Saturday, March 25, 2006

Best War Books of Twentieth Century.

Victor Davis Hanson rates the five best books on war/battle during the twentieth century. I agree with Hanson about John Keegan's The Face of Battle as the best book on warfare I have ever read.

As a youngster, I read a couple of volumes of The Literary Digest History of the Great War, put out in the 1920's I believe, and was struck particularly about the Battle of Verdun and the ossuaries surrounding the town, which I subsequently learned as a History major was the city in 839 AD where the division of the Carolingian dynasty's heirs was signed as a Treaty [of Verdun]. The middle segment consigned to the son Lothar became Lotharingia [Thuringia in Germany is an eponymous relic, I was told] in the middle of the Kingdoms which eventually evolved into France and the Holy Roman Empire [aka Germany for all practical 20th century purposes. According to famous Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, Lotharingia was the cause of much of Europe's strife, as Lotharingia encompassed Belgium/Holland, Alsace-Lorraine, Burgundy, and parts of Italy [now France] that were the objects of an endless tug of war between the precursors of modern France and Germany. Ironic that Belgium was the trip-wire for the Great War [Brussells now being the "capital" of the EU] and that Verdun was the symbolic killing field of the Great War, taking place where Pirenne said the original casus-belli sort of began over a thousand years before. The "Pirenne Thesis" was the shorthand that my college profs used.

I also read many books about WWII, including Guadalcanal Diary and the one I sort of liked the best, the unscholarly but fast-paced "To Hell and Back," by Audie Murphy. I read a book by Steve Ambrose and gained new respect for my godfather, who trained pilots to fly B-17s and my father-in-law, who flew on B-29s. [Both read my blog and kudos to you two!]

I used to read war books until after Vietnam, where I served for close to two years, and lost the appetite for such books for two decades, since when I have read several Ambrose books. Also Niall Ferguson.

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