The Internet has made hundreds of thousands of pages of World War II documents available to anyone. But finding the interesting stories in the mountains of mundane, day-to-day documents generated by armies every day is a challenge.
“Buried in Paper” finds those needles in thousands of haystacks. Military history researcher and former journalist Mike Hanlon dug into more than 10,000 pages of documents covering the Western Allies’ race across France and Germany in the last months of the war and uncovered amazing stories of heroism, tragedy and humor.
Among the stories are:
• The return of eight German nurses across enemy lines in France, and what the American and German officers discussed during the transaction.
• A captured document offering tips for German interrogators in how to extract information from English and U.S. soldiers, and whose information could be trusted.
• An intelligence report predicting the German Ardennes offensive (which wasn’t taken seriously by Allied leaders).
• A heart-breaking diary found at the end of the war written by a South African soldier who had been held prisoner for four years.
• The incredible story of a 500-lb. bomb stuck on an American fighter-bomber’s wing and how his wingman saved the day—and nearly got himself killed.
• What happened when a German armored vehicle mistakenly joined an American convoy in Belgium.
• What the Germans ordered their soldiers to do on U.S. Election Day in 1944.
Each of the book’s chapters starts with a brief introduction, explaining the chapter’s topic and its significance. Next are actual screenshots of the primary source document that tell the story, enhanced for easy viewing. The screenshots range from a single paragraph to dozens of pages. Finally, there’s a link to the document in an online database, so the reader can see the context in which the document appears.
Each chapter stands on its own; you can flip to any one and start reading without needing to have read any other chapter.
This book is perfect for historians looking for colorful vignettes to enhance their accounts of the “grand sweep of armies” across Europe or students seeking a topic for a paper, but it’s also aimed at the casual reader with an interest in World War II who just wants a good story.
This iBook contains so many stories and facts that would take years to glean from all the military documents out there. They are not only interesting, but informative of what life was like at the time, all through official documents.