7/31/15

Five for Friday 35: World War 2 Memoirs

Thanks to the influence of Max Hastings' Inferno, my WW2 reading has been sprinkled with more first-person narratives. Recently, I read these five books as a group (presented here in alphabetical order):

  • And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway Breaking the Secrets by Edwin T. Layton, Roger Pineau, and John Costello. Layton, a U.S. Naval intelligence officer stationed in Hawaii, provides a front row seat to much of the decision-making prior to and after the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. I found the narrative weighed down by Layton's apologetics with regards to the faultfinding and fingerpointing that occurred for decades after the Pearl Harbor attack. For those interested in that subject, on the other hand, this is a critically important source on that topic.
  • Going Solo by Roald Dahl. Author Roald Dahl's little memoir of his days as a British fighter pilot in the opening years of World War 2. A quick and entertaining read.
  • In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front by Gottlob Herbert Bidermann. Starting the war as a private in the infantry, Biderman spent the entire war on Germany's Eastern Front. He was captured in 1945 and spent several years in Soviet labor camps until returning before returning home to Germany. 
  • Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II by George MacDonald Fraser. Fraser, author of the Flashman novels, writes about his time as a British infantryman in Burma. Funny and heartbreaking, it is considered by many to be a classic WW2 memoir. It is interesting to me that Fraser is able to express his understandable lifelong dislike of the Japanese while Gottlob Herbert Biderman and Saburo Sakai are silent with regards to their post-war feelings about their former enemies...perhaps expressing this is a privilege of the victors.
  • Samurai! by Saburo Sakai: Memoirs of a Japanese fighter ace. It is actually a composite of Saburo Sakai's original memoirs and his interviews with journalist Fred Saito. Interesting and surprisingly even-handed.

Additional World War 2 Book posts:
My Favorite World War 2 Books
My Latest World War 2 Reads
More World War 2 Books
Even More World War 2 Books
Yet More World War 2 Books
A Stack of World War 2 Books

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