tv Book TV In Depth CSPAN June 2, 2013 12:00pm-3:01pm EDT
>> the 2013th finale will be coming up on c-span2. >> host: rick atkinson, what is the liberation trilogy? >> guest: began 15 years ago and it is an account of the liberation of europe. particularly from a perspective of americans and other western allies. the first volume begins where europe begins in november of 1942. the invasion of morocco and algeria and the campaign across north africa. the second volume moves north across the mediterranean to the invasion of sicily in july of 1942. southern epperly and september 1943. the third volume begins on the
evening of the invasion of normandy. june 4, 1944. the final volume tells the final chapter of this story between europe in may of 1945 onward. >> host: white we began in north africa? >> guest: that is where the story begins. the store you was at the urging of winston churchill to not try to cross the english channel in 1942 and 1943. partly because the american army included the green commanders, partly because we did not have the land and the other materials necessary to undertake that enormous the. so roosevelt, contrary to all of the senior military commanders, i believe to invade north africa in 1942, that took place on
november 8. american and british forces fighting not the germans and that is really where the story begins, where we are fighting the french. >> host: why did we begin fighting the french? >> guest: the germans had made a deal in the 1940s and hitler immediately made his way to paris. the gist of the deal was i will keep the northern two thirds of france, including the paris, you french can keep the southern one third and you can keep your overseas possessions, particularly the colonies and north africa. most of the french agreed to this. there were a few that agree to this. so consequently, when we invaded north africa, it is the french who are still there. algeria is essentially at the stake of metropolitan france.
>> host: how long did it take to defeat the french? >> guest: three days. the french navy fight ferociously. one of the biggest naval battles of the planet occurred at this time. the first couple days of november 1942. then the french, it so happened that he was in algeria and he finds himself cracked by these invading forces. he negotiated a deal with the british and he agrees that he will surrender and north africa, which happens in the middle of november. reading the fighting and a couple of days of heavy rain going. >> host: rick atkinson, we have a recurring theme through all three of these books. the war in north africa is one of your books in the right that
this army ranked 17th in the world in size and combat power just behind romania. from those 136 german division for concord western europe nine months later, the war department reported that it concealed just the homeland that was postponed that had not been tested in 20 years in the army lacked enough aircraft guns to protect even a single city. it is likened to the reconstruction of a dinosaur with three vertebrae. then from your second in the trilogy, the day of battle, from beginning to end, it tended to be improvisational. finally, from the guns at last light, you write that the internal coherence of the allied coalition found a shirt victory. the better alliance had won. certainly it was possible to look at allied warmaking and
feel heartfelt about the missed opportunity. you must wonder why they couldn't have been the least clever, sugar, and more intuitive. the allied way of war when all the way through. just to finish that up, an e-mail from jerry back in pennsylvania. at the bottom we have the soldiers who won the war. they are rewarded for their stoic demeanor transfer, dysentery, fuel, food. they are slaughtered by the hundreds, often by the poor planning of their core army group commanders. thousands of these men were wasted for no good purpose. my question, he writes, how did we win the war? >> well, that is a complex question, as you might suspect. to try to simplify it, we won the war for a variety of
advantages. we have far more of everything than the germans had, first of all. the material advantages were enormous. we were creating tens of thousands of the art and 10 airplanes. that is important. we are making in an america not only for ourselves and our armed forces but for our friends. we were all sitting almost everything that the french used on our site. it is a substantial portion of what the soviets and others were supplied with. that is important. we learned how to fight. that is part of what the trilogy is about. we learned from the mistakes that were made beginning and north africa and italy, then there were more mistakes in western europe. there is a great sifting out the goes on. it is a sifting out the
confident from the incompetent. all the way up to a army commander from the platoon levels. all the way from the physically fit to the physically unfit. the lucky from the unlucky. this is the trade that napoleon price. by the time we get to the summer of 1944, we are pretty good. we have a sizable army. when you put all of those things together and you remember that the soviets are hammering the third reich from the east, they do most of their fighting, they do most of the bleeding, they do most of the killing, and they do most of the dying. 26 million soviets died in the war. it is very good ally to have in the soviet union. you put all of those things together and what you have is a winning coalition and a winning formula for global warfare. >> host: you write in your book, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945",
the statue weight of 144 pounds. the physical standards have been lowered that once kept many young men out of uniform. a man with 20 to 400 vision could be conscripted to fight. the armed forces would make 2.3 billion pairs of eyeglasses for the troops. where we shored on men? >> guest: terribly short. initially to be drafted you had to have at least 12 of your natural 32 teeth. by 1944 was zero. the army had dropped her the army had drafted dentists. they were drafting 12,000 patients a month by 1944.
how could they do that? penicillin. they were making it in huge quantities by 1944. all of this because precisely we were short of men this is an effort to build the ranks. 400,000 americans died, the 291,000 killed in action. the war falls heavy on the infantrymen. we were in bad shape, the british were incurably bad shape. >> host: can you talk about the split between europe and america? how much europe have the resources and etc. >> guest: the american army put 89 divisions into the field. about two thirds are in europe. a little less than a third in
the pacific. all six greens, they are in the pacific. most of the navy is in the pacific, including virtually all of the aircraft carriers and the bigger battleships and so on. when you look at it that way, you can see the weight between the pacific and it is pretty evenly this let. when you look in terms of manpower, the weight was given to fighting the germans. this is because the decision had been made in earlier 1942. roosevelt and churchill and a senior commander believed that if you could pursue the strongest of the access powers first, then the others would fall from the tree like rotten fruit. it was the first and most
important strategic principle that turned out to be true and that is why you see the weight placed on europe even though it is the japanese who had offended us most previously with pearl harbor. >> host: the year 1942. what was that like for the u.s.? >> guest: there was a better argument over where to attack first. when the decision was made that we were going to do this against the germans, for reasons that we discussed, this is a mission and operation. it was the most great gamble of the war for the americans. it included secretly crossing the atlantic when the german submarine threat was at its latest. it is always one of the most difficult kinds of operations.
it involves aligning ourselves with waging war in ways that we are not accustomed to. it involves leaving other men in the dark of night, which is what it is fundamentally about. all of this is a high wire act of the first order and that is what 1942 is about. >> host: what is it like on the homefront? >> guest: after pearl harbor, all of the divisiveness over whether to get involved in the, whether to participate, including providing materials to the british and so on, all of that went away. by 1942 there is an anonymity of feeling about the strategic direction of the country. a feeling that we are in it with
allies and there is a recognition that this is an existential war. our very way of life is at stake. and don't forget that in 1942, there were about 130 million people in the united states and 16.1 million of them will be in uniform by 1945 and everyone has someone they love in harms way. everyone has a stake in us. that becomes quite clear to americans, almost all americans through the course of 1942. today we have about 2 million people in uniform, almost no one has someone they love in harms way. almost no one has this in the same sentence. so it is quite different psychologically between that period in world war ii and america today.
