Category Archives: War Stories

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Reviewed by Allen Hott

UnbrokenThis is quite a story about an Olympic runner from the U.S. team In the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Although he didn’t win the race (he finished 8th) but he ran the fastest final lap not only in the race but of anyone in distance running in the Olympics. His time of 56 seconds was so astounding that Adolf Hitler made a point to meet and congratulate him at the race’s end.

The runner was Louis Silvie Zamperini, son of Italian parents who moved the family to California where they basically lived in severe poverty in the late 20s and early 30s. Louie led a slightly tough young life as he was basically a wild young man. At an early age he was drinking, smoking, and actually living like a bandit in that he would steal food especially as he was always hungry. He always felt that he could fend for himself in all areas. He was lucky in that his older brother, Pete, who was almost a direct opposite type of boy, took very good care of Louie. There were also two younger sisters in the family who helped to somewhat control Louie.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Everyone Brave is ForgivenDoes everyone view the events of World War II the same way? Imagine living in London during 1939, before the Americans entered the War. Naturally, at first everyone believes it will be a short series of battles with the Brits leading the way. Everyone wants to do their part, with many able-bodied men immediately enlisting. The wealthy, or those from the “better” families”, became officers. A few chose to stay working in the city to maintain the continuity of life. The children were evacuated to the country. Some chose to remain. What was life like in Londen then?

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a story for those who search for the genuine experiences of the past. The strong voices of each character discloses the true life of the time period. Whether from Mary North being a single and pretty new teacher and finding her place in the world, or Hilda as Mary’s best friend, Tom is her boss and fiancé, Allistar going off to fight, or Zachary as the black and poor. Each voice explains living through a turbulent time of hardship.

Chris Cleave loosely based this novel on his grandparents. This London resident has won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2006, been on the shortlist for the 2006 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, also on the shortlist for the Costa Award and having his books on the New York Times Bestsellers’ List. He is the author of Incendiary, Little Bee, and Gold.

The Eagle Has Flown by Jack Higgins

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Eagle Has FlownQuite a story about an event that supposedly happened during World War II. It is fiction but all the happenings could have taken place unbeknownst to the world at the time.

An attempt was made to kidnap Winston Churchill by a segment of the German Army. There seems to have been a difference of opinion among the higher-ups as to whether it would be a good idea or not. However not only did it not work but in the end a very well- known and highly respected colonel in the German Army was captured. He was then supposedly put into the Tower of London but this too was not a publicized event. In fact both the Germans and English kept that part of the operation a secret. The Germans especially wanted it kept quiet because it was a plot by Himmler and not by Hitler.

Sometime thereafter a group of Germans decide to retrieve Colonel Kurt Steiner from captivity. Himmler pretty much had his own group that was somewhat loyal to Hitler and the Fascists. However another group including a General Schellenberg, was more loyal to Germany and not so much to Hitler.

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 by Nicholas Reynolds

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Writer, Sailor, Soldier,SpyAuthor Reynolds holds a PhD from Oxford, is a former Marine who also worked as a CIA officer eventually settled into the role of military historian. It was while he was helping gather information for a new exhibit at the CIA Museum on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), that Reynolds ran across several documents referencing Ernest Hemingway. That in itself was not so surprising as anyone who has read any of Hemingway’s work is aware the author worked as a war corespondent and also lived in Cuba as Castro came to power. However, his findings went far beyond that. He was surprised to find hints that Hemingway had once been associated with the NKVD which was the forerunner of the KGB, served as a spy for the US but also later a supporter of Castro. Make no mistake, this not some drily written tome of historical facts and documents. Reynolds seriously researched Hemingway’s life during each of these times and wrote a book filled with the author’s fascinating adventures. An author who already had a reputation of living life mostly out of bounds. How much research did the author do? There is roughly 80 pages of notes at the end of the book before the index.

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Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway already. Most people with any interest at all in the author knows of his 4 wives, his penchant for adventure regardless of the danger, his reputation as a hard drinker and his periods of deep depressions. This book gives readers a ring side seat into the larger than life figure explaining why all of those things happened to him. One of my favorite tales was of Hemingway actually patrolling the US coast line looking for German subs, a job he was sanctioned by the military to do. He was not just looking for them, his desire was to find and sink one. It isn’t just that he did this that makes this so interesting. It is the enthusiasm he put into the project that is. In many ways, he seems like a man who has never outgrown the little boy playing at war. One of my biggest surprises was how easily Hemingway was able to work his way into situations. He started as a writer covering WWII but slowly wormed his way into working for the OSS under the code name ARGO as a spy. He managed to get himself very close to the front lines, and even managed to fly for the RAF.

War, Spies & Bobby Sox (Stories About World War II at Home) by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Reviewed by Teri Davis

War, Spies and Bobby Sox“The volume of literature about World War Two has both fascinated and intimidated me. I suspect its popularity comes from the fact that it was the last time there was clarity between good and evil.”

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The Incidental Spy” is the story of Lena, a German Jewish refugee as she begins her new life in Chicago during 1935. Lena is fortunate to be sponsored by her aunt whose husband is a mathematics professor the University of Chicago. Immediately, she is enrolled in English and typing classes and quickly becomes a secretary in the physics department at the University. Naturally, it is hard knowing what is happening to the rest of her family a continent away. With erratic communication, the constant strain of her parents’ hardships, as well as her first love, are trying. Do you move on or wait?