Tag Archives: WWII

WOLVES AT THE DOOR – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleWolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s
Greatest Female Spy
AuthorJudith Pearson
PublisherLyons Press (May 13, 2008)
FormatKindle, Audiobook, Paperback, Hardcover
Pages288
LanguageEnglish
AudienceHistorians, People who like suspense and thrillers
ISBN # 10/13159921072X / 978-1599210728

AUTHOR

Judith Pearson is a remarkable woman. She graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in French and English. She continued her post graduate studies in Psychology. She is the founder of Courage Concepts, an organization dedicated to cultivating courage in women and girls. In 2012 she was an International Book Award Finalist for It’s Just Hair: 20 Essential Life Lessons. After her breast cancer diagnosis, she founded A2ndAct.org, an organization that supports and celebrates women survivors of all kinds of cancer. She is still very active conducting keynotes and workshops, not to mention writing. She currently lives in Phoenix (that just seems fitting).

SYNOPSIS

Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy is the true tale of Virginia Hall. Virginia lost her leg as a young woman in a hunting accident. Virginia always wanted to work for the Foreign Service. In 1929, at the age of only twenty-three, she applied for a consular position with the State Department. She finally received a job as a clerk with the State Department in 1931. She was told that because of her amputation, she was unfit to be a Consular.

At the outbreak of WWII, she enlisted in the Services Sanitaires de l’Armée, a Red Cross type of organization. She drove an ambulance outside of Paris. After France capitulated, she made her way back to England. On the way she had a chance encounter with George Bellows. He provided her with names and places in London that would eventually change her life forever.

Vera Atkins, an acquaintance of Bellow’s, met Virginia at a party in London. Unbeknownst to Virginia at the time, she was recruiting for the “Inter-Services Research Bureau.” This is where Virginia was enticed to work for the British as a spy. She attended a compressed spy training program; learning how to do such things as making bombs and planting explosives. Her leg was not seen as a detriment but a plus as most people wouldn’t think a one-legged woman is a spy.

Virginia went to France where worked tirelessly recruiting for the resistance, sabotaging German supply lines, and creating havoc whenever and wherever she could. She became such a thorn in the Germans side that they actively hunted her and offered rewards for her capture. She was forced to move constantly to stay ahead of the German spy’s that were tracking her. England tried to get her to return as the dangers were too great. She continued fighting for France. Eventually, the Gestapo forced her to flee for her life by making a perilous journey over the Pyrenees Mountains; not an easy feat for a woman with one leg.

Back in England she was assigned to the OSS. They sent Virginia back to France disguised as an old woman. Her limp accentuated the disguise. Virginia continued her work against the Germans until the end of WWII.

CONCLUSION

Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy is a very good book. It details the life of Virginia Hall and her contributions to the war effort. Virginia is a remarkable woman with a dedication and drives that far exceeds the average man.

Judith Pearson does an excellent job of describing the events, the feelings, and the suspense that Virginia endured. The story is remarkable in its own right, but Judith brings an element to the tale that makes this a must-read book. Full of danger, suspense, intrigue, and sorrow; this story is one that must be told. An extraordinary woman in a dangerous time, Virginia Hall is a heroine for all times.

I heartily recommend this book to everyone.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

THE CODEBREAKERS OF BLETCHLEY PARK – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleThe Codebreakers of Bletchley Park:
The Secret Intelligence Station that Helped
Defeat the Nazis
AuthorJohn Dermot Turing
PublisherArcturus (March 15, 2020)
FormatKindle, Paperback
Pages251 pages
Language:English
ASINB082XHJWCW

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sir John Dermot Turing is the 12th Baronet of the Turing baronetcy. He is the nephew of Alan Turing the infamous English mathematician that worked on the enigma machine. He did a D.Phil in genetics at New College, Oxford before moving into the legal profession. He specialized in financial law and is currently an author.

WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

This book is for everyone. Wether you are a historian, student, WWII enthusiast or just someone who interested in secret intelligence code breaking, you will find this book interesting.

SYNOPSIS

Before James Bond, there was Alister Denniston, Dilly Knox, Alan Turing, Mavis Batley (née Lever), Peter Twinn and Frank Birch.

The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park is a unique take on an old subject and has managed to breathe new life into those who worked on the Enigma machine. It is the true-life account of the people, places and techniques employed for decrypting the machine that the Axis powers used during WWII to secretly encrypt their commercial, diplomatic and military communications. Unlike many books of its kind, The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park paints an intimate observation of the participants that is lacking in other publications. The reader gets a look back in time and at the characters behind the crack. The vital importance of the work at Bletchley Park contributed to the war as a whole and in particular, the Battle of Cape Matapan from 27-29 March, 1941.

The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park is a character driven dive into the ultra-secret world of the codebreakers. Turing’s chronology primarily focuses on the years immediately preceding WWII through the evolution of the Government Code & Cypher School (GC & CS) and its evolution into the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The early codebreakers were, as Alister Denniston dubbed them, ‘the professor type.’ Most of these were ‘Kingsmen,’ alumni of King’s College, Cambridge; although not exclusively. They came from varying disciplines that included mathematics, academia, arts, humanities, classics languages, and history. Once ‘The Hunting Party’ had arrived at Bletchley Park work that began with a hand full of academics quickly grew in size and scope. Those with other skills and talents including: Intelligence Staff, Translators, Linguists, Managers, Machine Operators, Typists, Secretaries, and Stenographers were swiftly recruited.

The author avoids focusing upon Alan Truing, but instead introduces the reader to the arguably equally important contributors to the cracking of the Enigma. My favorite character was Dilly Knox a brilliant scholar of the Classics, specifically Greek. He was humorous and poetic. He constantly threatened to resign his position, was a man full of contradictions, a less than skillful driver and tragically gone too soon.