>> host: from your book, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945", proud briton soldier on. a bastion of civilization amid wars and dignity. he would not dare insult me, sir, with large crowds who sang along with gusto. london's west end cinema screen for whom the bell told starring gary cooper and ingrid bergman. now in its third year at the duchess theatre. sunday, may 14, 1944, thousands pedal bicycles to the track to watch kingsway, galloped past the navy and then be gone. the royal geographical society sponsored a lecture with lakes
and rivers. that is may of 1944. london. >> guest: the british have been at war since 1940. they have been under attack and they were soon to be under attack in a different way from day one it is quite deadly, flying bombs and it was part of the british landscape. all of a sudden there were a couple of american soldiers showing up in a country the size of oregon. by good leadership, by good humor, they managed to show great forbearance in taking on this invasion by other allies and they contributed a lot to well-being. they contributed everything from
housing to a little food they had. it is the beginning of the special relationship between the united states and britain. it hasn't developed quite yet on the battlefield, especially in high command area. even though there plenty of aggrieved people and there are millions of gis around. they can be crude and overbearing and noisy. the british show great character throughout all of this. it is a part of this very long relationship. >> host: how did you do your research? >> guest: i am an archive rat. i spend cumulatively weeks and months and years in places like the national archives, college park, maryland, congress, the
u.s. army, the history institute, british archives, it imperial war museums. throughout the better part of 15 years, i have gotten to know the archives very well. every gate university has a world war ii archive. i can get an enormous amount of stuff. it can be very interesting and valuable. i do not interview many veterans. that is because my other is world war ii veteran. and yet, what happened 70 years ago is for everyone who is still alive on that time. it may or may not be reliable.
it may not be as vivid as we remember. the contemporary is thousands of oral histories that were done almost simultaneously with the events that occurred and may have begun with army historians. it is so abroad that you don't need a recollection 70 years after in my judgment. i mostly use archives and contemporary archives. to say the least, there have been a lot of books written. many hardcover titles, some of them are really good. to be diligent, to see what others have written a dodgier bread at the end of the war, enlisted in 1943, with went to officer candidate school. was a second lieutenant.
i remember that their job was basically to keep order at a time when others had been utterly destroyed, 7 million dead germans, no food and power, it is horrible. and so he was there for a year and went to college. went to penn state, then back into the army. and he had a very interesting role of europe right at the end. >> host: where did you grow up?
>> guest: i was born in munich like most army brats. it was back when the u.s. army was still in austria. from there he was an infantry officer. georgia, idaho, sentences, hawaii. pennsylvania, we moved around on the bed. >> host: where did you go to college and what do you do prior to that? >> guest: i went to the university of chicago and i wanted to be eight english professor. peter, after a while it just didn't seem like the right thing and i got a job after i finished my masters degree in the newspaper business. in pittsburg, kansas.
i loved the newsroom, i loved being a journalist. i went to kansas city and work their for several years and ended up at "the washington post" in 1983, 30 years ago. i was a reporter and war correspondent. i did investigative reporting for the post. in 1956, for example, in the late '80s, i took on this topic. and i left the newsroom very much for bed. i have been back to the post twice since taking this out. >> host: this is booktv. we are airing our "in depth" program, rick atkinson is our guest. here are his books, beginning in 1989, "the long gray line."
the american journey of west point classmate story of 1966. then, "crusade: the untold story of the persian gulf war", and the beginning of "liberation trilogy." "an army at dawn: the war in north africa", in 2004 "in the company of soldiers: a chronicle of combat." it came out in 2004. and "the day of battle: the war in sicily and italy" came out in 2007. finally, just last month, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945". if you would like to participate in a conversation this afternoon, the numbers are up on the screen. we have also set aside or third line this morning for world war ii veterans, giving mr. atkinson
focused. we would like to hear from you as well. our number is 585, 2880. if you live in the mountains or pacific, give us a call. if you are a world war ii veteran, dial (202)585-3882. we believe that number out. you can send it e-mailed to us at booktv.com. you will see right there, the top of the facebook page. the numbers are on the screen. at the top of our facebook is a common field for rick atkinson. so why the class of 1966?
>> guest: my dad had a very close friend in the army who is in that class. his name was mike fuller. when in 1981, mike started telling me about his class and what they had gone through and how they had arrived at west point in 1962. then he charged off to vietnam in 1966 and 1967. thirty of them were killed in vietnam. then they came home and found that they were pariahs within a generation. they were no longer the leaders, they were the outcasts as the country went through this upheaval over the war and many other things. and i went to the 15th reunion in 1981 at west point. everyone is crying, it was so
heartbreaking and clear that this was a powerful story that allows you to tell a social history of america over it order sentry. i went back to their 20th reunion in 1986, that is when i began working on this book. i do feel that there were 579 men in a class, still all-male at that point. an extraordinary bunch, not only for what they went through in vietnam, but the things that happen to them subsequently. the book is built around three central characters. i'm still very close to the men from that time. i've always think of them as 18-year-old boys showing up at west point. i feel a great sense of attachment. >> host: who are jack wheeler
and can't walk hard reign. >> host: they are the two central characters at west point. both went to war. jack had gone to harvard business school. tom was wounded a couple of times. they went through various specifics. they found themselves on opposite sides of one of the most contentious issues. i was over how to honor the dead with the vietnam veterans memorial. he was the chairman of the committee and tom was the most outspoken and articulate opponent. different camps were formed with respective points of view. they have since reconciled and jack was murdered a couple of years ago in delaware.
no one knows what really happened. the two had reconciled. but it was interesting as part of the long gray line. it is part of this long journey this class has went to in 1962. >> host: from your book, "crusade: the untold story of the persian gulf war", first of all, did you in bed reign. >> guest: there was no embedding. i got there right at the end of the war. i have been writing the main stories from washington. we got there in march and april, reporting for the post. trying to tell the story of what had happened from the inside area i spent a lot of time with the schwarzkopf's staff and the
other generals and admirals who ran the war. those at home as well. those who have been involved in this way. the british and the israelis. they were aimed at israel. so that was my involvement. >> host: you write no american military decisions and the vietnam war provoked more controversy and debate and more cost of commentary and the choice to offer a rock unmerciful 20. >> guest: the decision was made after 100 hours of ground war. iraqis have been evicted from kuwait. in august of 1991.
they had been evicted from kuwait, they had been beat up with strategic air campaign, they had been eviscerated with parts of baghdad, and when they were on the run and being chased back across the euphrates river, the decision was made to end the war. that remains controversial to this day. again, in earnest, all of that came out of the earlier war. >> host: here are the words. with conjunction with the other united nations, aimed at the heart of germany and the discussion of armed forces. what is that? >> that is the order that was given to dwight eisenhower was the supreme commander of the
allied force. it comes from the combined chiefs of staff. the top generals and admirals and counterparts in britain. this is what you will do, you will invade the german armed forces and you are just set for german surrender. the decision had been made in january of 1943. the only way the war could end was through complete surrender, unconditional surrender by the axis powers. this had happened and now the determination was it was going to happen with japan and germany. to batter them enough so that they would surrender unconditionally. >> host: what does this stand
for? >> guest: it stands for nothing. it could stand for death, it could stand for it today, it is a code. people have tried retrospectively. >> host: about 69 years ago today. >> guest: that is right. that is the david eisenhower picked. it is very tricky to invade the coast. the ties are extraordinary. it has to be right if you're going to go at night to be able to pursue this proficiently. the winds have to be right, or whether has to be right. the weather was wrong, as it turned out. eisenhower never had good luck with weather. it had been stormy for the
invasion of morocco, it had been stormy for the invasion of sicily. and it was stormy, indeed. on june 5, 1944. it was awful. so he postponed it for a day. he had a narrow window and all the rest of it was still obtained in a way that was suitable for this kind of invasion. if you delete it much longer, the next appropriate time was going to be several weeks later. it was extraordinary anxiety. there was 24 hours of morning. that was in some other point on the french coast. it could have been -- it probably would've been catastrophic. so the anxiety level is unbelievable. we make the decision to postpone it, he did, and they got away with it. june 6, that is the baby is celebrated the day.
