Where There's a Book: a Reader's Autobiography
Books have been the staple of my intellectual diet since fifth grade. In 1961, I remember getting a library card. The first books I took out were history and biography: one dealing with the Battle of Tippecanoe and the other about its commanding general and the future (shortest term) President of the U.S.
Earlier, in 1961, the centennial of the start of the Civil War was being observed very vigorously, especially in schools. The effect on my fourth grade class, in particular, was so strong that many of us, during recess, divided into Union and Confederate sides and wore the respective headgear. No swords or weapons, some physical aggression typical of boys in the schoolyard, that is, plenty of running and chasing. Around this time, my uncle, Trevor N. Dupuy, a professor at West Point, a Colonel in Burma during World War II, published two books: Civil War Land Battles and Civil War Naval Actions. In 1962, I was given both books, which started my interest in History, especially the Civil War.
More, I became my uncle's most fervid reader and in the next four years read his 18 volume History of World War II. In the blibliography I list the books, which were short and had an abundance of photos. Then in 1967, he published a twelve volume history of World War I. It wasn't long before I moved on from the Civil War and WWII and made World War I my favorite war. I read as many books as I could find, especially from the library, but one stands out: The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne. One of the bloodiest battles in History, six months long, with little ground gained by the attacking German forses, over a million men killed. It got to the heart of my fascination with the Great War, especially the Western Front. The trench warfare, the battleline moving very little from October 1914 to July 1918. Although the other fronts of the war proved engaging if not quite odd or eccentric. The British fought the Germans in Tanganika and during a British attack on that colony, most of the casualties came from bee stings. And the fighting on the continent lasted until June 1919, with the British troops, under General Smuts, pursuing the remnant of German forces, out of communication with the world, into central Africa. There was also the fighting against the Turks on Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. The latter interest was stoked by the film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and I may have read about T.E. Lawrence but would not get through The Seven Pillars of Wisdom until the 1980s.
In 1965, I read Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, which had ignited my interest in WW I, which I followed up with her The Zimmermann Telegram, but waited a decade before I bought The Proud Tower. The events leading to the war bad become mmore interesting than the campaigns, fronts, and battles. And it wouldn't be long before I became critical of the monarchies, whom I believed to be most responsible for starting the war, and the strategies of the military leaders: Haig: the Battle of the Somme; Joffre and von Falkenhayn: Verdun; Ludendorf, a successful commander, leading to the victory over Russia and fains on the Western Front in 1918, but after the war became attached to the Nazi party and perpetuated the "stab in the back" rationale for Germany's defeat in the war.
Military History Of World War II, New York, 1962–65 (in 18 fairly short books):
Vol. 1 – European Land Battles: 1939–1943 Vol. 2 – European Land Battles: 1944–1945
Vol. 3 – Land Battles: North Africa, Sicily, And Italy Vol. 4 – The Naval War In The West: The Raiders
Vol. 5 – The Naval War In The West: The Wolf Packs Vol. 6 – The Air War In The West: September 1939 – May 1941
Vol. 7 – The Air War In The West: June 1941 – April 1945 Vol. 8 – Asiatic Land Battles: Expansion Of Japan In Asia
Vol. 9 – Asiatic Land Battles: Japanese Ambitions In The Pacific Vol. 10 – Asiatic Land Battles: Allied Victories In China And Burma
Vol. 11 – The Naval War In The Pacific: Rising Sun Of Nippon Vol. 12 – The Naval War In The Pacific: On To Tokyo
Vol. 13 – The Air War In The Pacific: Air Power Leads The Way Vol. 14 – The Air War In The Pacific: Victory In The Air
Vol. 15 – European Resistance Movements Vol. 16 – Asian And Axis Resistance Movements
Vol. 17 – Leaders Of World War II Vol. 18 – Chronological Survey Of World War II
Vol. 1 – 1914: The Battles In The West Vol. 2 – 1914: The Battles In The East
Vol. 3 – Stalemate In The Trenches, November 1914 – March 1918 Vol. 4 – Triumphs And Tragedies In The East: 1915–17
Vol. 5 – The Campaigns On The Turkish Fronts Vol. 6 – Campaigns In Southern Europe
Vol. 7 – 1918: The German Offensives Vol. 8 – 1918: Decision In The West
Vol. 9 – Naval And Overseas War: 1914–15 Vol. 10 – Naval And Overseas War: 1916– 18
Vol. 11 – The War In The Air Vol. 12 – Summary Of World War I