30 April 2016

The Sinking of the Laconia - A Tragedy in the Battle of the Atlantic

This book tells one of the most exciting and heroic stories of the Battle of the Atlantic, yet it is one which is unjustly neglected by naval historians.

In September 1942 the Laconia, built in 1922 as a cruise liner but requisitioned by the Admiralty as a troop carrier, was torpedoed and sunk in the shark-infested South Atlantic while carrying over 2,700 people, including 1,800 Italian prisoners of war and 80 civilian passengers. The U-Boat Commander responsible, Werner Hartenstein, immediately launched a major rescue attempt, turning the U-156 into a hospital ship and exposing her to great danger. The Germans sent two further U-Boats to help, the U-506 and U-507. The Italians sent another submarine, the Cappellini. The French sent three warships, the Gloire, Ammanite and Dumont-d'Urville. The British could do nothing, and the Americans, in the fog of war, twice attacked the rescuers with a Liberator bomber.

After the attacks, the U-Boats did their best to continue their mission, taking survivors to the rendezvous point with the French ships, but Admiral Dรถnitz then issued the 'Laconia Order', forbidding his submarines carrying out further rescue attempts. This was a major turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the general history of sea warfare, for the Laconia Order has since been standard practice in submarine attack. 

In all, nearly 2000 people lost their lives in the Laconia incident, victims of torpedoes, sharks, struggles to get into the lifeboats, bombs or thirst. Two lifeboats were missed by the rescuers. They drifted slowly towards Africa, most of their passengers dying en route. One survivor, Doris Hawkins, wrote a graphic contemporary account of this journey, most of which is included in The Sinking of the Laconia.

This book is constructed from survivor's own stories, contemporary accounts and official documents and includes much hitherto unpublished detail about the ship and her tragic fate.

Available from:
Paul Watkins Publishing

25 April 2016

Into the Lion's Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov - World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond.

Attorney and author Larry Loftis examines international spy and double agent Dusko Popov’s life in Into the Lion's Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond.

Dusko Popov had a storied past, starting with his expulsion from prep school as a young man. Years later he was arrested and banished from Germany for making derogatory statements about the Third Reich. And when World War II ensued, Popov became a spy, eventually serving three networks as a double agent: the German Abwehr, the British MI5 and MI6, and the US FBI. He also had a reputation for living an extravagant lifestyle and cavorting with lots of beautiful women.

On August 10, 1941, the Abwehr sent Popov to the United States to construct a spy network and, specifically, to gather information on the defense installations at Pearl Harbor. What they didn’t
know was that Popov was actually working as a double agent for the British.  Upon arrival in New York, Popov contacted the FBI and warned them that the Germans wanted this information on behalf  of Japan, and that an attack was imminent.  The FBI ignored this, and then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who did not trust him, succeeded in blowing his cover.  While MI5 desperately needed Popov to deceive the Abwehr about the D-Day invasion, they assured him that a return to the German Secret Service Headquarters in Lisbon would result in torture and execution. He went anyway.

Into the Lion's Mouth is the account of one man’s globe-trotting entanglement with espionage, murder, assassins, and lovers - including enemy spies and a Hollywood starlet. It is a story of subterfuge, seduction, patriotism, and courage - themes that Ian Fleming would incorporate into the tales involving his iconic hero, James Bond.

Find out more at the Author's website - www.larryloftis.com

Available from:
Penguin Random House

21 April 2016

Letter from Frank: An Unlikely Second World War Friendship

On the last day of the Second World War, Frank and Russ fought each other. In the days after, they became friends.

This is the remarkable tale of a long-forgotten letter. It was written from Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War to a Canadian in a peaceful Southern Ontario town. Both had been soldiers and had met on a German battlefield. The letter lay unseen for years and was found by the Canadian’s son long after the old soldier’s death. This book tells how that faded letter led to the discovery of the one-time German paratrooper who became his father’s friend in the immediate aftermath of the war.

A Letter from Frank is part war story and part biography, following the lives of Russ Colombo, the Canadian soldier, and Frank Sikora, the German paratrooper. One grew up during the Depression in Ontario, the other was a German in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. This non-fiction narrative also chronicles author Stephen J. Colombo’s struggle to come to terms with a father haunted by the war.

