“World War II: Battle by Battle” by Nickolai Bogdanovic

What are the images that come readily to your mind when you think of World War II? Amongst others, the ones which flash in my mind are the Spitfires in the Battle of Britain; tired British soldiers waiting to be rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk; the U-Boat packs raiding Allied shipping in the Atlantic; the siege of Stalingrad and the bloody winter wars in Russia; D-Day and the landings on Normandy; the last days of the Third Reich in Berlin; the US Marines hoisting the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima; and the formal Japanese Surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

The Second World War which raged between 1939 and 1945 is said to have claimed more than 60 million lives, both military and civilian. However, there will perhaps never be an exact figure for this. This was truly a World War, far wider in scope than the First World War of 1914-1918 as the battles were fought not just in mainland Europe but also in South East Asia going as far as some remote islands of the Pacific Ocean.

A compact publication I enjoyed reading recently was  “World War II: Battle by Battle” by Nickolai Bogdanovic, published by Osprey Publishing.  

Volumes have been written about the War but in this book, thirty of the World War II Battles are described quite succinctly. This gives the reader a bird’s eye view of some of the most important battles that were fought in that time.  Many of them were responsible for turning the course of the War.

The writer has not restricted himself to the battles in Europe. He has covered some of the battles in South East Asia and in the Pacific which were equally important from that region’s perspective. The feats of military leaders on both the Allied and Nazi sides are explained in brief as befitting a book that seeks to cover a very wide spectrum.  In my view, a short preface giving a broad overview of the Second World War would have been useful, especially for the uninitiated.

Students of military history and young people at large who have heard of the War but may have a sketchy idea of the battles would be well advised to read this book. I am sure they will enjoy it.

 

 

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Nehru, China and the Indian General Elections

The dates for the General Elections in India have recently been announced. We will know on May 23, 2019 as to who will form the new Government to rule the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion people, for the next five years. It is natural that there will be a huge spike in political activity. Opponents of the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will lose no opportunity to take pot shots at the ruling Government and its policies. However, judging from recent comments made by leading people in the Congress party, the quality of debate (if one can call it that) will be in the pits this time around.

Pawan Khera, the Congress Spokesperson said some disgraceful things about Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently in a debate that was televised nationally. He said M-O-D-I was for Masoor Azhar, Osama Bin Laden, Dawood Ibrahim, and the ISI!!!  The Congress which in the last General Elections was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha seems to have decided that this will be a no holds barred contest. The rank and file are probably taking a cue from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has been very vocal in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

In the recent past, he accused the Government and the Prime Minister of lying about the Indian Air Force strike against Jaish E Mohammed terror camps deep in Pakistan. He asked for proof, ignoring the fact that details of top-secret strikes like these are never revealed by any country. His accusations left many shocked as the country has to come together to fight terror. They did not go down well with everybody including some in his own party. Binod Sharma, a Congress leader left the party after three decades saying Rahul Gandhi’s approach was all wrong.

Rahul Gandhi has been equally vocal about the Rafale deal, claiming that Prime Minister Modi had gifted Rs 30,000 crores to his crony, the industrialist, Anil Ambani. He has not been able to substantiate any of these charges of virtually calling the Prime Minister a ” chor” or thief.  The reputed columnist Tavleen Singh wrote that to get more credibility for his claims it is about time that Rahul Gandhi produced some evidence of his accusations.

What shocked me more was Rahul Gandhi accusing Narendra Modi of being scared of Xi, the Chinese President. “Weak Modi scared of Xi” he tweeted. Most observers would testify that Modi has shown more sagacity than his predecessors in dealing with different countries of the world including China. The fact that China, which backs Pakistan so strongly, did not object to the Indian strike against terror camps in Pakistan speaks for itself.

The irony was that Rahul Gandhi chose China as the topic to criticize the Prime Minister. The track record of the Congress has been dismal when it comes to China over the decades since India became independent. Rahul’s great grand father Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964 a broken man following the debacle against the Chinese in 1962. His policies of appeasement and grand standing on the international stage as a great statesman came crashing down when the Chinese humiliated the Indian Army in the 1962 war.  The people of Tibet even decades later feel totally let down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Here’s one example of their feelings captured in this article in the website of the Tibetan Association of Southern California titled, ” Nehru and the China-Tibet Blunder.”

The battle has just begun. I am sure in the coming weeks we will see much mud being flung on both sides. The Indian voter has to judge for himself about the political party he would like to see in power. Would he like to give Prime Minister Modi a second term which will continue the stability of the Government or will he opt to give a combination of parties the opportunity to form a Government despite their differing ideologies?

 

“On A Knife’s Edge: The Ukraine, November 1942-March 1943” by Prit Buttar

In the annals of history, perhaps no war saw such savage fighting as there was in the Second World War which raged from 1939 to 1945. While there were many important battles during this long fought war which took an immense toll on both sides, one of the most savage has to be the fighting between the Russians and the Germans following Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941.

Both sides were guilty of what today would be politely called, “excesses.” The two powers had much at stake. The Russians were defending  their Motherland and trying to get back all that they had lost. For the first time, in November 1942, Stalin and the Russian top brass felt the tide was slowly but surely turning in their favour. The Germans on the other hand had too much at stake to retreat from Russia, even if doing so may have been strategically a better option. Their Sixth Army still lay trapped in Stalingrad and Hitler made it a matter of ego. There would be no withdrawals, he ordered, irrespective of the huge costs this would entail in human lives.

It is in this setting that Prit Buttar writes this in-depth coverage of the battles in the Ukraine in his book, “On A Knife’s Edge: The Ukraine, November 1942-March 1943“.

Continue reading ““On A Knife’s Edge: The Ukraine, November 1942-March 1943” by Prit Buttar”

“Humans Of New York” by Brandon Stanton

On a recent visit to the United States, my son recommended I read a book which he thought I would like knowing my interests in people and in photography. I was so happy to read, “ Humans of New York” by Brandon Stanton a book which is so much different from most others. It is a large collection of photographs with incisive comments and captions which make for very interesting reading. All the photographs have one thing in common, they feature people in the City of New York, The Big Apple,  so often called a melting pot of many cultures. Continue reading ““Humans Of New York” by Brandon Stanton”