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World War I Day By Day.
By: Ian Westwell. Soft covers, 6.25 x 8.5-inches, 192 pages, 358
B&W photos, 22 maps and index. MBI order number 137365AP. Price:
This handy pair of booklets is nearly identical in style, format and presentation; only their subject differs. Therefore, they can safely be reviewed together as most comments I will make apply to both equally.
The first thing I’d say is that the authors, designers and editors have all done a fairly commendable job of bringing a myriad of facts together in a chronological order, in a very clear style, and with a fine choice of accompanying illustrations. The layout of these two profusely illustrated books, although quite “busy” is not a distraction to the reader. Rather, the layout compliments the content of these books.
Each volume begins with a brief introduction. Then each year of the respective conflicts is covered in a separate chapter. This is followed by a brief chapter entitled “Aftermath”, which concisely describes the effects of the wars on the nations and peoples of the world. Each incident in each book is listed not only by the date of its occurrence, but also by the type of occurrence. For instance, there are subtitles that first list the nation involved, then, the subtitle is further broken down into the geographic location of a particular incident, and the type of action described, such as “Air War”, or “Politics”, etc. This is then followed by a description which can be as little as a single line, or as much as a fair-sized paragraph. In every case, there are no wasted words and very few typographical errors. There are also a number of side-bars which describe such things as Key Personalities, Decisive Weapons, Key Moments, and Strategy and Tactics.
In some cases, especially in the WW1 book, I was surprised to see that the tank, the machine gun and the submarine was not listed as a decisive weapon, nor were aircraft carriers listed as such in the book on WW2. There were, likewise, many key personalities missing from the book on WW2. Conspicuous in their absence are Marshall, Bradley, Chiang-Kai Shek, Sikorsky, Mountbatton, Hirohito and a host of others. But, there really is not a great deal of room to fit everyone in, so the authors and editors obviously had to make some choices. For this they can certainly be forgiven.
On the other hand, men such as the US’s Marshall and Poland’s Sikorsky are not even mentioned anywhere in the text! As many lesser individuals are at least noted, this is a serious lapse. Furthermore, the index is only partially helpful as a tool for locating named individuals. For example, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s famous “Tokyo Raid”, is covered with a listing and a photo, but his name does not show up in the index.
Of the two books, I noted some obvious errors in the WW2 book. There could be errors as well in the WW1 book, but my knowledge of that era is not as wide as it is of WW2. Anyway, here goes! WW2, page 126: should be US Admiral Forrest Sherman, not Frederick; p. 154: should be Gerd von Runstedt, not Karl. On pages 115-116, the author states that Polish General Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz, the government-in-exile’s Premier, was killed in an air crash. In fact it was Wladyslaw Sikorski who held those positions at the time he met his death, (under still-mysterious circumstances) while taking off in a B-24 from Gibraltar. The author also incorrectly states that in the late 1940s, Communist China had a “nuclear capability”. In the WW1 book, the profile concerning German Field Marshal, and later President, von Hindenburg states that in 1933, Adolf Hitler invited him to become Chancellor of Germany, when in fact it was Hindenburg who invited Hitler to take up that post, at that time. Generally, the photo captions were well done with only a couple of glitches. And those are nothing to get too excited about.
The photos themselves are generally very well chosen, and usually appear very close to the items detailed in the text. They cover both men and machines and in general ought to provide diorama and vignette modelers with many ideas. Both books are not shy about picturing the horrors of war, so there are quite a few photos that may disturb the reader. Indeed, I was chilled by the regularity of the of the photos that depicted, time after time, masses of dead Italian troops after the 11 major attempts they made to cross the Isonzo River throughout their involvement in World War One.
So, overall there are some problems, especially with the WW2 book, which may put potential buyers off. But taken together, these books do provide a handy, well illustrated, extremely low-cost and basically accurate group of facts.
WW1: Highly recommended.
Frank De Sisto
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