The Vanquished: Why the First World
War Failed to End.
By Robert Gerwarth.
Nov. 2016. 464p. Farrar, $27 (9780374282455).
On November 11, 1918, the “guns fell
silent” as an armistice officially ended the
fighting in what was then called the Great
War. But, as historian Gerwarth illustrates,
the slaughter and massive dislocation continued well into the following decade in central,
eastern, and southern Europe. By 1918,
the great European empires—Russia, Aus-tro-Hungary, and Ottoman Turkey—had
collapsed. These multiethnic, multilingual
anachronisms were oppressive and inherently unstable, yet they kept the lid on a welter
of seething hopes, resentments, and hatred
that now boiled over. The most massive of
these explosions of violence was in Russia,
where civil war pitted Whites against the
Bolsheviks. Greeks, Turks, various southern Slavic groups, and German-speaking
communities also went after each other,
motivated by religion, ultra-nationalism, or
political hostility, both with conventional
armies and, more commonly, within small
towns and villages where mixed ethnic and
religious populations fought each other. Sadly, the end of these struggles was no end at
all as WWII loomed. This is difficult, often
horrifying reading, but Gerwarth provides
an essential contribution to our understanding of the interwar years. —Jay Freeman
SEARCHING FOR HIDDEN TRUTHS ABOUT PEARL HARBOR
The 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, has inspired a remarkable number of ardently
researched and keenly argued histories. These are the best of the lot, presented here
with an eye to guiding readers interested both in learning more about this momentous
event and in reading riveting true stories.
1941: Fighting the Shadow War; A Divided America in a World at War. By
Marc Wortman. 2016. Atlantic Monthly, $27 (9780802125118).
One year before he galvanized the nation with his “Day of Infamy” speech
after Pearl Harbor, FDR was strategically battling isolationists in Congress.
Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack. By Steve
Twomey. 2016. Simon & Schuster, $30 (9781476776460).
Twomey investigates the immediate prelude to the surprise Japanese
air strike, focusing on two American commanders in Hawaii on whom officialdom pinned responsibility for the disaster.
A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War
Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II. By Eric
Jaffe. 2014. Scribner, $19.99 (9781451612110).
In this gripping account, Jaffe retrieves the overlooked Japanese
counterpoint to the Nuremberg trials in Tokyo in 1946, when 30 former
Japanese military leaders, including Tojo Hideki, general of the Japanese
army and architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, were put on trial.
Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to
War. By Brian Curtis. 2016. Flatiron, $29.99 (9781250059581).
Curtis masterfully connects two seemingly unrelated events: the Pearl
Harbor attack and, a few weeks later, the Rose Bowl, on New Year’s Day,
which was played not in Pasadena, California, as usual, but in Durham,
North Carolina, because more air strikes were feared.
Indestructible: One Man’s Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of
WWII. By John R. Bruning. 2016. Hachette, $28 (9780316339407).
Pioneering pilot Paul Irvin Gunn left the navy to manage the newly
established Philippine Air Lines, but two days after Pearl Harbor, he was
commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps and forced to leave
his family in Manila as the Japanese surged in. So gripping is Bruning’s
account, Sony Pictures has optioned the book.
Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. By Eri Hotta. 2013. Knopf, $27.95 (9780307594013).
Hotta examines the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor from a Japanese perspective,
illuminating the dilemma faced by the Japanese government and military in 1941 as the
war with China had no end in sight.
A Matter of Honor: Pearl Harbor; Betrayal, Blame, and a Family’s Quest for Justice. By
Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. 2016. Harper, $35 (9780062405517).
Like Twomey in Countdown to Pearl Harbor, Summers and Swan look into the assignment of blame for America’s lack of preparedness for the attack and reach the opposite
conclusion, placing responsibility, instead, on Washington officials.
Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness. By Craig Nelson. 2016. Scribner, $32
Journalist and historian Nelson offers a superb and instructive reexamination of the
causes, the attack, and the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, with first-person accounts of terror
and heroism under fire, backed by a deep look into prewar developments in Japan.
SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS OF INFAMY
BY DONNA SEAMAN
Dawn of Infamy: A Sunken Ship, a Vanished Crew,
and the Final Mystery of Pearl Harbor.
By Stephen Harding.
Nov. 2016. 280p. Da Capo, $24.99 (9780306825033). 940.54.
Harding (The Castaway’s War, 2016) presents read-
ers with a genuine treasure in this long-overlooked story
from the earliest hours of America’s entry into WWII.
On December 7, 1941, the Cynthia Olson, a small cargo
ship under military contract, was en route to Pearl Harbor
from Seattle with a load of lumber, 35 merchant marines,
and 2 U.S. soldiers. Moments after the
first Japanese aircraft launched the at-
tack on Hawaii, the Cynthia Olson was
sunk by an enemy submarine, with all
hands lost. With only a brief transmis-
sion alerting others to its fate, the ship
vanished, leaving behind no evidence
of its destruction. Although mentioned
in the first days of the war in conjunc-
tion with the Pearl Harbor attacks, the little cargo vessel
and its crew were soon forgotten by everyone except the
grieving families and a few determined Hawaiian news-
paper journalists. Based on impressive research into both
the American and Japanese perspectives, Harding’s pains-
taking and determined effort to bring the Cynthia Olson
and its crew back to their moment of historic significance,
and celebrate the earlier work of those who kept the story
alive, is not only admirable but makes for truly interest-
ing history. A compelling narrative that will appeal to war
buffs, fans of nautical history, and everyone interested in
reclaimed true tales. —Colleen Mondor