Their recollections provide insights into the events that shaped the generations that forged a modern Canada and rebuilt Germany after its near-total devastation. In a surprising twist, this book also provides previously unknown historical details of later NHL president Clarence Campbell at war (Campbell was Russ Colombo’s commanding officer).

Available from:
Dundurn Books

25 March 2016

WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds

WASP of the Ferry Command is the story of the women ferry pilots who flew more than nine million miles in 72 different aircraft—115,000 pilot hours—for the Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command, during World War II. In the spring of 1942, Col. William H. Tunner lacked sufficient male pilots to move vital trainer aircraft from the factory to the training fields. Nancy Love found 28 experienced women pilots who could do the job. They, along with graduates of the Army’s flight training school for women—established by Jacqueline Cochran—performed this duty until fall 1943, when manufacture of trainers ceased.

In December 1943 the women ferry pilots went back to school to learn to fly high-performance WWII fighters, known as pursuits. By January 1944 they began delivering high performance P-51s, 47s, and 39s. Prior to D-Day and beyond, P-51s were crucial to the air war over Germany. They had the range to escort B-17s and B-24s from England to Berlin and back on bombing raids that ultimately brought down the German Reich. Getting those pursuits to the docks in New Jersey for shipment abroad became these women’s primary job. Ultimately, more than one hundred WASP pursuit pilots were engaged in this vital movement of aircraft.

The publishers have kindly provided the extract below, and an introduction from the Author:

The Great Transfer of WASP personnel, which took place in August 1944 after the program had been denied militarization and was destined to close, was done to allow women pilots, already trained to a certain level of proficiency, to better utilize their skills. A number of women serving in the Ferrying Division did not have the hours to qualify to fly the high-performance pursuit aircraft that were now the Ferrying Division’s priority. They were sitting idle. Not flying. Sending them back to the Training Command meant they could be sent to other bases where pilots were needed to fly smaller aircraft performing jobs other than ferrying. 

The Great Transfer 
The Great Transfer of August 1944 constituted the most significant movement of WASP personnel accomplished during the twenty-eight months of the women’s program. The women were never told WHY this was necessary. Rumor, of course, took the upper hand and hard feelings, resentment, and blame had a heyday. The problem was, the ferrying bases no longer had trainer airplanes for women to ferry. Ferrying pursuit aircraft had become the women pilots’ role in fighting the war.

The push was on to get those swift and badly needed fighter aircraft to the docks to be shipped abroad. The women ferry pilots had to be close to qualifying in heavier twin-engine aircraft, like the C-47, in order to be sent to pursuit school. Otherwise, the squadron leaders did not have sufficient small planes to ferry to keep them busy. Instead of letting those women languish around base — attending ground school, not flying, and becoming increasingly disgruntled — the choice was to send them where they could fly. In the Training Command, they could be assigned to do other jobs like administrative flights (flying non-flying personnel), serving as test pilots on repaired aircraft, and serving as utility pilots flying BTs, ATs, and small twin-engine aircraft. Some also flew copilot in
bombers and transports. 

Nancy Love gave the women every opportunity—in fact urged them—to volunteer for pursuit school, but she would not “send” a woman who did not want to go. Flying pursuit aircraft involved more risk than the slower, less complicated trainer aircraft. To handle pursuit took skill and an aptitude far and above that needed to fly a single-engine trainer or small twin-engine aircraft. The men who flew pursuit were looked on as the elite of the World War II flying corps. The women who flew pursuit proved to have the same rare qualities—“the right stuff.”

On July 3, 1944, Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love held a critical phone conversation. “Do you have all the girls you’ll ever want [for pursuit school], or do you have too many now?” Cochran asked.

“We can use more if they’re qualified to be sent to pursuit school,” Nancy answered.

On August 15, 1944, the Ferrying Division released 126 non-pursuit-qualified women pilots to the Training Command for reassignment. Only pursuit aircraft remained to be ferried.

