Most helpful positive review
A Quick And Fun-Filled Read
on March 18, 2002
Some people don't take this book in the way it was clearly written - with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The author obviously didn't mean for this to be a definitive account of all the events covered - that would have acquired volumes approaching a set of encyclopaedias!
What he does do, however, is cause you to pause, and think, about some of the things you might have believed for years based solely upon what Hollywood and others have passed off as legitimate history. Such as those great Western allies and Chinese "patriots" Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and those "authentic" Spanish Civil War battle scenes - shot in a bathtub in New Jersey.
What he might have included, as examples of manipulative history, was Frank Capra's unjustifiably renowned "why we fight" video series which shows, among other gross inaccuracies, the "gallant" Russians, prior to the Nazi invasion, toiling away in Socialist bliss. Because Capra compiled this DURING the war, no mention was made, of course, of the murderous Stalinist purges that sent millions of his own people to their deaths. The problem is, the series is STILL being sold as "historical" accounts of the era.
Sure, you can poke holes in what author Shenkman writes. Isn't that the whole point of history? As George Santayana said [and who is quoted in the Conclusion of this book] "History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."
One of my jabs is aimed squarely at the chapter "World War II" where the author attempts to justify the appeasement of Hitler by Britain - specifically Chamberlain. He says the Munich Accord [the sell-out of Czechoslovakia] not only produced peace [however temporarily], but that Britain was in no position to take on Germany in 1938.
Now while that is certainly true, what he completely overlooks are the relative strengths of France and Germany at that time. France had a pact with the Czechs, and a move by Daladier and the French Army, Navy and Air Force [which dwarfed the Germans at that time] would have caused Hitler to cave in. Indeed, his own generals were absolutely petrified at the prospect of going head to head with France in 1938 with inferior tanks and less aircraft! The fact is, France did not need Britain in 1938 - except for moral support. What the French did NOT have in 1938 was the courage of their convictions. And THAT Hitler banked upon.
He counted on it again a year later when, in September 1939, he invaded Poland, leaving his Western flank virtually defenceless. By this time Britain was stronger both from manpower and materiel
standpoints, and so was France. An attack then and again Hitler would have had no choice but to capitulate as he was in no position to fight a two-front war.
Not only does the author not even mention that possibility, he then goes on to punch a few holes in his own Munich argument later in the chapter when he says that, when Germany attacked France in May 1940, the latter were STILL better equipped than the Germans in almost every respect [although he does acknowledge that the reason for their quick collapse - quicker than the Poles by the way - was a lack of a will to fight.
But that's the fun of looking back. Opinions will vary widely on what should or should not have been done, and you can argue forever as to who was right and who was wrong.
I like the book because what it made me do was go out and seek the more straightforward, no-axes-to-grind historical accounts that simply present the facts and allow you to draw your own conclusions. THAT's the way history should always be presented.