire!

Combat Stories from World War II

Arthur L. Kelly

" Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941: High on the bridge of the USS West Virginia Sfc. Lee Ebner was looking forward to the end of his watch and a relaxed Sunday morning breakfast. But the two low-flying planes painted with rising sun insignia and bearing down on the ship had other plans for him and his fellow seamen. Ten hours later, at Clark Field in the Philippines, Pfc. Jack Reed felt the brunt of another Japanese air attack and within weeks found himself a part of the gruesome Bataan Death March that was to claim the lives of hundred of his comrades. On another continent, four years into the war, Capt. Benjamin Butler led his exhausted company up a steep, fog-shrouded Italian mountain toward a well entrenched German defensive position. The odds against their survival were appalling, though worse was to come in the months ahead. Such were the experiences of many young men-plucked from their local communities all across America, trained for war, and hurled into the strange reality of combat thousands of miles form home. In this stunning collection of World War II oral histories, Arthur Kelly recreates the experiences of twelve young men from Kentucky who survived the seemingly unsurvivable, whether in combat or as prisoners of war.

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Beetle

The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith

D.K.R. Crosswell

A valued adviser and trusted insider in the highest echelon of U.S. military and political leaders, General Walter Bedell Smith began his public service career of more than forty years at age sixteen, when he joined the Indiana National Guard. His bulldog tenacity earned him an opportunity to work with General George C. Marshall in 1941, playing an essential role in forming the offices of the Combined and Joint Chiefs of Staff; and after his appointment as chief of staff to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1942, Smith took a central part in planning and orchestrating the major Allied operations of World War II in Europe. Among his many duties, Smith negotiated and signed the surrenders of the Italian and German armed forces on May 7, 1945. Smith’s postwar career included service as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and undersecretary of state. Despite his contributions to twentieth-century American military and diplomatic history, the life and work of Smith have largely gone unappreciated. In Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith, D. K. R. Crosswell offers the first full-length biography of the general, including insights into his close relationships with Marshall and Eisenhower. Meticulously researched and long overdue, Beetle sheds new light on Eisenhower as supreme commander and the campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and Europe. Beetle is the fascinating history of a soldier, diplomat, and intelligence chief who played a central role in many decisions that altered mid-twentieth-century American history.

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