Why all the military books this week? I could say it is to commemorate Osama bin Laden’s assassination, but in reality, it is that I was at a book sale and found someone’s treasure trove of U.S.-related WWI and WWII-related books, and wondered if they represented a cohesive philosophy or a variety of viewpoints. I was gratified that there is a good representation of the various viewpoints that are prevalent in our society when we think about war. To me, that is what is important about education: hearing different viewpoints, learning to identify bias, and to sift information and develop one’s own philosophy on the subject.
These books were written by people of very different backgrounds varying from a journalist and teachers writing by subscription, to a passionate memoir, to an author who wrote important books about U.S. foreign policy for the adult market back in the 1960s. And they all wrote their books for Scholastic’s teens.
“William Lawrence Shirer(February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a history of Nazi Germany read and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years.”(wikipedia) He wrote TK-292 The Rise and Fall of Adolph Hitler for Scholastic. Shirer carefully reports the historical timeline of Hitler’s ascent to power, links quotes from Hitler’s autobiography/master plan Mein Kampf with the progression of the war to show the connection between philosophy and tactics. It is written respectfully for an audience who are more adults than children.
Russell Davis wrote T-743 Marine At War for his children. In his foreword he says “I am no expert in war. My service was in the Second Battalion of the First Marine regiment from April of 1944 until February of 1946. My jobs were Combat Intelligence scout, rifleman, plans and operations sergeant and rifle squad leader. As a marine infantryman I was no better than average. I served through two major campaigns, Peleliu and Okinawa, and I was under fire in a few other patrol actions. I was wounded twice, cited for bravery once, and two times I was too frightened to do the job to which I was assigned.
My sons have asked many questions about war. I have always tried to answer their questions, but sometimes the answers weren’t true, and sometimes they weren’t complete. It takes time to think out a good and true answer. It is very hard for a father not to make himself seem braver and wiser to his sons than he really was. And war is so many things jumbled together. It is hard to sort all these things out and give a sensible answer to one particular question.
…I haven’t intended to write a book about bravery, though that is the quality, or lack of it, that people associate with war. I have seen men who were brave when their feet were dry, cowards when they were wet; brave when they were warm, cowards when they were cold; brave when they were full, cowards when they were hungry; brave as long as they got their sleep, but cowards when they didn’t. We often contrast bravery and cowardice. We think there is nothing between the two, but most men who know war know that there is…” ( from the Foreword, Marine At War)
The book mixes personal anecdote, historical report, and philosophy in an engaging and genuine way that reflects patriotism, the toll war takes on the men who fight it, the times it was written about (WWII) and the times it was written in (1970, when the anti-war movement was in full swing and we were very deeply mired in Viet Nam.)
Bern Keating, 1915-2000 , who wrote T-783 The Mosquito Fleet: ” For four years during World War II, Keating served in the Navy. He was a communications officer for destroyers. After this, he was an attack officer of a Pacific task force.. has won many awards including a Pulitzer..Most of his work… commissioned….he uses the same style when he is writing for children and for adults. He does not vary in sentence structure or vocabulary.” (from http://www.mswritersandmusicians.com/writers/bern-keating.html)
The Mosquito Fleet is part memoir; part history. It tells about the role of the PT boat in WWII. Called mosquitoes, they were light and maneuverable, used for reconnaissance and recovery. President John F. Kennedy was famously on PT 109, and it was written in 1963, the year he was assassinated.
Katharine Savage : T-534 The Story of the Second World War reads like a 1960s school history book. The author wrote several global history books on The United Nations, World Religions, and Marxism and Communism. I could not discover her biography, but believe that she was a teacher who wrote for Scholastic on commission, from the page where she thanks others.
Ronald Lawson: seems to have written 2 books for Scholastic; T-676 The United States in Korean War, which I don’t have and T-576 The United States in World War I, which is a careful, annotated historical account and a good introduction to the subject for the teen audience it is aimed at, with an acknowledged bias toward the role of the Americans. I was unable to uncover his biography, so his foreword speaks for him:
“This book tells the story of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. It is important for the reader to remember that the other allies had been engaged in this conflict for more than two-and-a-half years before America’s entry.
Each life is a small miracle. Thus it is not wholly fitting to say that one nation lost only so many men as compared with another nation’s far greater losses. Nevertheless, it is true that the United States had about 50,000 men killed, while Great Britain and France counted their dead in the millions.
Most historians agree that the A.E.F. turned the tide of battle from stalemate and possible defeat to an Allied Victory on the Western Front.” (from the foreword)
These books are nestled into the Scholastic catalogue with books of fiction and fantasy, and science and science fiction. I wish I had statistics to show how many of the serious titles were sold, but Scholastic doesn’t make that information available. I do know that it appears that one boy accumulated them all…