Saturday, June 9, 2007

World War II

This week saw the 65th anniversary of the battle of Midway, and the 63rd anniversary of D-Day (and the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day war, but that’s another story). If you know the bare minimum of history, you can name the Japanese Admiral that was defeated at Midway. If you’re pretty nifty with military history, you can name all the beaches at D-Day and who landed on which beach. And if you’re an absolute nut about World War II, then you read books like The Oxford Companion to World War II by John Keegan. The entries in this encyclopedia range from the basic – i.e. Russia – to the precise. Who founded the Yugoslav Home Army? Why, that would be Colonel Dragoljub Mihailovic, who was executed by the communists (unfortunately or not, depending on your point of view) in 1946 for treason. This being an Oxford companion, rather than a Harvard companion, the emphasis tilts a bit towards the British perspective. There is an entry for Anderson [bomb] shelters, but not for Victory gardens. But it’s over 1,000 pages, chockerblock with facts, and perfect for any World War II buff. (And by the way, I quizzed a WWII nut I know about Col. Mihailovic, and he not only knew who he was, he gave me a little 10-minute history lesson about his eventual defection to the Germans in order to fight Tito's communist partisans. That will teach me to ask!)

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