Tag Archives: Biography

Book Review – The Pope at War

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – David I. Kertzer https://davidikertzer.com is the author of more than a dozen books. The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler was published in 2022.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com with the expectation of delivering a fair and honest review. I categorize this book/novel as G.

On 2 March 1939, Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli was elected Pope. He took the name Pius XII. His election came at a dark and tumultuous time in World History. With Vatican City nestled in Rome, the church was influenced by Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. After the German Wehrmacht took over Italy in 1943, they also exerted a great deal of pressure on the Pope.

Because Pacelli spoke fluent German and had served as Apostolic Nuncio to Germany from 1920 to 1930, he was believed to be favorable toward the Third Reich. His predecessor Pius XI had been an outspoken critic of Fascism and oppression. Cardinal Pacelli had attempted to exert a moderating influence on Pius XI.

Most consider Pius XII to have been a weak leader. He certainly was in a precarious position in Vatican City. Secret negotiations were conducted with Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Pius XII condemned the Jews but never spoke out against Germany for their policies.

I enjoyed the 16+ hours I spent reading this 641-page WWII-era history. While this was full of facts, the book was very readable. The book covered an aspect of WWII that I had not heard much about. The Vatican sealed the war period papers of Pius XII when he died in 1958. They were only opened in 2020. Many facts contained in this book only came to light then. I do like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

—–

If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 590 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII. Included are links to many fiction and non-fiction books on WWII that I have read and reviewed. There are also links to WWII oriented podcasts.

Book Review – The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – This is the first book to be published by Edward Farley Aldrich . The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II was released in 2022.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com with the expectation of delivering a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as G.

As stated in the book title, this is the story of George Marshal and Harry Stimson. Marshall was Chief of Staff of the US Army from 1 September 1939 until 18 November 1945. Henry Stimson served as the Secretary of War from 10 July 1940 until 21 September 1945. Together they led the US efforts in WWII.

The first 30% of the book details their childhood and early careers. The remainder of the book deals with the many challenges the two faced during the war. They worked well together in a true partnership. Their offices were next door to one another in the Pentagon. They generally had the connecting door between their private offices open for quick consultations.

They both had to deal with the logistical needs of a nation at war. They also had to frequently deal with disagreements with our allies, particularly with the British. Likewise, they had to discretely handle many power struggles. Some within the US government and others with allied powers.

A small portion of the book addresses their post-war lives.

I enjoyed the 22 hours I spent reading this 762-page history. While long, it is a very readable book. I had, of course, heard of George Marshal, but I was not nearly as familiar with Henry Stimson. The book provides a very behind-the-scenes look at the US war effort. The cover art is plain, but gives focus to the two primary figures. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 590 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII. Included are links to many fiction and non-fiction books on WWII that I have read and reviewed. There are also links to WWII oriented podcasts.

Book Review – In the Hell of the Eastern Front

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – In the Hell of the Eastern Front was written by Amo Sauer. This biography is his only publication. It was released in 2020.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com with the expectation of delivering a fair and honest review. Due to some violence, I categorize this book as PG. The author relates the experiences of his father.

The book begins when Friedrich “Fritz” Sauer is 17. He serves about a year with the Reich Labor Service before being drafted into the Wehrmacht. It briefly looks back at his youth, then he goes on to describe his experiences in WWII.

Sauer is deployed and sees combat on the Eastern Front in 1942. After being severely wounded, he is sent back to Germany to recover. He spends some time in France before he is sent back to the Eastern Front. Soon he must flee the advancing Russians. His story tells of his capture, the long journey home, and his postwar experiences.

I enjoyed the 6.5 hours I spent reading this 179-page WW2 history. A bit of general WWII history is sprinkled through Sauer’s biographical experiences. I have read a few accounts of the war from the German perspective. They are a little different, but all depict the Eastern Front as a hellish place. I like the cover art selected. I give this novel a rating of 3.7 (rounded up to 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 590 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII. Included are links to many fiction and non-fiction books on WWII that I have read and reviewed. There are also links to WWII oriented podcasts.

Book Review: The Secret Life of an American Codebreaker

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Jan Slimming published The Secret Life of an American Codebreaker at the end of January 2022. She has published two books on women involved in WWII codebreaking.

In return for a fair and honest review, I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this book as ‘G’. While the biography of Janice Martin forms the core of this book, the scope is much larger.

Martin was recruited into the military in 1943. After graduation from Goucher College, she became an officer in the WAVES. She worked for three years in the US codebreaking efforts. The book covers the events leading up to WWII and the eventual involvement of the United States. It details the history of women in cryptography. It also tells about their role in the WWII military. Since Martin was stationed in Washington DC, there is substantial discussion of living in the capital during the war. Some of the cryptographic machinery is also described.

