Non-Fiction: Read one, Jettison two.
This year I’ve bought or checked from the library three fat books.
READ: Thomas Cromwell, Diamaid MacCulloch, presenting a detailed study of Henry VIII’s most competent and efficient advisor and Chancellor. From 1530-1540 Cromwell’s story as been hidden and marred behind the glow of persons who like Thomas More, chief proponent of the Church of Rome in England.
Cromwell was an accomplished businessman whose excellent judgment and actions saved Britain from the upheavals centuries later which arrived in France and the remainder of Europe. He made Henry VIII the sole sovereign, and let institutions – Parliament, nobility, gentry, commerce, universities – begin whittling away the monarch’s power. Cromwell lost his head, but his family survived; 109 years later a relative, Oliver Cromwell, cut off the head of Charles II who wanted to restore Britain to an absolute monarchy and who conspired with foreign powers.
This book is detailed to show that Cromwell was not only well-informed but also there not a person of significance whom Cromwell did not know, it seems. For literary persons there are passages in which Crowell recognizes the functionality and the efficiency of English as a language. He fostered learning in the language and its widespread use.
VALUE OF READING? Jefferson Davis, Felicity Allen, 570 pages, tells of the President of the Confederate States, 1861-1865, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of War and a soldier in the Mexican-American War. Except during the Civil War he was considered by peers as a competent manager of affairs.
Davis has all the deficits of a hate-spouting, fire-eating, slave-owning, ante-bellum Southerner, even after the South lost the war. (Grant took over one of his plantations around the Mississippi River in the middle of the War.) Davis could not compromise, he hated inferiors and intellectual superiors like Abraham Lincoln (also born in Kentucky), and he rode the crest of Southern Society until that was ended by the Civil War.
I gave the book, heavy lumber, and Jeff Davis 60 of 560 pages. Fortunately my cost was $1.00-2.00.
VALUE OF READING? None. The Day of Battle, Sicilian/Italian Campaigns, Rich Atkinson, Volume Two of the Liberation Trilogy.
I read about the Sicilian campaign, about 170 pages. I had read a more detailed analyses of that Campaign. The only new fact I learned was Patton on two separate occasions, slapped two Americans in hospital tents.
The Author, Rick Atkinson, gives a lot of gossipy facts that are not germane to the success of the American Army in Sicily. Attributed to Audie Murphy is the observation: “I’m a fugitive from the law of averages.” Those quotes are enjoyable and lend humanity to men fighting the battles.
Yet, many men were not quoted, or they did not survive. They were sacrificed. The Command structure was weak because Eisenhower was stupid and incompetent, along with Marshall and Eisenhower’s favorite inferiors. The plan for the Sicilian innovation was hastily made up; it was incomplete: Montgomery began fighting in the American sector without announcing what he was doing; he lengthened the fighting on Sicily two or three weeks, Atkinson admits. Note, from another source Montgomery always attacked the Germans with less than a division while the Americans were using complete divisions on the attack.
Sicily is an island, right? No one wondered how the Germans would leave Sicily. They all evacuated because Eisenhower and every advisor and lackey (British and American) in the planning never wondered what could happen to the Germans? Eisenhower did not want to use airpower to destroy port facilities or attack shipping. Those Germans were another 50,000 Germans to terrorize Italy and to contend with for the remaining two years of the War.
Reading about the American performance in Italy is a waste. Everyone knows and knew, at the time, that the American Generalissimo Mark Clark, was one of the most inept Generals since George McClellan. But Clark was one of Eisenhower’s buddies. I refuse to read about one mistake after another. I note the Italian Campaign was the first time Japanese-Americans soldiers, once in American concentration camps, fought. Author-Atkinson does not mention Company 100 although heroism by those men was as professional and complete as in Division 442.
It is unlikely that Author-Atkinson will detail mistakes after mistakes by Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley and Montgomery in his third volume, the campaign against Germany following D-Day.
A World To Be Won, Murray/Millet, in fewer words, gives more insight into strategic and tactic mistakes and successful plans than Atkinson seems capable of presenting.