1940s

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Book jacket: Diaries by George Orwell

Book Review: Diaries by George Orwell

Europe had yet to recover from the First World War and the Allied peoples were at a grave psychological disadvantage in comparison with the civilian population of Nazi Germany. Through nearly a decade of political indoctrination, news censorship and threats of imprisonment or worse, the German people were schooled for war. To Orwell, the only things that could shake the British out of their complacency were the drone of the engines of German aircraft over London and the detonation of the bombs they dropped.

Movie Review: The Way Back

The really good character work – and make no mistake, this is a good cast – happens when the actors are not speaking. The desperation of these wanderers does occasionally shine through in the sidelong distrustful glance, the wistful gaze at unending wilderness, and the ravenous pursuit of small edible animals. One of the best minutes of the movie is when the party chase a pack of wolves off a carcass, only to fight over the kill like bloodthirsty animals themselves.

Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman

This continued fighting retreat for allied forces persisted for the four bloody months from December 1941 to April of 1942. In an astounding oversight, General MacArthur, by then en route to Corregidor, disregarded the logistical requirements of his retreating army. He left behind, in one example, 450 million bushels of wheat in a single warehouse despite his junior offices protestations. His starving soldiers ended up eating carabou—until all carabou were gone—then snakes, lizards, crows, whatever. The allied forces, lacking resupply and experience, were pushed back repeatedly, finally making their last stand on the tip of Bataan at the town of Mariveles.

Résistance by Agnès Humbert

The early resistors soon discover that the Nazis don’t view their activities with similar lightheartedness. Oblivious to the reason why a German car might be parked outside the hospital her mother is in, Humbert walks straight into hell. A member of the Gestapo has infiltrated and betrayed their group, and she and her friends are rounded up for a show trial. It is only April 1941. What follows is an account that tests our 21st century belief in rationalism.

Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II by Sarah Byrn Rickman

They were also a PR dream. Initially working for her future husband, Robert Love, the young and pretty Nancy Harkness was hired to demonstrate and sell airplanes. Predicted to replace the family car, the private plane was seen as the wave of the future. If women could fly it, the perception was, anybody could. What Love thought of all of this malarkey, the cheesecake photographs and press coverage, is hard to determine.

Notes From Italy: Looking Back at Mussolini

Mussolini was not the only dictator of his time. In his Europe, in a time of worldwide economic depression, a whole series of governments were run by “strong men.” Besides Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, there were authoritarian regimes if not dictatorships in the 1930s in Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. There were Blueshirts in Ireland, Blackshirts in Britain, and Vidkun Quisling’s followers in Norway. At the eastern end of Europe lay the greatest dictatorship of them all, Stalin’s Soviet Union.