From the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Battle of the Bulge and Beyond
Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan
Pegasus Books, New York, 2018, 352 pages
Book Review published on: February 15, 2019
War Stories delivers a fascinating account and perspective of men and women engaged in the turmoil of conflict who responded with great deeds of bravery and humanity. Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan examine ordinary people who participate in war activities, often by chance, who have advanced heroism, love, misery, and fear far beyond comprehension. They researched hundreds of civilians and military personnel known throughout history for their incredible stories that are both compelling and widely recognized. The authors also explored thousands more whose experiences are not well publicized and have been overlooked with the passage of time. War Stories discusses the best of both groups. This book is an outstanding resource to students, scholars, and history enthusiasts.
The organization of War Stories enables the reader to easily understand the intriguing accounts of brave individuals during a specific period in time. The format of the book contains eleven themes, including “Courage,” “Messengers,” “Special Forces,” “Spies and Intelligence,” “Couples,” “Innovation,” “Medicine,” “War at Sea,” “War in the Air,” “Escapes,” and “Compassion.” Every theme is comprised of two or three chapters with a total of twenty-eight individuals and three couples discussed throughout the book. Each chapter fits logically into the topic of each theme, and this provides the reader with a sense of continuity and formality. A summary of events for each theme introduces the characters in each chapter and provides interesting facts about their captivating experiences. The book is well referenced and contains a separate section for primary notes and source material. The stories of the people in War Stories came primarily from diaries, letters, or autobiographies. The authors also interviewed several individuals who were still alive during their research including Corran Pudon, a survivor of the 1942 St. Nazaire raid, and Joe Schlesing, who was rescued from the Germans in 1939.
War Stories is a book that traverses five continents and three centuries. Some of the tales include the courageous exploits of Joshua Chamberlain, professor and American Civil War commander, who led the Union’s 20th Maine into decisive victory at the Battle of Gettysburg; Krystyna Sharbek, spy and saboteur, who gathered intelligence on German-occupied Poland during the Second World War; Paul Revere, patriot and messenger during the American Revolutionary War; Billy Bishop, Canadian flying ace during the First World War; Pvt. Johnson Beharry, a tank driver during the Iraq War in 2004 whose courage won him the Victoria Cross; and Magdalene de Lancey, who gently nursed her dying husband after the Battle of Waterloo.
Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan present a broad discussion and analysis of heroic individuals from different countries and backgrounds, as opposed to the many publications that only focus on the achievements of courageous men and women from the United States. Each chapter contains pictures and interesting quotes from people of that era. These actual accounts provide greater understanding into what, in other history publications, is just a summary of factual information. There are also two segments in the book with photographs depicting the carnage of war, units in battle, and the equipment used during conflicts. These pictures assist readers in gaining a greater comprehension of the environment and hardships people had to endure.
War Stories is an intriguing collection of interrelated tales of people troubled by the challenges of war. The book’s use of powerful stories provides the reader a thorough glimpse of ordinary people’s bravery during times of tragedy and uncertainty. Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan’s enthusiasm for their research is obvious throughout the book. War Stories is a valuable resource for individuals who desire to learn more about history and the impact a single person or a couple can have under very stressful and overwhelming circumstances.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Mark F. Kormos, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Belvoir, Virginia