>> host: the number of troops? the numbers of deaths? >> guest: there were several. altogether you are talking about a couple hundred thousand troops going in on june 6. most of the deaths, one of the two american beaches was in omaha. several thousand deaths there. there had been concerned that there were tens of thousands. and this was by no means light casualties. but they were left with utah beach. the british and canadians had a tough time of it. by the end of june 6, there were canadian troops as far as 6 miles inland. omaha beach, there were no farther than 1500 yards or there
was a disparity between these allied invaders and what they found. and their ability to push inland. that is the trick in an invasion. you want to get as far as you can as quickly as you can. hopefully you want to push the artillery out of range so they can't show the beach. that is when you are most vulnerable coming across the beach. it took several days. nevertheless, it turns out to be quite successful and the casualties, we are talking 3000 or so altogether, they are lighter than many had feared. >> host: what about the gliders and paratroopers that went in? >> guest: there had been a decision with this that you needed to have an airborne operation. and it is a big one. it includes men come in by
parachute and those bike rider. off-line from england. the 181st and 182nd airborne division came in and said we have a british counterpart on the other side. all in all, despite confusion, catastrophe, planes shot down, men shot down, coming down with parachutes, all in all, the airborne operation had to be successful. it did succeed with some of the defenders. it did help to shore up counter attacks in the beachhead and there had been a great debate a few days before the invasion. a british invasion, the germans had reinforced this part of the
peninsula to a degree that would make it suicidal for these airborne divisions. he was a senior officer saying that this is suicidal. i think it was a terrible decision to make. it is very hard. he thought about for a long time and ultimately decided that i have to do it. i cannot launch an invasion and have the rest of counterattacks and the troops coming across the beaches without taking a huge risk on these airborne operations. as it turned out, it was the right decision and it worked pretty well all in all. >> host: of more than 6000 jumpers from the 101st airborne, you write nearly 1000 had landed on or near the objectives on this tuesday morning. most enclosed the division drop zones would be killed or
captured. with maps torn from local telephone books from french farmers. it lay beyond retrieval at the various areas of water meadows, various losses of radios and a circuit peering into a barn soundman lying in the straw, wrapped in bloody parachutes. >> guest: that gives you a sense of the intensity of it. you had to be able to leap out of an airplane in the dark. from 1000 feet or less. jumping from 500 feet. with people shooting at you. the airborne troops had volunteers. even though you said you wanted to be there, you have to believe that when push came to shove,
many of them had second thoughts about that. it is part of the reason that both are active divisions today. they are still revered. they draft these kind of troops and they go through this kind of experience. we go through this elsewhere in britain. they are extraordinary. my admiration for them is unbound. >> host: one more quote and then we will take some calls. the preparatory bombings of the american beaches in operation overlord lasted barely half an hour to get on with the winnings. they fired 140,000 shells were the enemy emplacements were destroyed. almost 1006-inch rounds flown in
only one direct hit was recorded. 111 guns, none were completely not out. rick atkinson is our guest. please call the numbers on your screen, we will begin with a call from robert in ohio. where are you calling from, robert remapped. >> caller: in the guards to the general officers, how many general officers were in the military? >> guest: there were about 1300 generals in the army in world war ii. a number of animals i do not recall offhand.
you can figure it is proportionate. today there are somewhere in the order of two less than 300. the ratio then and now is somewhat different. you can be that there were more soldiers per general, 8.1 million, 8.13 million in the united states army in world war ii. you have 1300 generals today. we have more generals today per soldier. i do not think it is necessarily excessive. this is a debate that is held chronically in the pentagon among other places. certainly elsewhere in washington where there is too much brass. my feeling is that it is hard to make the case and there are too many generals.
>> host: louise is calling from florida. you are on booktv, thank you for calling and. >> caller: thank you for writing about north africa. so few people have done it. i was with the 77th evacuation hospital affiliated with university of the university of kansas and we were overseas for 37 months. we did and what africa included two other hospitals that we work with behind the front lines. they do. >> host: what was your job? >> caller: i was a surgical nurse. >> host: were you a volunteer? >> caller: yes. >> host: what do you recall about your experience? >> caller: it was totally unusual. it was so innocent about war when we went over there. we had to just work from scratch to set up hospital units and take care of the wounded.
>> host: how many women were with your unit? >> caller: forty-seven, i believe. >> guest: thank you, louise. that was terrific. my wife is from kansas. my daughter is a surgeon. we are very enthusiastic about what you have done, the university of kansas, my wife is a graduate. i came across this periodically throughout my research. you were there and there were no units that i'm aware of that did more for a longer period of time than the 77th. i am aware of the difficult circumstances, and field field medicine is very important. the ability to innovate, to stay tough and tough times, i am and
not. my daughter, i have told her about what you and your colleagues did, and she is in on it as well. she works with surgeons at the university of cincinnati and trauma surgery. and she has some sense of what it is that you went through. >> host: were all women volunteers? >> guest: yes, they were. there was a woman's auxiliary corps. and there was no draft of women. the men were subject to it. the deeper we got, the greater we had chances of being. but there was never a draft of women. so if you were a woman in an aircraft factory or a welder in a ship factory or the driver or
something, it is because he volunteered to be here. >> host: from your book, "an army at dawn: the war in north africa", you write that at a price of 70,000 casualties, one thing has been redeemed. for u.s. divisions now had combat experience as expeditionary is. mountains, desert, and urban. combined arms, of mass armor, they now knew what it was like to fight on. xu e-mails you and says, i intend to write about this. it is true, isn't it? that we must write to insist about the campaign in north africa. maybe the war would have been shorted. >> guest: this has been debated
for seven years since then. my feeling is, having looked at it in great depth, over a longer period of time, it played out as a check. i do not believe that we have the capability to invade france in 1943. i think it would've been potentially disastrous. there were no good alternatives to north africa if you are trying to liberate europe ultimately. my feeling is that even though there is a bit of improvisation involved, they are making it up as they go along. there is a miscalculation about how easy it will be in north africa. certainly miscalculations about what churchill called the soft underbelly, the second side of europe. there is nothing soft about it.
you know, i think that you can argue that the war in italy went on too long and grew too much of our resources. but my feeling is that the decision to invade north africa is quite defensible. >> host: were the americans and british on the same page? >> guest: they were almost never on the same page. it is one of the mysteries of the war have different national perspectives and values and interests can remain more or less in harness. he found, for example, just over the issue of where to invade initially, the british favorite north africa. none of the americans favored north africa. it was franklin roosevelt.
so this sets the stage subsequently overlarge issues, strategic issues like this one. and other strategic issues. it is a tribute to men of good will to actually to be able to put aside differences and reach compromises. especially to make it work. certainly many bad feelings at times between these allies. >> host: if you can't get through on the phone lines, you can send an e-mail to booktv on c-span.org, or you can make a comment on her facebook page. please go ahead. >> caller: you may have already addressed this question. it is about what you said about italy. he said that we were attacked with the germans if we nailed them and it was like the rest of them would be like this.
