Some of my summer reading

  • Dan Van der Vat, The Dardanelles Disaster: Winston Churchill’s Greatest Failure. The sequel to The Ship That Changed the World: The Escape of the Goeben to the Dardanelles in 1914, which I read years ago and really like. Again Van der Vat is looking at how a single ship made a big difference. Rather than the formidable battlecruiser Goeben, we are looking at the lowly Turkish minelayer Nusret. On March 18, 1915, the mines it laid sank 3 allied battleships, and seriously damaged 3 others and a battlecruiser. This forced the allies to abandon their plan to force the Dardanelles open by naval power alone, which was not really a good idea in the first place. As a result the allies decided to land an invasion force on the Gallipoli peninsula, which was an even greater failure.

  • Katie Mack, The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking). Who knew the end of the universe could be so entertaining? This a fascinating and informative book by one of my favorite internet personalities. Heat death, vacuum decay, big rip, and other possibilities. What’s not to like!

  • James Holland, The Rise of Germany, 1939-1941: The War in the West, Volume One. Excellent history, and makes the issues of logistics quite exciting. The book gave me a different perspecive on the time between the Fall of France in June 1940 and the beginning of Operation Barbarossa a year later. I had always thought of this as a time when Britain was standing small and alone against the Nazi colossus that had conquered Europe. It was desperate through the Battle of Britain, but that effectively ended in October 1940. After that, having the whole world and especially the United States to supply them by sea, Britain was getting ever stronger relative to Germany, which had just the resources of its European conquests. The U-Boats were a problem, but there were not enough of them to be decisive. Furthermore, while Italy was allied with Germany, it was a net liability rather than an asset. The Italians failed in North Africa and the Balkans, and so Germany had to commit substantial forces to bail them out.

    The German leadership was well aware of their lack of resources compared to Britain. Holland argues that their hope in Operation Barbarossa was to gain access to farmland in the Ukraine, and to oil and other resources in the USSR. They knew this would require total victory, but since they had achieved that against France they thought they could do it again on a much larger scale.

    Another point: Despite everybody’s mental images of Blitzkrieg, armored and fully mechanized division were very much a minority of the Wehrmacht. Most of the army was infantry, marching on foot with horse-drawn wagons and artillery. The British army much more mechanized.

  • Poul Anderson, The Guardians of Time. I have this collection of “time patrol” stories at least once before. The time travellers find that the people of past ages are every bit as intelligent and determined as they are. Outwitting them is a serious challenge. Somehow I had forgotten that one of the stories has a reference to Tom Lehrer.

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