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The Battle of the Otranto Straits

Controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in World War I

Paul G. Halpern

Called by some a "Mediterranean Jutland," the Battle of the Otranto Straits involved warships from Austria, Germany, Italy, Britain, and France. Although fought by light units with no dreadnoughts involved, Otranto was a battle in three dimensions -- engaging surface vessels, aircraft, and subsurface weapons (both submarines and mines). An attempt to halt the movement of submarines into the Adriatic using British drifters armed with nets and mines led to a raid by Austrian light cruisers. The Austrians inflicted heavy damage on the drifters, but Allied naval forces based at Brindisi cut off their withdrawal. The daylight hours saw a running battle, with the Austrians at considerable risk. Heavier Austrian units put out from Cattaro in support, and at the climactic moment the Allied light forces had to turn away, permitting the Austrians to escape. In the end, the Austrians had inflicted more damage than they suffered themselves. The Otranto action shows the difficulties of waging coalition warfare in which diplomatic and national jealousies override military efficiency.

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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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The Battle Rages Higher

The Union's Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry

Kirk Jenkins

" The Battle Rages Higher tells, for the first time, the story of the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry, a hard-fighting Union regiment raised largely from Louisville and the Knob Creek valley where Abraham Lincoln lived as a child. Although recruited in a slave state where Lincoln received only 0.9 percent of the 1860 presidential vote, the men of the Fifteenth Kentucky fought and died for the Union for over three years, participating in all the battles of the Atlanta campaign, as well as the battles of Perryville, Stones River and Chickamauga. Using primary research, including soldiers’ letters and diaries, hundreds of contemporary newspaper reports, official army records, and postwar memoirs, Kirk C. Jenkins vividly brings the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry to life. The book also includes an extensive biographical roster summarizing the service record of each soldier in the thousand-member unit. Kirk C. Jenkins, a descendant of the Fifteenth Kentucky's Captain Smith Bayne, is a partner in a Chicago law firm. Click here for Kirk Jenkins' website and more information about the 15th Kentucky Infantry.

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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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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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Battles and Leaders of the Civil War

Volume 6

Peter Cozzens

Sifting carefully through reports from newspapers, magazines, personal memoirs, and letters, Peter Cozzens Volume 6 brings readers more of the best first-person accounts of marches, encampments, skirmishes, and fullblown battles, as seen by participants on both sides of the conflict. Alongside the experiences of lower-ranking officers and enlisted men are accounts from key personalities including General John Gibbon, General John C. Lee, and seven prominent generals from both sides offering views on why the Confederacy failed.? This volume includes one hundred and twenty illustrations, including sixteen previously uncollected maps of battlefields, troop movements, and fortifications.

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Beating Goliath

Why Insurgencies Win

Record, Jeffrey

Beating Goliath examines the phenomenon of victories by the weak over the strongùmore specifically, insurgencies that succeeded against great powers. Jeffrey Record reviews eleven insurgent wars from 1775 to the present and determines why the seemingly weaker side won. He concludes that external assistance correlates more consistently with insurgent success than any other explanation. He does not disparage the critical importance of will, strategy, and strong-side regime type or suggest that external assistance guarantees success. Indeed, in all cases, some combination of these factors is usually present. But Record finds few if any cases of unassisted insurgent victories except against the most decrepit regimes.

Having identified the ingredients of insurgent success, Record examines the present insurgency in Iraq and whether the United States can win. In so doing, Record employs a comparative analysis of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. He also identifies and assesses the influence of distinctive features of the American way of war on the U.S. forcesÆ performance against the Iraqi insurgency.

Make no mistake: insurgent victories are the exception, not the rule. But when David does beat Goliath, the consequences can be earth shattering and change the course of history. Jeffrey RecordÆs persuasive logic and clear writing make this timely book a must read for scholars, policymakers, military strategists, and anyone interested in the Iraq WarÆs outcome.

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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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Before The Bomb

How America Approached the End of the Pacific War

John Chappell

Almost forgotten in the haze of events that followed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the summer of 1945 witnessed an intense public debate over how best to end the war against Japan. Weary of fighting, the American people were determined to defeat the imperial power that had so viciously attacked them in December 1941, but they were uncertain of the best means to accomplish this goal. Certain of victory -- the "inevitable triumph" promised by Franklin Roosevelt immediately after Pearl Harbor -- Americans became increasingly concerned about the human cost of defeating Japan.

Particularly after the brutal Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns, syndicated columnists, newspaper editorialists, radio commentators, and others questioned the necessity of invasion. A lengthy naval and aerial siege would have saved lives but might have protracted the war beyond the public's patience. Advertisers filled the media with visions of postwar affluence even as the government was exhorting its citizens to remain dedicated to the war effort. There was heated discussion as well about the morality of firebombing Japanese cities and of using poison gas and other agents of chemical warfare.

Chappell provides a balanced assessment of all these debates, grounding his observations in a wealth of primary sources. He also discusses the role of racism, the demand for unconditional surrender, and the government's reaction to public opinion in the decision to drop the atomic bomb. Compelling and controversial, this is the first work to examine the confusing and contradictory climate of the American home front in the months leading up to V-J Day.

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Before the Quagmire

American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961

William J. Rust

In the decade preceding the first U.S. combat operations in Vietnam, the Eisenhower administration sought to defeat a communist-led insurgency in neighboring Laos. Although U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s focused primarily on threats posed by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, the American engagement in Laos evolved from a small cold war skirmish into a superpower confrontation near the end of President Eisenhower's second term. Ultimately, the American experience in Laos foreshadowed many of the mistakes made by the United States in Vietnam in the 1960s.

In Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954--1961, William J. Rust delves into key policy decisions made in Washington and their implementation in Laos, which became first steps on the path to the wider war in Southeast Asia. Drawing on previously untapped archival sources, Before the Quagmire documents how ineffective and sometimes self-defeating assistance to Laotian anticommunist elites reflected fundamental misunderstandings about the country's politics, history, and culture. The American goal of preventing a communist takeover in Laos was further hindered by divisions among Western allies and U.S. officials themselves, who at one point provided aid to both the Royal Lao Government and to a Laotian general who plotted to overthrow it. Before the Quagmire is a vivid analysis of a critical period of cold war history, filling a gap in our understanding of U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia and America's entry into the Vietnam War.

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