why was the decision made to go into italy as opposed go into france? i have heard theories and another question i have, how well did the fbi administration handle the patents, if they were supposedly one of our top commanders. was in a kind of irresponsible and the war might've been finished early before that? supposedly he was one of the better generals and so on. the last question i have is i had heard and i can't remember the book, it was actually on c-span. eisenhower and patton were some historians had argued that after world war i, their superiors train them specifically. so there is going to be another war and it was drafted as -- they were already in the
service, as being the ones who are going to lead the invasions and so on. is there any truth to that? >> guest: the invasion was italy. italy has taken on partly because of a certain momentum. once you've committed yourself, there is a kind of logic being in the mediterranean. there was a general agreement is the campaign was unfolding. that ended in may of 1943. the next obvious step was sicily. and you need bases for the air campaign to launch these enemies especially in germany. it makes sense. we invaded in july 10, 1943. it is only 43 miles and so the
decision was made. we have gone this far, we will go into southern italy. there is a certain sense of that as well. it becomes a self fulfilling process. you get into southern italy in september of 1943. you want to get to rome, that happens right away. the italians quit in september of 1943. so we end up in italy until the end of the war, until may of 1945. part of it was to try tie up german troops. part of it is because there is a momentum to it. the british are very keen on prosecuting. they have 200 years of experience there. they have imperial interest in the mediterranean.
so you find that there is a momentum and logic of its own that occurs but does not necessarily hold up when you look at the second question is in august of 1943 in sicily, cotton really lost control of himself. both were sick and in hospitals and if that were to happen today, he would be captured from the army. i think rightfully so. it did not happen to patton. he was pushed aside for a while, as he said. but this fact remained secret for several months. the story didn't break until november of 1943. it was not roosevelt intervened,
it was roosevelt trying to decide what to do with the problem child. recognizing that he was, as you say, a fine field commander and he decided that it caused him problems as a senior american ground commander in normandy. he used it for deception reasons and he was sheltered aside for several months. he is miserable. miserable and in this time. my feeling is that what happened was deserved. that he had brought it upon himself. i think that he chose a fairly wise course. i'm not sure that i understand the first question. >> were they specifically train after world war i? >> guest: well, no, they were
not. eisenhower believed that it was inevitable and, in fact, they called him alarmist ike. but the army had been reduced to a skeleton of itself after world war i, they were not thinking that we will identify him that way, but we will be the senior general. he was a lieutenant colonel in 1939. he has something like 45 months. so there is not a desire to cultivate these men were second world war. it happened in part because they proved themselves to be capable professionals. they stick with it between the wars. and they recognize the merits. but they have not specifically been designated in any way as the future leaders of armed forces in world war ii.
>> host: we have a world war ii veteran in palm beach, florida. you're on with author rick atkinson on booktv. >> caller: is great to hear from you. i have been a fan of mr. rick atkinson for 30 years. i was a teenager in the infantry in world war ii. i have read two of your books. "the long gray line" and the one about africa. on the battle of hugh oshima, where i was, there were just three of us and on d-day there h point on the ground, and the afternoon and day, third battalion was wiped out and the second battalion wiped out. we ended up taking it.
also we need a writer like you to go after the service academy. that's a couple of things to think about, i love you both, we are wishing you guys are great day. >> guest: thank you, ken. thank you so much for the comment. you sound awfully great for a guy who is on a mission. i agree that the services generally, this is a juries issue and some have been dashed some leadership had been a little cavalier. you can expect to attract very capable women, which is absolutely essential with the armed forces at this point. unless you respect them, airmen, sailors, marines marines, i am
hopeful that the secretary chuck hagel has taken us on until the proper thing is done in this appropriate framing is done. it's important to remember that some have only been at the academy since 1976. relative newcomers with a lifespan. they are still trying to get it right, i think. with respect to the first question about iwo jima, it will won't be done by me. i decided some time ago that i'm not going to do the specifics -- i'm going to leave world war ii. fifteen years is long enough. i have agreed with my publisher but i'm going to do a trilogy on the the american revolution. reading, trying to get smarter about a year. my intent is to take on the revolution, somewhat as i did with that.
i am fascinated by the british and the germans, operational and strategic view and the characters that are just as fantastic, not only the ones that we know about like george washington and some that we probably don't know about. that is what i'm going to do and we will have to take on this. there have been books written on the word japan, on the pacific, he is well into volume one. so the story on iwo jima is very important and needs to be looked at. >> host: can you discuss your writing process? this is a question from a individual who e-mailed us. >> guest: yes, i can. well, i think having been close
to a newspaper for many years has been helpful. it is part of your discipline. you can type fast for one thing. you are accustomed to deadlines. we have to be accustomed to what to throw throw out, what we've been, how to to make judgments on the fly about that. i process is that you research. i go to archives, i do most of it myself. i do not have researchers and i think has to go through my brain in some way for me to really understand it. and then i put a mark on the wall and i say, i'm stopping here. there are things that i don't know, things i never know. there will be more to write 500 years from now. at that point i outline the material that i have, i type it
up, with more than a thousand for the book, and then i build a very large outline. i use the software and it is allowing me not only to have a map, but it is an index that tells me where everything is. when i finish the outline i write about a thousand words a day. and i can write pretty quickly. that is about the equivalent for the story. so if you just think 250,000 words, if you can fool yourself into that, you know, you have a book. knowing when to stop the research, knowing that you have a deadline to turn in the manuscript on someone, i think it's pretty important for getting it done. >> host: david in rochester.
>> caller: mr. atkinson, i would like to thank you for your great writing and great book on world war ii. i want to ask you a question that we talked about. in your opinion, to the care of post dramatic stress disorder or battle fatigue, what is the difference of care then versus today? >> guest: we have learned a lot about what was called shell shock. that was discredited in the terms that were adopted in world war ii. by the time that our involvement began and the earlier war had been forgotten, it is not just with respect to neuropsychiatric
issues. they are learning again and north africa and they learned that they are treating it in various ways, that it is more effective than others. many are showing signs of combat fatigue, exhaustion, combat exhaustion. they would tend to knock them out with barber poles of some sort. except for in the worst cases. where a soldier had really come unglued, they would try not to ship them too far to the rear. they wanted to keep them close to their units and help them preserve the links to the units. so all this went on. i think it's important to know that there were 900,000 american soldiers hospitalized for neuropsychiatric disorders.
