Tag Archives: WWI

Scarlet Fields (review by Mr. Cracraft)

Scarlet Fields: The Germans, 1933-45Scarlet Fields: The Germans, 1933-45 by John Lewis Barkley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scarlet Fields is the American doppleganger to the French “The Price of Glory.” It is the simply-told tale of an American farm boy who fought a stutter to be accepted into the Army. He won that battle and was sent to France. He had a rather unique experience as he was assigned scouting duties due to his skills in the woods and countryside. He teamed up with a couple of Native Americans in his company and they all helped keep each other alive through some of the brutal fighting that occurred in the short few months the American Army was in action in France.

He was a modest man and tried to do his best in the war. Ultimately, he did pretty well, receiving the Medal of Honor from Black Jack Pershing, himself (who accidentally pinned it right through the skin under his blouse–this was back before it was a neck-hanger, apparently). Barkley got the award months after it was earned. In the closing days of the war, as both armies heaved and tumbled in no mans land in desperate attempts to force a conclusion to the war, Barkley, sent to scout, found himself right in the line with a company of Germans approaching. He grabbed a deserted German machine gun and climbed into a knocked-out French tank–and these were just little things, not much bigger than an over sized pickup truck– and got to work on the crowd. He gives no estimate of how many he killed that day, and his citation just says “many” but it must have been over a hundred. From his writing, I suspect he was embarrassed and a little ashamed for having sent so many men, even the enemy, to their maker.

He fired that machine gun until it overheated and froze up. Just as he was exiting the tank to make a run for it, he found a can of oil, so broke down the gun, oiled it, poured the rest in the water jacket and went back to work. He was shelled and one explosion flapped the tank tread onto the hull where it hit the protruding machine gun barrel sending the stock crashing into Barkley’s chin, knocking him out. He came to, tightened up the now-loose stock, and went back to work. It didn’t help that he had mustard gas burns on his head from an earlier battle.

Barkley had a hundred adventures before and after his MoH effort and the book is a wonderful read for a snapshot of life during that struggle.

After the war, Barkley returned home, was touted around America a bit, and settled right back in Missouri, where he spent the rest of his life, dying in 1966.Wonderful tale by a humble, honest man, the kind that fought out two wars for freedom before the turn of the century. John Lewis Barkley, you are remembered. I hope you are in the arms of your Valkyrie, and that Jesse and Floyd and Tom and Mike are all there sharing a fire-roasted chicken and a canteen of brandy. -Mr. Cracraft

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The Habsburg Empire: A New History (review by Mr. Cracraft)

The Habsburg Empire: A New HistoryThe Habsburg Empire: A New History by Pieter M. Judson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whew! Ever read a book you know you should finish, but it is so stuffed with information that each page has to be examined with brain fully engaged? That was “The Habsburg Empire, A New History” by Pieter M Judson. 452 pages that take the reader through the machinations of nationalism, state-building, revolution and war that beset the Habsburg Empire from about 1840 on.

Various efforts to liberalize “crownlands” to give greater scope to local politicians and leaders were piecemeal successful, but often slipped back into the old ways when leadership, locally and in Vienna, changed. The book details many of the efforts by Serbians, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Jews, Orthodox and Catholics to carve out truer freedoms than they had under the Empire.

Ultimately, of course, it all flew against the wall like a huge lasagna following WWI, when the Emperor quietly stopped ruling. At that point, each “nation-state,” such as they were, did everything they could to create tiny empires by annexing the bits and bobs around their core state to enhance their own country, even–and this is important–if those being annexed did not speak the core language and were not culturally aligned with the occupying state.

So, millions of Germans, culturally and language-wise, were stuck in what became Czechoslovakia, many were stuck into the new Polish borders and it was these populations that gave Hitler his excuse to try to build out the German empire he hoped for. The author makes the point that the final borders were settled by military force in each locale, not by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control, just as they were following WWII, due to the threat of war between the Western Allies and Russia. Crazy times.

The whole timeline and political development from the mid-1800’s until 1920 or so are super critical to understanding how the Second World War started and played out as everyone re-jockeyed for position between 1939-1946 — the Poles taking a hunk of Czechoslovakia prior to being invaded themselves by both Russians and Germans in 1939–the Russians took a big bite out of Poland to the east as the Nazis invaded from the west.

After WWII, of course, the map of Europe changed again, but that is another library of books! All in all, this was a really, really well-written book that explained a lot of junk that happened prior to World War One and that led to both it and WWII, much as the lead-up to the Franco-Prussian War helped germinate (pun intended) WWI and WWII. -Mr. Cracraft

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Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfield (review by Catherine H. ’17)

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s steampunk World War I series, the Leviathan is sent to pick up a mysterious inventor who plans to stop the war with his latest device (Goliath), and Deryn’s secret is finally revealed. Once the Leviathan has transported the inventor to America, Alek meets Eddie Malone, a reporter for The New York World, and the Prince’s story and secrets are finally revealed to the world. I really couldn’t put this book down, wanting to know what was to become of Alek and Deryn, and how their relationship would develop. The book’s many plot twists, cliffhangers, and near-disasters build momentum until Alek must make his final decision: his title as emperor, or Deryn. I think this series will please fans of adventure, action, steampunk, and historical fiction and is sure to make a lasting impression.

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Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfield (review by Catherine H. ’17)

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Leviathan, the English Darwinists’ fabricated living airship, is on its way to Istanbul to deliver one of the mysterious Dr. Nora Darwin Barlow’s fabricated eggs when it attacks two Clanker warships and is damaged by a powerful Tesla Cannon. Alek and his men are put under scrutiny and he eventually decides to escape. He does so semi-successfully but only after one of the strange beasties hatches and bonds with him. Deryn, still disguised as Dylan, is given a secret mission to destroy kraken nets in order to allow a new beast, the Behemoth, to destroy the Clanker ships and capture the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile, in the in the bustling city of Istanbul Alek becomes entangled in a revolution that may just turn the tide of the war in his favor. Because this book is filled with amazing character development and brilliant illustrations, I greatly enjoyed reading it. This is an alternate reality Steampunk World War I novel that will capture your attention for hours on end. Scott Westerfeld develops both the plot and the characters very well, and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an adventurous read.

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