I enjoyed the 8.5+ hours I spent reading this 295-page WWII history. I read and liked her first book Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park. Both books are unique in that their subjects are connected to the author. This book is easy to read even though it is full of many details. I like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a rating of 4.5 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

Further Information:

  1. Podcast Series Bletchley Park
  2. Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park
  3. Code Wars: How ‘Ultra’ and ‘Magic’ Led to Allied Victory
  4. Images of the National Archives: Codebreakers
  5. The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 570 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Churchill, Master and Commander: Winston Churchill at War 1895–1945”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author & historian Anthony Tucker-Jones https://www.atuckerjones.com published the book Churchill, Master and Commander: Winston Churchill at War 1895–1945 at the end of November 2021. He has published more than 50 military history books.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. As the title implies, Winston Churchill is the focus of this book.

The author dedicates the first few chapters to Churchill’s military and journalist career during the late 19th century. He saw service in India, Sudan, and South Africa. Much of what he wrote as a journalist irritated the military. He also had difficulty refraining from slipping into a military role when serving as a journalist.

He struggled with his political career at first. He was eventually was elected as an MP and served in different government positions. He was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty before WWI. He ended up with much of the blame for the failed ANZAC campaign at Gallipoli on his shoulders.

He was in and out of office from 1917 until he was finally asked to form a government as Prime Minister in 1939 after Germany had invaded Poland and Norway. He led the British Empire through WWII until just after victory in Europe.

I enjoyed the 12+ hours I spent reading this 510-page biography and WWII history. Churchill was undoubtedly a charismatic leader. Many credit him with stirring the British people to resist the Nazis’ onslaught. He was the Prime Minister and also filled the position of Minister of Defense, which he had created. This gave him a large influence over the British conduct of the war. His interference in military matters was not always appreciated by the British or the Americans. While he and President Roosevelt generally got along well, Churchill’s desire to save the British Empire was upsetting.

To Churchill’s credit, he recognized the Nazi threat early and spoke out against it. While he saw Stalin and the Russians as an ally to win the war, He did not trust them. He feared they would eventually become an enemy. The author does a good job of looking at Churchill from every angle. While the book is about Churchill, there is a good narrative documenting what is happening in the world around him. I like the selected cover art. If you are interested in the history of WWII you will enjoy this book. I rate the book as a 4 out of 5.

Further information:

  1. Book Churchill’s Flawed Decisions: Errors in Office of The Greatest Briton
  2. Podcast The History of World War II Podcast Episodes 81–86, 88–99, 102–106, 119

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

—–

If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 560 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “One of Churchill’s Own: The Memoirs of Battle of Britain Ace John Greenwood”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author John Greenwood published the book One of Churchill’s Own: The Memoirs of Battle of Britain Ace John Greenwood today. He wrote it for his family in the 90s and they have allowed it to be published.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘PG’. This book is the autobiography of WWII RAF pilot John Greenwood.

The first three chapters follow Greenwood’s early life. It then covers his pilot training and participation in the Battle of Britain. An unusual part of his career is the six months he served as a Hurricane catapult pilot with Atlantic convoys. After serving in the European Theater, Greenwood was transferred to India/Burma. He finally returned to England in December of 1947. After a brief stay, he immigrated to Australia.

I enjoyed the 3.5+ hours I spent reading this 186-page WWII autobiography and history. Memoirs like this written during or shortly after the war are very informative. They usually do not contain the political spin often found in later works. As was the case with many of the young men serving in the military, much of Greenwood’s spare time was spent drinking and chasing women. He also talks quite a lot about the various shenanigans that he and his comrades were involved in. I like the chosen cover art. I rate this book as a 3.5 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5

Suggested further information:

  1. Book Battle of Britain, 1940
  2. Book Bader’s Big Wing Controversy: Duxford 1940
  3. Book Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II
  4. Book How the RAF and USAAF Beat the Luftwaffe

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

—–

If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 560 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Conversations with Einstein: A Fictional Dialogue Based on Biographical Facts”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Carlos I. Calle published the book “Conversations with Einstein: A Fictional Dialogue Based on Biographical Facts” in 2020. He has published several academic papers and five science books for the general public.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’.

The book is composed of two distinct parts. First is a brief biography of Albert Einstein. The second part constitutes a ‘conversation’ with Einstein. Questions are posed to Einstein, and then answers are formed from his writings or talks that he gave.

I enjoyed the 2+ hours I spent reading this 129-page biography and science history. The book, though quite short, gives an interesting view of Einstein. The author uses the conversation with Einstein to explain in everyday language, some of his famous theories. I like the chosen cover art. I rate this book as a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Book Review: “Eyewitness to Wehrmacht Atrocities on the Eastern Front: A German Soldier’s Memoir of War and Captivity”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Luis Raffeiner published the book “Eyewitness to Wehrmacht Atrocities on the Eastern Front: A German Soldier’s Memoir of War and Captivity” at the end of November.

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘R’ due to scenes of violence. This book is the author’s memoir.

The book begins with a brief history of Raffeiner’s early life. He was born and grew up in the South Tyrol region of Northern Italy. He was called up for the Alpini, the Italian Mountain Infantry, in 1938. He goes on to describe his early days in the military and the training he went through.

South Tyrol borders Austria in Northern Italy. Many in the region are of German extraction. In 1939 shortly after the beginning of the war, those from South Tyrol were given the option of becoming Germans. Raffeiner chose this option and left the Italian Army for the Wehrmacht. The book goes on to cover his service with the German Army on the Eastern Front.

Raffeiner was trained as a mechanic and served in an Assault Gun unit. He participated in the invasion of Russia in 1941 and was eventually captured by the Russians. He mentions atrocities carried out by both the German and Russian military. After serving time as a POW, he eventually returned to South Tyrol. Many photos Raffeiner took are included in the book.

I enjoyed the 5 hours I spent reading this 198-page WWII history. I enjoy reading first-hand accounts such as this. I am more interested in the Western Front of the European Theater, but it is enlightening to read about the war in the East. I like the chosen cover art. I rate this book as a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

Further Information on the Eastern Front:

  1. Book Marching from Defeat: Surviving the Collapse of the German Army in the Soviet Union, 1944
  2. Book Stalingrad: Hitler’s Biggest Gamble October 1942
  3. Book Retribution: The Soviet Reconquest of Central Ukraine, 1943
  4. Book Last Witnesses – WWII childhood memories from Eastern Europe

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 560 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Albert Speer – Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler’s Top Nazi”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author and historian Adrian Greaves published the book “Albert Speer – Escaping the Gallows: Secret Conversations with Hitler’s Top Nazi” in 2021. Mr. Greaves has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books. This latest book has just been released. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The book tells the story of Albert Speer, Hitler’s Architect and the German Minister of Armaments. 

The book goes through Speer’s early life and the growth of the Nazi party. It sheds a different light on Speer. The author was a newly commissioned British Army Lieutenant when he met Speer. Greaves’ first assignment in 1961 was as one of the Guard Commanders at Spandau prison. He served three years in that post. While serving there Greaves became acquainted with Speer sharing many long conversations. The book is a combination of those conversations and other historical data. 

At one time Adolf Hitler considered Speer a close confidant. Speer had joined the Nazi party in 1931. He became Hitler’s favorite architect. He was later appointed as Minister of Armaments in 1942. He had somewhat fallen out of favor by the end of the war. The leading figures of Nazi Germany were tried at Nuremberg after the war. Unlike the others, Speer escaped execution earning only a 20-year sentence. He maintained his innocence of war crimes. He claimed that he had known nothing about the Holocaust and other atrocities 

Speer repeated these claims to the author and throughout the rest of his life. Speer was released from Spandau in 1966 having served his full 20-year sentence. In the years after his release, he wrote three books. Two were autobiographical books while the other was about Himmler and the SS. After Speer’s death in 1981 evidence began to surface linking Speer to the Holocaust.

I enjoyed the 6 hours I spent reading this 192-page WWII history. I had of course heard about Speer, but I learned a great deal more about him from this book. He appears to have been very smart and cunning. The story rambles along at times, but I found it interesting. I do like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “An Englishman Abroad: SOE agent Dick Mallaby’s Italian missions, 1943–45”

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Gianluca Barneschi published the book “An Englishman Abroad: SOE agent Dick Mallaby’s Italian missions, 1943–45” in 2019. 

I received an ARC of this book through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’. The story is set primarily in 1943-45 Italy. 

The book tells the story of British SOE agent Dick Mallaby. While the book does give details of his early life and his post-war life, it focuses on his war service. He spoke fluent Italian and was familiar with their culture as he had grown up in Italy. He joined the Army and trained as a radio operator. He served in North Africa while awaiting his mission. After a long wait and many false starts, he was flown to Italy. 

Mallaby was the first British SOE agent sent into Italy. He parachuted in, landing in Lake Como. Unfortunately, he was almost immediately captured. The British were unaware that Italian Intelligence had compromised the group he was to meet. He underwent questioning and torture but was able to use his skills to survive. In fact, he became a key player in the armistice negations with Italy. He aided the escape of Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III to Allied lines. 

Late in the war, he returned to northern Italy with the SOE. This time it was the Germans who captured him. He faced interrogation again but this time by the SS. Instead of the death sentence he was expecting he found himself saved. This time he helped negotiate the surrender of 800,000 Germans at the close of WWII. In recognition of his achievements, he received the Military Cross. 

I enjoyed the 6+ hours I spent reading this 260-page WWII history and biography. This is one of those true stories that is almost unbelievable. Mallaby went on two missions into Italy. He utterly failed in the missions of both. He was lucky, or perhaps skilled enough, to achieve success in other ways. He was the trained radio operator that was needed for negations. He should have faced a firing squad twice. He ended up making significant contributions to the Allied cause. I had never heard of Mallaby before I read this book. For a history book, this was very readable. The cover art is a little plain but does reflect on the story. I give this novel a 4.3 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 540 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.