it took an enormous toll. today you have to say that the treatment of the psp is pretty sophisticated. we learned a lot during world war ii. we did not have the diagnosis of dt st after world war ii. it is clear to me that there were hundreds or of thousands, maybe millions of soldiers who came home and suffered some experience of it in ways that we would now recognize. yet it was not diagnosed then. today they are much better at diagnosing this. they have destigmatize it, you have terrific care. better recognition. a top american general said, look, i recognize that i have symptoms of post-hermetic stress disorder and i need treatment. when a general sense, it allows the privates, sergeants, and
lieutenants to come forward and say this is not the end of my career. i think that we have come quite a ways in that regard. >> host: you're watching booktv on c-span2. the program is "in depth." rick atkinson is our guest. the last installation of "liberation trilogy" came out last month and it is called "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945". he writes that the u.s. stock market tumbled in anticipation of peace and corporate profit. >> guest: this is after the success that we finally have a normandy. the germans have bottled up the british, and polish and canadian soldiers there for weeks and weeks after june 6, at the invasion. at the end of july, we launched an operation called cobra area of the punches a hole in the german defensive lines and american forces have poured
through. on the left side, the british breakthrough in the germans have really no good place to defend we get to the german borders. we are pushing them across france. it is between normandy and paris and a lot of them get away. many of them get away. that there is a great feeling of elation. jubilation that they are on the run. what you find at home is the belief that, okay, it is all over the shouting and that the war is essentially part of the germans being defeated. and there are people that are making plans to celebrate
victory in europe day. in august and september of 1944, does not happen quickly as what others have hoped. the war is going to drag on until may. >> host: in paris in august of 1944. from your book, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945", you talk about collaborators who have partnered. shorn women stripped to the waist, had swastikas pasted on their breasts and placards hanged around their necks. leave her alone, you are all collaborationist. the newspaper was resumed publication of a local newspaper. some 900 women and men would be arrested in the purge of whom 125,000 were forced to answer for their behavior during the
occupation. we have a caller from everett, washington. >> caller: thank you so much for taking my call. i'm please to speak with you. it turns out both of my questions have been answered already. so i would just like to say that i consider your description that you gave the normandy campaign itself, it was a comprehensive work and i'm grateful that you followed the priority of fdr first. i am disappointed to hear that you're not going to take your talent onto the pacific. my father and two uncles met their. and i had one article uncle in the new guinea campaign, the philippines, even before macarthur got there. my question on the italian
campaign, he did note that some of it was a senseless strategic cul-de-sac. so i still kind of get this. when rome was captured, there were a lot of divisions. so did in that more or less argued that the campaign continuing after that was unnecessary? >> guest: they do so much for your generous comments. thank you for that question. you know, i think there is possibility with what you say. there is some sense in capturing southern italy because there are very good airfields. if you want to hammer the
germans from not only england but also flying from italy and hitting oilfield and oil facilities and plants and all of the rest of the city's, having those makes some sense. as i suggested earlier, i think the further north you go, the less sense it makes. part of this is to type as many german divisions as you can. there are more than 20, including some good ones in italy. there are 20 divisions in normandy. i think there is justification with respect to that. you are absolutely not. after rome caused, the decision has already been made that there will be an invasion of southern france and it happens on august 15, 1944. it was delayed a couple of
months because of the shortages of landing craft and so on. we pulled some of our best units including several known divisions and the french pulled all of their forces. the french were as good as anybody and have the best field commanders. but charles de gaulle said that we have a country to liberate and i cannot justify having four or more french divisions fighting in italy when the opportunity is obtained through normandy or becomes part of southern france. the british are bitterly opposed to it. churchill is beside himself. he believes if you were going to invade someone else, fight your
way up to the river valley. you should invade through the head of the adriatic. i can't pronounce some of the names, but the americans basically put their foot down. churchill has to exceed the demands of eisenhower and it turns out that the forces in italy will be reduced. but the fighting continues in italy right until the beginning of may of 1945 partly in order to keep the german forces from publishing what they set out to. >> host: from your book, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945",
there was a cigarette shortage. the u.s. army alone smoked more than a million packs a day in europe. a million packs a day in europe of cigarettes. >> guest: that is right, dwight eisenhower smoked more than his share. here is a guy that is looking for packs of cigarettes per day himself. so he had these habits. so you can take away the ammunition. but lord, don't take away the cigarettes. there was a serious shortage that had more to do with the shipping issues then natural physical shortage of cigarettes. the troops were riotous. this was a big problem for eisenhower. at one point he switched brands to a lesser, cheaper brand to show solidarity with the
soldiers. general patton was a cigar smoker. he gave up his cigars for a mile to show solidarity with the long-suffering troops. you know, it is part of the culture and you look back and think, what we doing to those guys come in no wonder they are short of breath as they are climbing the hills of the mountains were as they fight in december 1944. but it was a different age. that was part of an entitlement that a g.i. expected. >> host: was it hard to find a picture of eisenhower smoking? >> guest: know, there are quite a few pictures of him smoking a cigarette. >> host: we have a world war ii veteran in huntsville, alabama. thank you for calling.
>> caller: thank you for taking my question and comment. i'm a world war ii veteran. i'm 82 years old. i am concerned this. i'm wondering if mr. atkinson can get this message. the reason i think a lot of soldiers are committing suicide is because of money. because a lot of them, when they get discharged, some of their parents may even be dead then. they go to a city, they don't know anyone. so many of them do not have anywhere to go and all of that. so the army could do this, i am
not sure about why it is taking so long. i know that we have what they call 52-20. i lived with my older brother and i gave him $10 for my rent. he ended up with another $10 per week. >> host: nathanael, what was your question? mr. akin simmons was that your comments. where were you stationed in world war ii and what was your experience? >> caller: i am from los angeles, california. i was stationed east of france and also in germany for a short time. i was part of a 337 engineers, i was a truck ever. i would take the mps out of the airfield and then i was free to go to the red cross and play
ping-pong or whatever until it's time to pick them up. then i would pick them up and take them back to camp. >> host: thank you for calling in, sir. we appreciate it. >> guest: thank you for calling in. thank you for your service. we talked about a long story a couple of weeks ago of concern of anyone who cares about soldiers and the army and relationship with the military and the public. the suicide rate had been less than the general population. equal to or greater than. and soldiers leave the military, many do get certain benefit and many soldiers going that doesn't necessarily deal with the psychic scars you may have.
it was not uncommon. i do not have the number of suicides. but there were 291,000 deaths in world war ii. that difference included accidents and diseases and so on. the pentagon is taking it very seriously and there are effort to counsel soldiers as they get out. efforts that may commanders and noncommissioned officers were aware of suicidal symptoms and symptoms of depression and so on. i but i think you're absolutely right. you are taken out of that structured environment and you go off to school or looking for a job and it is not just the military needs worry about it. when you look at the aggregate numbers of unemployment among veterans and you see it is high
in unemployment numbers, then you know that there is something wrong about the way we are dealing with veterans in the way we are trying to help the veterans after they finish their service. >> host: back to your book, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945". it is estimated that in december 1, 8000 american deserters roamed with another 10,000 british. the equivalent of a division of military people were often joining forces with local marketeers to peddle items from his own army trucks. hundreds of such vehicles vanish every day for $5000. >> guest: there was a lot of bad behavior. there is no doubt about it. it is important to recognize
that all the brothers were valiant. that is not how human nature works. whether you are you're in the army or out of the army. you know, there were 23,000 deserters in world war ii. thousands of court-martials for felonies and hundreds of thousands for part of this, part of it is common. there were many soldiers that were executed for murder or indoor rain. in europe during world war ii. french villages especially in normandy that protested violently the behavior of american soldiers and british. there were complaints from french generals that french women were afraid to go out at night without escorts because they were being accosted. this is all part of this. war makes good shoulders do bad
things. makes about soldiers do terrible things. it is part of the story of world war ii. >> host: brought to us from loma linda, california, we have roger. please go ahead with your call. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. i studied the psychology of survival. your comments are right on the money. i have read all three volumes and your work is not as good, but it is brilliant. at the command level montgomery
takes the cake. your descriptions of the political rigmarole is just, it is impeccable. i have to laugh sometimes possession for with what is ahead there. just commenting on how you personally felt about montgomery and have you ever thought about putting her political eyes unto the vietnam war? enqueue. >> guest: thank you, roger. thank you for your kind comments. there is no doubt about it, montgomery is a piece of work. your last question first, it is time for somebody to take a good look at vietnam and i think that you can believe that now 40 years after the fact, many veterans like roger are still alive. there are documents that
classify this for a long time and now it is unclassified. the time could be right for someone to take on vietnam. i think the best books are still out there. it won't be me. i am looking at revolution now. i can only do one at a time. so maybe vietnam in time. we will see. you know, i think it is important to recognize that i have a certain sympathy. he just has a very difficult childhood and he grows up in tasmania off the southern coast of tasmania and he has a mother and she is forever saying find out what he is doing and make them stop. you know, so then he is shipped off to the st. paul school in london to boarding school. he kind of has to make his own way. there is an emotional thing that
plays out in montgomery is a kind of self absorption. select ink do what we see with montgomery is a guy who is very much involved with himself and has poor social skills at recognizing how others see him. some say he really doesn't care, but he really just doesn't pick up the qc would hope that he would. is important to the british empire in the sense that churchill's government is on the ropes and north africa. it is not clear that the british army is going to survive in egypt. in 1942 he is sent to take over the army and he does win eighth signal victory and churchill is forever in his debt. so someone told church held that
he had been invited by montgomery to have lunch. and one of the official said officials said that i have dined with montgomery as well. eisenhower, you know, he had to deal with this guy from north africa. until they both at the end of 1943 prepare for the invasion in normandy. it is an even greater trial. this is why eisenhower is the supreme commander. part of being a politician is holding together a coalition against all of the forces that always pull it apart. eisenhower and montgomery almost all part been away from each other to the extent.
especially when he is able to finesse this somehow. >> host: where does charles de gaulle fit into this? >> well, there is another individual with a great ego. he was very good at dealing with the french. franklin roosevelt detested him. he thinks that he is a tyrant in the making. meaning that he does not want to acknowledge that he is in fact a legitimate head of free france. eisenhower sees that he has broad popular support. that is really the only guide you can deal with. he sees that he has a certain
legitimacy. again, charles de gaulle can be insufferable. but eisenhower is capable of turning the other cheek and basically harnessing charles de gaulle and his forces to common good. >> host: speaking of general eisenhower, this is from "the guns at last light: the war in western europe, 1944-1945". eisenhower was not much help. the supreme commander had proved indifferent in tunisia on sicily and during the planning. now he continued in that deficiency, watching passively for more than a week without recognizing or rectifying the shortcomings of his two chief lieutenants. >> guest: he is not a very good field marshal or battle captain. he does not view this spatially awaited great captains do like napoleon. he does not have the ability to
dominate a battlefield. but that is not his job. his job, as he defines it, is to be chairman of the board. so his job is to provide the bullets and bombs necessary to win the war. his job is to find the right man to lead other men in the dark of night, those who are the battlefield commanders and i think that he is quite brilliant. so i give him credit. i am willing to call a spade a spade. it is not intervene. he does not see that the germans are going to get away.
there are several occasions when he simply does not show the skills needed to qualify as a great captain. but that is okay. that is not his job. >> host: theodore roosevelt association. the question for you, mr. rick atkinson. what are your thoughts in your book? >> yes, i love writing about him. he is an extraordinary character. here is someone whose father is a 26 president. he spends most of his adult life trying to up to a father who is carved upon mount rushmore. he volunteers for world war i. he performs rather heroically. he is very accomplished. one of the founders of the american legion. he publishes books.
he is with doubleday. he's the governor general of the philippines and puerto rico and he is extraordinary. then world war ii comes around and he volunteers to go back into uniform. he is in his 50s at this point. at utah beach, he has been in north africa, the silly, he has been relieved of command, it breaks his heart. but he is given a second chance and he comes back and he recognizes that the landings are going badly. the navigation has pushed them off course. ..
>> guest: whose name is elen are fantastic. i hated to say good-bye to him when he dies. >> host: stormville, new york. good afternoon, howie. >> caller: hello, it's harry. >> host: hi, harry. >> caller: hello, rick. i've read two of your books, the first of the trilogy, and i'm well into the third, enjoying them. and i have two questions. the first one is about lloyd friedendahl, the commander of the second corps. the allies tried to cut off the germans from tunis, and they failed to do that in their rush
from the invasion area. they were in sort of disarray. they formed defensive positions. they had to defend quite a long front. now, then rommel launched his famous casserine pass which was a disaster, but frieden jdahl was replaced after that as commander of the second corps. bradley recommended his replacement. eisenhower had been pretty satisfied with him and said positive things about him up until then. and my question, i guess, here is do you think he was just a fall guy? and do you have any other insights? >> guest: well, thanks, harry. i think that friedendahl is the wrong man for the job, and i think he demonstrated that aptly. it took eisenhower a while to recognize that. eisenhower's feeling his way, and when a commander has been
sent to him by george marshall, the chief of staff -- who's not only eisenhower's superior, he's ten years older and eisenhower reveres him -- so when the chief of army ground forces send him out as effectively the senior combat leader for the u.s. army, eisenhower is going to take a while to recognize that this guy is not up to snuff. there were suspicions, eisenhower came to share them, that friedendahl may have been a physical coward. i don't know that that's true. i don't think the evidence is there to make that kind of really damning charge against him. there's after l evidence that -- ample evidence that he is not the guy to lead second corps. when casserine pass offensive begins in 1943, friedendahl is nearly paralyzed. he is 100 miles back from the
front, he has taken very precious engineering resources, they're digging a headquarters from the side of a quarry, the bottom of a quarry, they're towing this headquarters. when eisenhower sees this, he recognizes that friedendahl is not anywhere near the front, that he's showing signs of being afraid and that he's showing a kind of lethargy. so friedendahl is relieved. he's sent home -- he's given a third star, and he's given command of a training army in the united states. it's really the last time that eisenhower will be so benign in treating someone who's been relieved for cause. >> host: we're halfway through our program with rick atkinson this afternoon on booktv. now, if you are on hold, i promise, we're going to get to your phone calls, so just stick with us just for a few more minutes. promise. rick atkinson is the author of six books, "the long gray line,"
his first. in 1989, "crusade." "the beginning of the liberation trilogy, the war in north africa," 2002. in the company of soldiers about the iraq war was in 2004. the day of battle is the second in the trilogy. the war in sicily in italy, and that came out in 2007. and his final volume in the trilogy, "the guns at last light: the war in western europe," came out last month. in 2003 c-span covered rick atkinson talking about the importance of war correspondence. here's what he had to say. >> it's really a matter of keeping faith. that's what it comes down to, ultimately, for me. the issue has come up recently. i consider myself a recovering journalist. i for four years have not worked in a newsroom. i write books full time now.
i write books specifically about world war ii, so i know a lot about war correspondents and their motivations. but the issue has come up again recently with the crisis of sorts in iraq, and i've found myself examining my own motivations and my own relationship to the military, my own relationship to journalism even as i consider myself an historian now. and decided some time a couple of months ago that if push comes to shove, i wanted to be part of it. so why is that? i just turned 50. my knees don't bend as well as they used to. i'm used to a comfortable life here in washington. i have two teenage kids. why do we do this? and i find, and i'm hoping, planning to deploy with the 101st airborne, that it's really part of my obligation to those
who serve. and it's also part of my obligation to those here at home to try to tell the story as both sean and joe said that's completely -- as completely and fairly as possible, to tell it as completely as you can in a way that honors the service of those who serve without being co-opted by the military. and there aren't a whole lot of people who can do that, believe it or not. trying to tow the fine line between being part of the institution of the military and representing -- even though no one elected us -- the interests of the larger republic falls on a fairly small group of people. and in this case, war correspondents. i think that's an important duty and an important responsibility. and i think it's, um, incumbent on those who are capable of doing it, who are willing to do
>> caller: i'm fine, thank you. >> host: please go ahead. glrk thank you for taking my call. i was commanding officer of a gun boat -- >> host: you've got to turn down the volume on your tv, sir. just listen through the phone. >> caller: oh. i was commanding officer of a gun boat in the south pacific in world war ii and navigator for a transport squadron. in the middle east and north africa during korea. [laughter] so i have just finished manchester's third volume on churchill, and i wondered what your reaction was to that book. >> guest: thank you, russell. i don't have any reaction because i haven't read it yet. i read the first two and then, of course, manchester died before he could finish the third one, and know that with a co-writer that third one has come out, and it's generally been well received.
but i've not gotten around to reading it yet. i will. it's on my list. >> host: and the next call comes from guy in similar on, colorado. guy, you're on with rick atkinson. please go ahead. mr. >> caller: mr. atkinson, a pleasure to speak with you. i've read "the old breed," famous for its first person account of the horror faced by a marine corp. infantryman fighting in the pacific. i was quite moved by it. my question is can you recommend a similar book written by an american soldier who fought in the european theater? thank you. >> guest: well, you know, i rely on first person accounts that have been written by guys who were in europe and by journalists. i use journalists more than most historians because probably i
was one and, therefore, i have some sympathy, but they're also paid, they would all claim underpaid professional observers. and so i lean on them heavily and people that you know like ernie pyle but people you don't know in all probability like osmer white who was an australian journalist, wrote about new guinea but then was sent to cover the war in europe with patton's third army and wrote a really wonderful little book called "conquer or's road." so that's, you know, i have a list on the web site liberationtrilogy.com of books that i recommend both by historians but also some of the first person accounts. there's nothing quite like sledge's book that comes off the european theater. -- comes out of the european theater. there's some good personal accounts that have been written by soldiers at all levels, and
there's some pretty good memoirs. i think truscott's memoir -- he's a general, he's not at sledge's level, but it holds up pretty well. bradley wrote two memoirs, a soldier's story and a general's story. but there's nothing that quite has the resonance and grittiness of sledge's book. >> host: you mentioned ernie pyle. this is from the day of battle, and ernie pyle's featured in all of your books as well. this is ernie pyle writing about italy: i looked at it this way, if by having only a small army in italy we had been able to build up more powerful forces in england and if by sacrificing a few thousand lives that winter we would save a half a million lives in europe, if those things were true, then it was best as it was. i wasn't sure they were true. i only knew i had to look at it that way or else i couldn't bear to think of it at all.
>> guest: yeah, that's incredibly poignant, isn't it? and it's one of the reasons of ernie pyle's great power. you just feel that here's a guy who's baring his soul in a way that is unique. i found, i've lived with ernie pyle for the better part of 15 years, my admiration for him also only deepens. here's a guy from indiana who ends up in washington writing about aviation and things before the war, and then somewhat accidentally becomes a war correspondent. i think he'd written millions of words before the war began, and, of course, he's got the great knack of empathy, and his empathy is always with the grunt, with the enlisted man, with the infantryman. and he's often with them. he goes through hardship unlike very -- there are very few other correspondents who do it as intently or for as long as ernie pyle does. this is a guy in his 40s. he's no spring chicken.
he's not a healthy man. he drinks too much. he weighs maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. so he's not a robust character. and yet here he's living this awful life with other infan trimanmen -- infantrymen. and, of course, they love him for it. he's a beautiful writer. he writes so much there's inevitably some junk in there. he's got to feed the bulldog every day. but passages like that are so illuminating, and they're so touching, and they're so vibrant that i just find he leaves the european theater, he's had enough, he's falling apart. he's in paris for the liberation of paris, and he doesn't enjoy it at all because he is so seared by everything that he has seen and been through. he simply has lost the ability to enjoy life even, even those moments where he's participating in the liberation of paris. he goes and says good-bye to
omar bradley. everyone comments on how bad he looks. he comes home, he thinks he's through with the war. he ends understood in the pacific and -- he underup in the pacific and -- his grave at punch bowl in honolulu for everyone who finds themselves in hawaii -- i lived there as a kid -- i remember my father taking me to ernie pyle's grave, it's very, very moving even if you're 11 years old. and i think for us to remember the war, we ought to remember ernie pyle. >> host: you have another quote in "the guns at last light." ernie pyle at d day, either a letter home to his wife or whatever, but it's like if i f-ing hear the f-ing word f-ing again, it'll be too f-ing soon. [laughter] >> guest: yes, soldiers get on his nerves after a while.
profan is one of the things -- profancy is one of things. anyone who's been around soldiers a lot, as i have, and he was certainly around them a lot more than i ever have been, but the intensity of that culture can -- particularly if you're older, you're a generation older as he was -- [laughter] it can cause you some sense of grievance. and he, he, there's this outcroix of, you know, i'm really tired of being around these guys, but i'm stuck with them now for the rest of the war. >> host: if you are a world war ii veteran and would like to talk with rick atkinson, 202-585-3882 is set aside for you. next call from martha in belgrade lakes, maine. hi, martha. >> caller: oh, hi, peter. thanks again for a wonderful three hours. it's an honor to talk to a journalist who writes history. i've become ensconced in my
history reading, and this summer i'm reading nathaniel fill brick's bunker hill. i still can't believe washington trained during the french and indian war and then ended up working with general gage, and when general washington was appointed for our american revolutionary war, here he is in boston, and washington's going into boston, and general gage is retreating to go to new york and south carolina with the american revolution. i'm just amazed at all of this. >> host: hey, martha, can you -- do you have a question, or did you just want to make that comment? >> caller: i want to ask about all these soldiers that are hesitant to fire the first shot. apparently at lexington there was this hesitancy, and it makes me think of fort sumter in the
civil war. nobody wants to fire the first shot. >> guest: well, you know, there are plenty of shots fired in world war ii. there was a book that was published after the war that estimated that a substantial number of soldiers in combat never fired any shots, that as many as i can't remember the figure precisely, but roughly 25% simply didn't fire their weapons because they were too frightened or cowed somehow or disrupted, didn't have the opportunity, they couldn't see the enemy. and, you know, that's a different kind of thing than you're talking about, but certainly in world war ii there's never a reluctance for the first shots to be fired once the war is well under way. i can't comment about lexington. i'm a reader of lexington, but i'm not a historian yet of that
period. >> host: tony is in san diego. hi, tony. >> caller: mr. atkinson, i enjoyed "the long gray line" so much that it actually inspired me to go on to the military academy, and i thank you for that. with that being said, i'd just like to make the comment about what that gentleman who fought at iwo jima said about the service academies and abusing women. i just feel like the media isn't really doing a good job of covering the story. i went to the academy, as you know, and we sat through hundreds and hundreds of hours of sexual assault prevention. you know the rules about that place. we couldn't even sit on the same horizontal piece of furniture as a female cadet. and, i mean, we're talking about an environment that's so controlled and so rigid, i just don't know what more the academy can do. i mean, i think there's -- the media so eager to jump on this and say, oh, the academy is fostering an environment of sexual abuse, and it just doesn't ring true with any of my
experiences at the academy. >> guest: well, thanks for your call. i think it's not true for the overwhelming share of cadets or midshipmen. in "the washington post" today there's a story about a mother of a female mid shipman who alleges that she was raped by three other midshipmen, and it's appalling. and, you know, once is too often. it's not so say that it is rampant. it's not to say that most cadets, most soldiers, most midshipmen, most sailors don't recognize the right thing to do and wouldn't intervene given the opportunity to stop this sort of behavior. you know, it may be that the rigid controls at a place like west point are part of the problem in the long run, you know? certainly the class of 1966, for example, it's all male, a
hothouse environment that doesn't really allow in that time young 19, 20-year-old men to have what most of the rest of us would consider normal interactions with female students. and a wonder that -- a wonder that, you know, the attitudes that many cadets have aren't more distorted from that era. now, this is a different era. there have been women since the classes of 1980 at the academies, and the academy, certainly the academy and the culture of the academy has changed a hot about race and gender and so on. and i would never argue, and i don't think that anybody would argue that this is prepond rant, this bad behavior, but it's just incumbent on the nation to deal with this. in the 21st century, it's a different place when it comes to
the role of women in our culture including our institutional culture, places like the military academies. >> host: this is from bill ryan, an e-mail. i have always had an unanswered question about the d-day invasion. i know that there was plenty of pre-invasion intelligence covering all aspects of normandy, so i am perplexed that the allies were so unprepared for the hedge rows which which hindered their advance and increased their casualties. do you have any insights on this? >> guest: yeah. thanks for the good question. it is perplexing, isn't it? part of the issue is that so much attention is paid to getting across the beaches, and we see this in the earlier invasions in north africa and in sicily, at salerno, at enzio. the ball game is initially just to get a foothold, to get a beachhead. and consequently, there is short shrift given to what comes next.