“The transfer the summer of 1944 was very simple,” said Long Beach squadron leader B.J. London. “The girls who had not qualified in pursuits were sent to the Training Command. By sending them to other assignments, they got to fly airplanes they were qualified to fly, doing other jobs at other bases.”

By the end of September 1944, WASP pilots were ferrying three-fifths of all the pursuit aircraft delivered.

About the Author:
Sarah Byrn Rickman is the author of an award-winning WASP novel, Flight from Fear; The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II; and Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II (UNT Press). She is the recipient of the Seventh Annual Combs Gates Award by the National Aviation Hall of Fame for her outstanding work on the women pilots of World War II.

Available from:
University of North Texas Press

Never Leave Your Head Uncovered: A Canadian Nursing Sister in World War Two

How many Canadians are aware that 3,512 nursing sisters and their associates - dieticians, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists - served with the Canadian forces during World War Two? Or that they staffed military hospitals in Newfoundland, England, Africa, Hong Kong, Northwest Europe, Sicily, and Italy? Soon after D Day the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps Nursing Service reached its peak strength with 3,214 members, 2,152 of them overseas. Sixty thousand wounded Canadian, along with many form the other allied nations - and even the enemy - were treated with tender loving care by these dedicated Canadian medical professionals.

Nursing Sister Lieutenant Doris V. Carter served overseas with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps from 1940 to 1945 in military hospitals in England, Algeria, Sicily, Italy and Belgium. She was sent to Rome after its fall, where she met Pope Pius XII, discovered that the reason one soldier’s wound wouldn’t heal was because his watch strap was buried in it, dated an American soldier who rented a whole Roman carnival one evening just for the two of them, and watched in horror as one citizen cut the heart out of another for being a Fascist.

Available from:
Potlatch Publications

8 March 2016

Battleground Italy 1943-1945 - The German Armed Forces in the Battle for the 'Boot'

In September 1943 the Allies landed on the Italian mainland, the so-called “soft underbelly” of Europe. Their aim was to knock Italy out of the war and rapidly conquer the country. However, the Italian campaign was one of the toughest of the war. The Germans, under the inspired leadership of Albert Kesselring, mounted a tenacious and skillful defense in the mountainous terrain. Some of the most brutal battles of the Western Front were fought in Italy, most notably the battles for Cassino which lasted nearly six months. The German forces in Italy did not surrender until 2 May 1945 only 6 days before the end of the war in Europe.

The author, Franz Kurowski, interviewed many of the German veterans of the Italian campaign, from the common soldier to high commanders, and numerous, dramatic personal accounts are featured. Most of these accounts are published here for the first time.

All aspects of the battle are covered, including the operations of the Luftwaffe and the little known war at sea of the Kriegsmarine. There has been little, if anything, published in English on the German viewpoint of the Italian campaign.

Available from:

At War on the Gothic Line: Fighting in Italy, 1944-45

In the autumn of 1944, as Patton’s army paraded through Paris, another Allied force was gathering in southern Italy. Spearheaded by over 100,000 American troops, this vast, international army was faced with a grim task―break The Gothic Line, a series of interconnected German fortifications that stretched across the mountains of northern Italy. Striving to reach Europe’s vulnerable underbelly before the Red Army, these Allied soldiers fought uphill against entrenched enemies in some of the final and most brutal battles of the Second World War.

In At War on the Gothic Line, veteran war correspondent and historian Christian Jennings provides an unprecedented look inside this unsung but highly significant campaign. Through the eyes of thirteen men and women from seven different countries, Jennings brings history to life as he vividly recounts the courageous acts of valor performed by these soldiers facing overwhelming odds, even as many experienced discrimination at the hands of their allies and superiors.

Witness the courage of a young Japanese-American officer willing to die for those under his command. Lie in wait with a troop of Canadian fur trappers turned snipers. Creep along mountain paths with Indian warriors as they assault fortified positions in the dead of night. Learn to fear a one-armed SS-Major guilty of some of the most atrocious war-crimes in the European theater. All these stories and more pack the pages of this faced-paced, action-heavy history, taking readers inside one of the most important, and least discussed, campaigns of World War Two.

Available from: