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Soldiers of a Different Cloth by John Wukovits

Military chaplains—if the person does their job correctly, they are some of the most underappreciated people in the military. John Wukovits brings his superb World War II knowledge to chronicle some of the University of Notre Dame’s clergy who served as chaplains in the U.S. military during World War II in Soldiers of a Different Cloth: Notre Dame Chaplains in World War II.

Wukovits highlights a few of the 35 clergy members from Notre Dame who served during the war. He pays particular attention to Rev. Joseph D. Barry, Rev. John E. Duffy, Rev. Henry Heintskill, and six missionaries caught in the Philippines at the beginning of the war (Sisters Mary Olivette and Mary Caecilius and Brothers Theodore Kapes and Rex Hennel, and Fathers Jerome Lawyer and Robert McKee).

Wukovits’ strength of highlighting the individual is in full display in the book.

Audiobook Review: Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace

After I heard Chris Wallace on special Dispatch Live event with Jonah Goldberg, I put Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World by Chris Wallace, with Mitch Weiss on my TBR pile.

Not that I am particularly interested in WWI (military history is Jeff’s bailiwick) or the dropping of the atomic bomb, but because I was interested in seeing how Wallace made the subject interesting given we all know what happened and the issues involved have been debated too death.  I was curious to see what an old school, straight shooter journalist made of the history.

It turned out the easiest way to get a copy from the library was to listen to the audiobook narrated by Wallace himself. So when it became available, I grabbed it and started listening.

Not surprisingly, Wallace is a great narrator and the style and focus of the book work well in audio format.  Unlike some more dense and technical history, I found this enjoyable to listen to and easy to pay attention

As to content, I found it to be a compelling and informative look at the events leading up the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in August of 1945. It gives you the perspective not only of President Truman and other larger than life figures but also of a host of minor characters from scientists and military leaders to those who worked at Oak Ridge and Japanese citizens who experienced the destruction of Hiroshima.

Generals in the Making by Benjamin Runkle

I have always been fascinated by the development of leaders. Benjamin Runkle chronicles the development of pivotal World War II American Army generals in Generals in the Making: How Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Their Peers Became the Commanders Who Won World War II.

Runkle produces a phenomenal work in describing the ascent of many of the generals who led the United States Army to victory in the European and Pacific Theaters.  Runkle primarily focuses on Generals George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Douglas MacArthur, but also touches on others such as Generals Mark Clark, Joe Stilwell, and Omar Bradley. For the four main generals, Runkle outlines their careers, with particular attention to the interwar years.

As Runkle points out, many of the generals advanced through luck or guidance from influential mentors. Regarding the influence of mentors, Runkle details how General Fox Conner heavily impacted Eisenhower’s career through his guidance.  Conner’s greatest influence occurred when Eisenhower was assigned as Conner’s subordinate in Panama for three years. Conner taught Eisenhower how to think more strategically. Much of this relationship has been well chronicled by other historians, but Runkle connects these three years as extremely influential in Eisenhower’s ability to see grand strategy, which helped in World War II.

A Crime in the Family by Sacha Batthyany

A Crime in the Family: A World War II Secret Buried in Silence–and My Search for the Truth by Sacha Batthyany is a soul-searching book about Batthyany’s search for the truth about his family in World War II.

At first, I thought the book was going to be about his Aunt Margit and the party she hosted while her guests executed 180 Jews in Rechnitz, Hungary. But, it turns out that Batthyany’s family has more than that connection with Jews during the war.

He begins with the story of his Aunt Margit and then turns to a secret that is closer to him – his great grandfather’s and grandmother’s roles in the execution of a Jewish playmate’s parents.

Batthyany tells the story of this execution as he discovers his family’s secrets and why he is the person he is today. It is a fascinating story of self-discovery because he shares his exploits and his struggles as he unravels the story of the execution.

In the end, it is a redeeming feature of the human spirit that, although we are who we are partially because of our past, it does not mean that we have to continue living with the sins of the past – whether our own or sins of our families.

 

Tin Can Titans by John Wukovits

Tin Can Titans by John Wukovits is an excellent narrative of the blue-collar destroyers. Destroyers did not have the firepower of battleships or cruisers or the glamour of the aircraft carriers, but they had the grit and versatility to be vital parts of the U.S. war effort in the Pacific.

Wukovits brings his excellent naval writing pedigree to this book. He has written on many aspects of the Pacific War, including Hell from the Heavens about the USS Laffey and its defense against kamikazes and Pacific Alamo about the U.S. defense of Wake Island at the beginning of the war. This knowledge is abundantly clear throughout the book – many times he calls upon his knowledge of the war in the Pacific.

Wukovits draws extensively from the private letters and diaries of the officers and sailors who served on the destroyers – especially those from the USS O’Bannon, Nicholas, La Vallette, and Howorth. As with any writing that draws on the actual words of the participants rather than after-action reports, the war is more real and easier to understand the conditions in which battles were fought.

According to Wukovits, at the onset of the war, the U.S. Navy was at an extreme disadvantage to the Japanese in capital ships – many of the battleship and cruisers were either sitting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor or severely damaged from that attack and the carriers were few and needed to be protected. As a result, Admiral Halsey called on destroyers to carry the brunt of the load in defending Guadalcanal and taking limited offensive actions against the Japanese. They excelled at this task.

Wukovits keeps the reader engaged with interesting stories and nonstop action.

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