Three Books To Look Out For – Review by Mark Barnes


Here we go, again, with a look at some books that have created positive interest in the WHO reviews department.

First up we have this fascinating set of images collected by Petr Dolezal. He has amassed a wide range of photographs showing soft skinned vehicles in use before and during World War II by the Germans, including many which were captured during the Blitzkreig phase of the conflict.

There are all manner of trucks, cars, tractors and buses that are not seen as often as the usual suspects, although some more commonly known types do appear.

German armed forces, June 1942. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

You will see the likes of Matford and Ursus trucks amid so many other types that go together well in this very well presented collection. Captured French, Polish, Russian and British vehicles make an appearance and this all adds to the falvour. The book ends with the arrival of all manner of Soviet vehicles, including American supplied trucks and half-tracks.

The Ju 87 “Stuka” dive-bomber was used in blitzkrieg operations. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Mr Dolezal is a fastidious enthusiast who clearly loves his subject and the challenge of finding rare or ‘unseen’ photographs. The reproduction quality is excellent and the detailed captions are very useful. Books like this tend to do well and there is no reason why this volume, which appears to be the first of a series, should not be a success. I look forward to seeing more from this author and publisher.

I’m grateful to Tank Hunter author Craig Moore who runs for passing this book on to me.

A Pictorial Journey of Lesser-known Soft-skins 1934-1945
By Petr Dolezal
Canfora Graphic Design & Publishing (Stockholm)
ISBN: 978 91 982325 1 6

Next we have a superb illustrated account of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 by Santiago Rivas. This was an event that happened at a time when the world moved ever closer to nuclear Armageddon and the fall out from the failure of the invasion saw decision making by the Kennedy administration that would lead to increased American involvement in Vietnam.

Douglas A-4 Skyhawks from the USS Essex flying sorties over combat areas during the invasion Bay of Pigs.

The Bay of Pigs was a complete mess from first to last and it is possible to have some sympathy for the men who joined the mixed bag of soldiery who took part because they really were on a hiding to nothing.

This book brings together a fascinating collection of photographs depicting the men, ships, aircraft and other weaponry involved on both sides. There is the inevitable appearance of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in what was a great victory for the ruling party in Cuba.

Che Guevara (left) and Castro, photographed by Alberto Korda in 1961.

This is a Helion book, so the reproduction of the images and the general quality of the product can be taken for granted. What I really like is having something very different to look at as an escape from coverage of the world wars for a while. Books like this fill an important gap and I have no hesitation recommending it to you.

Book cover.

The Cuban Exiles’ Invasion at the Bay of Pigs 1961
By Santiago Rivas
Helion & Company
ISBN: 978 1 911096 02 3

Lastly, we have an impressive looking history of the period of European history between the two world wars leading to the disaster that befell the continent in 1939.

Jay Wertz takes us from the end of the Great War to the Blitzkreig, looking at the chaos of post World War One Germany through to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. From there the book continues through events in Spain and Ethiopia, the infamous Berlin Olympics and the eventual emasculation of Czechoslovakia. The climax comes with the German invasion of the west in 1940 and the destruction of France – Hitler’s great aim as part of his plan for vengeance for the Treaty of Versailles.

German soldiers march near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 14 June 1940. By Bundesarchiv Bild CC-BY-SA 3.0

The book has a lot to do, but Mr Wertz finds space for it all with well-paced and interesting accounts and analysis of the times. This is a period of history I have been studying for a number of years, now, and the author’s ability to capture some of the frantic atmosphere and not a little dread really helps the book along.

I’m quite sure there will be a number of books looking at the tragic road to World War II appearing as we lead up to the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the European war and this volume gets things off to a good start.

Book cover.

By Jay Wertz
Monroe Publications
ISBN: 978 0 9988893 0 6

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online

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