The Hidden Places of World War II
The Extraordinary Sites Where History Was Made During the War That Saved Civilization
Jerome M. O’Connor
Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2019, 360`pages
Book Review published on: May 22, 2020
Jerome M. O’Connor’s The Hidden Places of World War II takes a look at several events and topics from that war, some well-known and some not. While telling each story, he pays particular attention to the sites where they took place, most of which can still be visited today.
Some of the episodes, such as his discussion about the U.S. Army Air Force’s bases in Great Britain, take several chapters, while others only have a single chapter. Much of the book is focused on events and sites in England and, to a lesser extent, the United States. The two chapters describing the fall of Singapore are the only part of the book that deal with the Pacific theater, and the single chapter on Germany covers over a dozen locations.
The author sets the table with a very good introduction and prologue, describing the events that led up to the war in a manner that is interesting and engaging, even to those who already know the story. Much of this is focused on Great Britain and its relationship with the United States, as is much of the book.
Within each part of the book, O’Connor writes a good deal about what happened at particular locations. He also explains their context within the conflict. Most of the locations were in use for months or years during the war, such as offices or homes, rather than the “on this spot, on this day” kind of historical place. He includes events, both famous and not, for each location.
The author does a great job of putting the reader in the setting. His descriptions make it easy to imagine what it was like for the “secret ladies” at the code-breaking facility in Bletchley Park or for the U.S. Navy officers participating in wargames at the Western Approaches Command Centre in Liverpool, desperately trying to outthink the U-boat commanders attempting to close the Atlantic.
He closes each part with a description of the site today but usually provides little more than its condition and a location. While the descriptions do not have the detail of a travel guide, they give more than enough information to get one started on any plan to visit the sites.
The book is very well written, and the author discusses many topics that are not well-known to most Americans. The book is quite Anglo-centric; besides the chapter on Germany, the only part that deals with continental Europe is two very interesting chapters about the massive U-boat pens at Lorient, France.
I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in military history. It is a well-researched, very enjoyable read. It tells of many lesser-known stories of World War II and definitely fuels the desire to research some of these locations and events more thoroughly.
Book Review written by: Joseph S. Curtis, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas