- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Anyone who believes in God — or any other higher power — has to be the victim of a serious willing suspension of disbelief after reading Kenneth C. Weiler’s “The European Theater Anthology of World War II (Ostfront Publications, Hanover, PA., 286 pages, $24.95).
To take just one number — 55 million — from a book subtitled “Unique, Unknown and Interesting Information for the Cognoscenti of the Second World War”: It’s the estimated number of dead in a war that probably could have been avoided if an art school in Vienna hadn’t insisted on a high school diploma from an aspiring student named Adolf Hitler from Linz, Austria.
This is the best book I’ve seen on the little known aspects of World War II, from the failure of the Germans to develop a strategic Air Force, to the lifesaving role of Lend-Lease Spam to the Willie and Joes of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, to the role of horses in transport: Germany relied on horses for up to 80 percent of its transport needs and the Russians relied on real horsepower too in a country with few hardsurfaced roads. In return for the untold misery of the Holocaust of Jews, Gypsies and people the Germans considered “untermenschen” we reaped the benefit of the microwave oven, among other scientific advances. Radar, vital to the air transport system, came out of World War II, as did jet engine airplanes and guided missiles.
Weiler, whose “Why Normandy Was Won: Operation Bagration and the War in the East 1941-1945” (Ostfront Publications, Hanover, PA, 488 pages, photos, maps, glossary, bibliography, index, $24.95, available from the publisher or Amazon.com) wrote that “Germany lost more than 300,000 men in twenty-two divisions in just five weeks; this was a blow from which the Ostheer (the German Army in Russia) never recovered. In order to stabilize the front, the German command was forced to transfer forty-six divisions and four brigades to Byelorussia from other sectors, taking some of the pressure off the British and American troops in France.”
Weiler says he put the technical details described in this new book in footnotes in “Why Normandy Was Won.” Transport and logistics played a major role in the defeat of the Axis in Europe, with the famed Red Ball Express — utilizing GMC 2 1/2 ton trucks — “Deuce and a Halfs” — only the most famous of a number of routes that supplied the troops advancing into Germany. While many books on the war refer briefly to the logistics, Weiler concentrates on the aspects of supplying troops under weather conditions ranging from sub-zero to well over 100 degrees fahrenheit.
You’ll learn that the much vaunted German technological edge was tarnished by the use of gasoline engines in German tanks, compared with the superior Diesel engines in the Russian T-34 tanks, which Weiler enthusiastically describes as a superior weapon to both the German and Allied tanks. Of course there’s the irony of the German developed Diesel engine, which was far more durable under warttime conditions than gasoline power plants. The Germans also used dart-like anti-tank devices that required the user to approach the tank very closely, exposing him to deadly fire from the tank.
About the Author
Ken Weiler, a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army with the Department of Engineering and Military Science at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia was also the Legislative liaison NCOIC with the Army’s SAFEGUARD anti-ballistic missile program at the Department of Defense at Arlington, Virginia. He has written several learned articles on historical preservation and identification, is a member of the Hanover Historical Society (PA) as well as Co-Chairman of its Museum Committee. He is also a Trustee of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Society in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as well as a volunteer curator at the Eisenhower National Historic Site, also in Gettysburg. He holds degrees from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He currently resides with his wife in Hanover, Pennsylvania.