Kamikazes, Corsairs, and Picket Ships: Okinawa, 1945 [EPUB]

Kamikazes, Corsairs, and Picket Ships: Okinawa, 1945 [EPUB]
Kamikazes, Corsairs, and Picket Ships: Okinawa, 1945 by Robin L Rielly
2010 | EPUB | 4.6MB

This is the previously untold story of one of the most ferocious and prolonged air/naval battles ever: the battle at the radar picket stations during the American assault on Okinawa in the spring of 1945. It weaves together the experiences of the ships and their crews, in a way that no one has attempted before.

The US fleet and its accompanying airpower that took station off Okinawa was of gigantic proportions, such that the Japanese could only rely on suicide attacks to inflict critical damage. While losses in the main fleet, including damage to ships such as the Enterprise and Intrepid, have been well covered, less well known is the terrific battle waged on the radar picket line, the fleet's outer defense against Japanese marauders. Of the 206 ships that served on radar picket duty, 29 percent were sunk or damaged by Japanese air attacks, making theirs the most hazardous naval surface duty in World War II. The great losses were largely due to the relentless nature of the kamikaze attacks, but also the improper use of support gunboats, failure to establish land-based radar at the earliest possible time, the assignment of ships ill-equipped for picket duty, and, as time went on, crew fatigue. The nature of the US air cover is also described in full, as squadrons dashed from their carriers and land bases to intercept the Japanese swarms, resulting in constant melees over the fleet. At times, US pilots "chased" enemy planes into walls of AA fire while often having to brave it themselves. Toward the end of the battle, the radar picket ships became the prime kamikaze targets as Japanese pilots despaired of getting through the "big blue blanket" of American fighter planes to reach larger prey.

This work is based on primary sources, including ship and aircraft action reports, ship logs, and personal interviews. Robin L. Rielly has written an engrossing narrative of air/naval combat, combining firsthand action with astute tactical and strategic analysis.

Vanished The 60-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II [EPUB]

Vanished The 60-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II [EPUB]
Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S Hylton
2013 | EPUB | 4.02MB

As featured on NPR's Weekend Edition and The Diane Rehm Show

In the fall of 1944, a massive American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands of Palau, leaving a trail of mysteries. According to mission reports from the Army Air Forces, the plane crashed in shallow water—but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn't there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, yet the airmen were never seen again. Some of their relatives whispered that they had returned to the United States in secret and lived in hiding. But they never explained why.

For sixty years, the U.S. government, the children of the missing airmen, and a maverick team of scientists and scuba divers searched the islands for clues. They trolled the water with side-scan sonar, conducted grid searches on the seafloor, crawled through thickets of mangrove and poison trees, and flew over the islands in small planes to shoot infrared photography. With every clue they found, the mystery only deepened.

Now, in a spellbinding narrative, Wil S. Hylton weaves together the true story of the missing men, their final mission, the families they left behind, and the real reason their disappearance remained shrouded in secrecy for so long. This is a story of love, loss, sacrifice, and faith—of the undying hope among the families of the missing, and the relentless determination of scientists, explorers, archaeologists, and deep-sea divers to solve one of the enduring mysteries of World War II.

Hitler's Engineers [EPUB]

Hitler's Engineers [EPUB]
Hitler's Engineers: Fritz Todt and Albert Speer - Master Builders of the Third Reich by Blaine Taylor
2010 | EPUB | 36.27MB

Todt is not so well known as Speer. Speer took his position after Todt died in a plane crash in 1942. With the exact cause of the crash unknown, sabotage was suspected; though never proven. While he was alive, Todt was Hitler's preferred chief engineer, and a member of his inner circle. In this position, Todt was responsible for the German autobahn, the Siegfried defensive line in western Germany, and German war material production. He was named Minister of Armaments and Munitions in 1940.

Holding this position until Germany's defeat, Speer was captured, held in Spandau Prison with other high German officials, and tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg and given a 20-year prison sentence. In captivity and after release, he wrote several bestselling books which kept him in the public eye before he died in 1981. Speer was known for his construction of German underground armament factories allowing Germany to prolong the war despite Allied bombardments and involvement in the German rockets whose development was cut off in its early stages by the Allied victory.

Both Todt and Speer were also architects of monumental projects meant to glorify the Third Reich and German infrastructure such as roads and public facilities. Taylor's focus is on their works as fundamental, invaluable parts of Nazi Germany enabling it to successively engage in warfare during the first part of the Nazi regime and then--what is even more interesting under Speer--continue to wage war against far superior Allied and Russian armies after devastating defeats.

Detailed biographies and studies focusing only on production plans and engineering and architectural feats can be found elsewhere. This book by an author with a military background is a heavily-illustrated popular work engagingly balancing biography, major Nazi engineering, architectural, and industrial projects, a profile of Hitler's leadership regarding such projects, and the complexities and rivalries of the Nazi hierarchy closest to Hitler which Todt and Speer had to content with to achieve and hold their high positions.

The Pope and Mussolini [EPUB]

The Pope and Mussolini [EPUB]
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I Kertzer
2014 | EPUB | 8.53MB

From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini’s spies inside the highest levels of the Church, will forever change our understanding of the Vatican’s role in the rise of Fascism in Europe.

The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different. One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and “Il Duce” had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. (“We have many interests to protect,” the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals.

In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, in which a heroic Church does battle with the Fascist regime, Kertzer shows how Pius XI played a crucial role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years.

The Pope and Mussolini brims with memorable portraits of the men who helped enable the reign of Fascism in Italy: Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius’s personal emissary to the dictator, a wily anti-Semite known as Mussolini’s Rasputin; Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy, an object of widespread derision who lacked the stature—literally and figuratively—to stand up to the domineering Duce; and Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, whose political skills and ambition made him Mussolini’s most powerful ally inside the Vatican, and positioned him to succeed the pontiff as the controversial Pius XII, whose actions during World War II would be subject for debate for decades to come.

With the recent opening of the Vatican archives covering Pius XI’s papacy, the full story of the Pope’s complex relationship with his Fascist partner can finally be told. Vivid, dramatic, with surprises at every turn, The Pope and Mussolini is history writ large and with the lightning hand of truth.

The Bohemians [EPUB]

The Bohemians [EPUB]
The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff
2014 | EPUB | 6.67MB

The unforgettable story of the birth of modern America and the western writers who gave voice to its emerging identity

The Bohemians begins in 1860s San Francisco. The Gold Rush has ended; the Civil War threatens to tear apart the country. Far from the front lines, the city at the western edge roars. A global seaport, home to immigrants from five continents, San Francisco has become a complex urban society virtually overnight. The bards of the moment are the Bohemians: a young Mark Twain, fleeing the draft and seeking adventure; literary golden boy Bret Harte; struggling gay poet Charles Warren Stoddard; and beautiful, haunted Ina Coolbrith, poet and protectorate of the group. Ben Tarnoff’s elegant, atmospheric history reveals how these four pioneering western writers would together create a new American literature, unfettered by the heavy European influence that dominated the East.

Twain arrives by stagecoach in San Francisco in 1863 and is fast drunk on champagne, oysters, and the city’s intoxicating energy. He finds that the war has only made California richer: the economy booms, newspapers and magazines thrive, and the dream of transcontinental train travel promises to soon become a reality. Twain and the Bohemians find inspiration in their surroundings: the dark ironies of frontier humor, the extravagant tales told around the campfires, and the youthful irreverence of the new world being formed in the west. The star of the moment is Bret Harte, a rising figure on the national scene and mentor to both Stoddard and Coolbrith. Young and ambitious, Twain and Harte form the Bohemian core. But as Harte’s star ascends—drawing attention from eastern taste makers such as the Atlantic Monthly—Twain flounders, questioning whether he should be a writer at all.

The Bohemian moment would continue in Boston, New York, and London, and would achieve immortality in the writings of Mark Twain. San Francisco gave him his education as a writer and helped inspire the astonishing innovations that radically reimagined American literature. At once an intimate portrait of an eclectic, unforgettable group of writers and a history of a cultural revolution in America, The Bohemians reveals how a brief moment on the western frontier changed our country forever.

Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues [EPUB]

Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues [EPUB]
Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues: Incredible True Tales of Mischief and Mayhem by Paul Martin
2014 | EPUB | 2.41MB

Everyone loves a good villain! From the back pages of history, vivid, entertaining portraits of little-known scoundrels whose misdeeds range from the simply inept to the truly horrifying.

Even if you're an avid history buff, you've probably never heard of this disreputable cast of characters: A drunken, ne'er-do-well cop who abandoned his post at Ford's Theatre, giving assassin John Wilkes Booth unchallenged access to President Lincoln; a notorious Kansas quack who made millions by implanting billy goat testicles in gullible male patients; and America's worst female serial killer ever. These are three of the memorable but little-known rogues profiled in this eye-opening and entertaining book.

Dividing his profiles into three categories--villains, scoundrels, and rogues--author and former National Geographic editor Paul Martin serves up concise, colorful biographies of thirty of America's most outrageous characters. Whether readers choose to be horrified by the story of Ed Gein, Alfred Hitchcock's hideous inspiration for Psycho, or marvel at the clever duplicity of the con artist who originated the phony bookie operation portrayed in The Sting, there's something here for everyone.

Brimming with audacious, unforgettable characters often overlooked by standard history books, this page-turner is a must for anyone with an interest in the varieties of human misbehavior.

Rasputin: A Short Life [EPUB]

Rasputin: A Short Life [EPUB]
Rasputin: A Short Life by Frances Welch
2014 | EPUB | 1.96MB

GRIGORY RASPUTIN, the Siberian peasant-turned-mystic, was both fascinating and unfathomable. As the only person able to relieve the symptoms of haemophilia in the Tsar’s heir Alexis, he gained almost hallowed status within the Imperial court. Yet he played the role of the simple man, eating with his fingers and boasting, ‘I don’t even know the alphabet’. During the last decade of his life, he and his band of ‘little ladies’ came to symbolise all that was decadent and remote about the Imperial Family – especially when it was rumoured that he was not only shaping Russian policy during the First World War, but also enjoying an intimate relationship with the Tsarina. Rasputin’s role in the downfall of the tsarist regime is beyond dispute.

But who was he really? Prophet or rascal? In this unputdownable short biography – which draws on new material, including an interview with one of the last people alive who actually saw Rasputin, as well as unpublished memoirs, diaries and letters – Frances Welch turns her inimitable wry gaze on one of the great mysteries of Russian history.