Those interested in women’s studies will find this publication to be a breath of fresh air. It includes details of the women who worked at Bletchley Park and heralds the significant contributions made by those women. Most of whom were never awarded any recognition or accolade.

CONCLUSION

The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park is anything but a dry retelling of history. I found it intriguing, enlightening and humors in equal amounts. Since I read it a week or two ago, I’ve thought of it fondly and often mentioned it repeatedly to friends and family. This, for me, is the seal of a truly great work and because of this I am rating this book highly.

If you want to find out: who ‘Dilly’s Fillies’ were, why there was a bath in the office of Room 40 at the Admiralty, how QWERTZU has anything to do with the Enigma, how the Bomba became the Bombe or what really went on in Hut 6; you will have to read The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park for yourself. Be prepared for a compelling and extraordinary true-life tale.

Highly recommended for everyone.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Sir John Dermot Turing, Netgalley and Arcturus for affording me the opertunity to review The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park: The Secret Intelligence Station that Helped Defeat the Nazis.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR

Operation Swallow – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleOperation Swallow: American Soldiers’ Remarkable
Escape from Berga Concentration Camp
AuthorMark Felton
PublisherCenter Street (October 15, 2019)
FormatPaperback, Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook
Pages305
Language:English
ASINB07P8LMB45

AUTHOR

Mark Felton has a PhD in history from the University of Essex. He has authored numerous publications and maintains two YouTube Channels. You can find him on his official website here. If you are interested in his YouTube channels, you can find WWII history here, and his War Stories here. Mark’s twitter page is @mpfelton. If you are looking for more information on Mark Felton you can try his Wilkipedia page here.

WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

This book will appeal to anyone who enjoys non-fiction stories of WWII. History buffs, students, teachers, and anyone else who likes to read historic accounts of the soldiers who fought in the European theatre will truly enjoy reading this work.

SYNOPSIS

Operation Swallow: American Soldiers’ Remarkable Escape from Berga Concentration Camp is the story of U.S. soldiers captured during the Battle of the Bulge and taken to “Berga an der Elster,” a German concentration camp. These soldiers were forced into hard labor by the Germans to aid in their war-fighting machine. The deprivation, malnutrition, torture, and forced labor killed many POW’s. Forced to dig whether they were ill or not, beaten if they didn’t or couldn’t meet expectations, these men suffered at the hands of their captors. The bond between the soldiers and loyalty they shared were essential in the escape attempts.

Mark Felton weaves a compelling tale from official documents, eye witness accounts, and personal testimonies. He tells the story in the words of those who were actually there and experienced the brutality and hardships first hand.

 CONCLUSION

Operation Swallow is a no-holds-bar true life story of just one facet in WWII. Imagine this story multiplied across all the concentration camps run by the Germans and the scale of the atrocities is astronomical. Mark does a great job bringing this story to light and giving these soldiers who suffered at the hands of the Germans a voice. I definitely recommend this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Mark Felton, NetGalley, and Center Street for affording me the opportunity to review Operation Swallow: American Soldiers’ Remarkable Escape from Berga Concentration Camp.


Retribution – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleRetribution: The Soviet Reconquest of
Central Ukraine, 1943
AuthorPrit Buttar
PublisherOsprey Publishing; 1 edition (October 31, 2019)
FormatPaperback, Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook
Pages480
Language:English
ASINB07RD6YNZT

AUTHOR

Prit Buttard is a British general practitioner and writer. He has written multiple history genre books covering WWI and WWII. He even authored a couple of novels. He did a five-year stint in the British Army as a surgeon and medical officer. He had an outstanding career and recently moved with his family to Scotland in 2017. You can find out more about Prit Buttard here and here.

WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

This book will appeal to anyone who enjoys the history of epic war-time battles. WWII history enthusiasts will find the information contained within its pages invaluable.

SYNOPSIS

Retribution: The Soviet Reconquest of Central Ukraine, 1943 tells the story of the Ukrainian front during WWII. Through exhaustive research, personal accounts, and eyewitness interviews Prit Buttard brings the epic conflict to life. The reader gets an account of the myriad of detriments effecting both sides. The Germans were better trained soldiers but lacked supply’s, replacement personnel, ammunition, they were unsuited to the environment, and much more. The Soviets were not well trained but had an inexhaustible amount replacement personnel, resupply, and factories that were beyond the reach of the German forces. They were also well suited to the environment. The German Army was also constantly being undermined by Hitler trying to micro-manage the conflict without possessing any concrete knowledge of what exactly was transpiring on the front. The Soviets didn’t experience the limitations that Hitler did as they were right there managing the battles as they went.

Prit describes the battles from the major confrontations to the grittier hand-to-hand personal battles. He gives an account of the Ukrainian people that were caught behind the German lines and the suffering they endured both during the conflict and as the Germans retreated. He does an excellent job of portraying the human conflict from all sides during this dreadful time in history.

Although the information was captivating, the book was a little disjointed due the different timelines between chapters. The reference material was also lacking in usable maps for the reader to follow along.

 CONCLUSION

Prit Buttar does a great job of bringing this epic conflict into view. Even though the maps were somewhat useless, the story is one that needed to be told. This conflict tied up German forces, resources and time allowing Allied forces to win on other fronts. The loss of life on both sides is astronomical. The Soviets, through sheer manpower, overwhelmed the Germans and their limited supplies to force their retreat. Overall, an excellent read!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Prit Buttar, NetGalley, and Osprey Publishing for affording me the opportunity to review Retribution: The Soviet Reconquest of Central Ukraine, 1943.