Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Second World War, Revisited

The Americans had long advocated confronting the main German armies as soon as possible, a muscle-bound pugnacity decried as “iron-mongering” by British strategists, whose preference for reducing the enemy gradually by attacking the Axis periphery had led to eighteen months of Mediterranean fighting. Now, as the great hour approached, the arena would shift north, and the British and Americans would monger iron together …

The narrow vulpine face was among the empire’s most recognizable, a visage to be gawked at in Claridge’s or huzzahed on the Strand. But before General Bernard L. Montgomery could utter a syllable, a sharp rap sounded. The rap grew bolder; a Snowdrop flung open the Model Room door, and in swaggered Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., a ruddy, truculent American Mars, newly outfitted by those Savile Row artisans in bespoke overcoat, bespoke trousers, and bespoke boots. Never reluctant to stage an entrance, Patton had swept through London in a huge black Packard, bedizened with three-star insignia and sporting dual Greyhound bus horns. Ignoring Montgomery’s scowl, he found his bench in the second row and sat down, eager to take part in a war he condemned, without conviction, as “goddamned son-of-bitchery.”

- The Guns at Last Light, by Rick Atkinson, pages 6-7

Great writing!

Well, seeing Dunkirk a couple of days ago has rekindled an interest in World War II. Back in the summer of 2012, I think, I picked up a couple of used histories of the conflict and read through them, amazed at the scope of the war and how little I, allegedly educated in global events, really knew about it. It fascinated me and I burned through a half-dozen books on the subject that summer.

In the years since, I probably have read a book a year on WWII, me being much more interested in the US Civil War when my thoughts turn in a belligerent direction. Now, as the quotes above reveal, I just started reading Rick Atkinson’s third book in his World War II – European theater trilogy. His books are thick with detail, flush with the personalities, with an unfortunate thread of tragedy that runs through those vicious couple of years three-quarters of a century ago and rends the heart. Great stuff, which I’m returning to after half a decade.

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