in the case of normandy, yes, and i write about how there were studies that recognized that normandy, particularly the american part of the invasion sector, have this topographical oddity. the hedge rows have been built up over the centuries by farmers clearing fields and pushing rocks and debris into walls, essentially, and from those walls grow vines and trees, and they're virtually impenetrable. those have been in south pacific at guadalcanal and places that were reminded of the south pacific. even though there was a knowledge of this kind of terrain that they were going to encounter, there had not been sufficient thinking by those who should have been thinking about it of how we're going to get through it and how this is going to complicate our lives and how it's a nasty place to fight. omar bradley, for example, says
that he was vaguely aware of it but couldn't begin to imagine how bad it was going to be. well, that's a failure of bradley's intelligence and his imagination. he should have been aware of it. there were studies that were done that were presented to omar bradley and the other senior commanders saying, look, this is going to be unlike anything that you've seen before. these aren't english hedges where they're neatly clipped and easily penetrated by tanks. these are fortresses, essentially. and to figure out exactly how we're going to deal with it is something that we need to be thinking about months before the invasion. well, it doesn't happen, and it really -- it didn't happen, and it really required a series of improvisations by american soldiers to come up with ways of blasting through these hedge rows in a way that allowed them to fight on. >> host: here's a quote from general kiss l ring, a german general from "the day of battle," ever cheeky for a man
who had lost both the battle and the war would observe in september 1945 that anglo american commanders, quote: appeared bound to their fixed plans, opportunities to strike at my flanks were overlooked or disregarded, although german divisions of the highest fighting quality were tied down in italy at a time when they were urgently needed in the french coastal areas. >> guest: yeah. i mean, kesselring is writing this while he's in jail, and he's in jail for years -- [laughter] i admire him, he's one to have very finest german field commanders, but he is cheeky. it takes real chutzpah to be offering that kind of critique to a guy who's just thrashed you badly, captured you and imprisoned you. but there's a point that he's making, and that is opportunities were missed, and german generals were sometimes perplexed by the lack of
imagination by allied generals, and there's something too that. i mean, the point is this: there's been an argument going on for 70 years that when a german battalion or regiment, the germans tended to be tactically superior. so what? this is really not what global war is about. it's not about tactical competence at the small unit level. it's about a clash of systems. which system can produce the men and women capable of producing the logistics, the transportation, the material support? which system can produce the commanders that can affect -- that can affect victory on the battlefield. which system can design, transport, detonate an atomic bomb? the germans couldn't muster the wherewithal to cross the english channel which is 21 miles wide to invade england in 1940. the american armed forces are projecting power into the
pacific, the atlantic, the mediterranean, seven seas, the endless heavens. so that notion of tactical superiority by the germans is really, in my opinion, beside the point. >> host: were kesselring, rommel, were they committed nazis, or were they army men? >> guest: they were army men who for the most part were committed nazis, not in the sense of being party member per se, but certainly under the sway of the fuhrer and certainly willing to benefit from nazi ideology and, you know, rommel in southwest germany live inside a house that -- lived in a house that had been confiscated from a jewish family. he did not step in to stop the
deportation of jews. many of the survivors claim that they were simple soldiers following orders, that somehow they were segregated. this is false. and the german -- [inaudible] was very much a part of the death machine of the third like. and that's -- third reich. and that's why those people ended up in prison. >> host: this is our "in depth" program. rick atkinson is our guest, and hugh is a vet in california. hi, hugh. >> caller: hi. thank you for your book, mr. atkinson. the purpose of my question is there seems to be an extraordinarily sustained and even burgeoning interest in world war ii that growing up in the '30s i didn't see regarding the civil war, let
alone world war i. and i wondered from your perspective as a journalist and historian what factors you attribute to the sustained interest. thank you. >> guest: well, thanks for that question, hugh. i think it comes in cycles. there was an interest in the 1890s, certainly we saw a resurgent interest with the ken burns' series, and there's no shortage of histories coming out about lincoln and the civil war and so on. i think that waves of it come along. in the case of world war ii, of course, we're 70 years more or less after the fact. i believe that what we're seeing now of the 16.1 million who were in uniform, about 1.be 3 million -- 1.3 million american veterans are still alive. and they're dying at the rate of about 800 a day. next year, 2014, the number will slip below a million for the first time. ten years later in 2024, the
number will be below 100,000. so the generation, inevitably as generations do, is slipping away. they're passing over. and i think we're finding children, grandchildren, even great grandchildren now who are keen to understand what their fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers did in part because it's part of their heritage. it's part of the patrimony. and it's part of understanding who we are, where we came from. world war ii imprints us in very profound ways to this day. it imprints the way we think about gender. we've been talking about it at the military academies. the way we think about race. the way we think about our role in the world. we will never be isolationist again the way we were before 1941. all of this derived from world war ii, and i think people are interested in that just as they are interested in their own personal family histories. and so i think that that helps
to feed this ongoing fascination with it. finally, it's the greatest catastrophe in human history. 60 million dead. it's hard not to watch a train wreck. it's hard to look away when you see something as grotesque really as world war ii was on that scale. and there's also a feeling that we're on the side of the angels there, that there is good and there is evil, and you can differentiate between the two rather more easily than you often can in contemporary life and in contemporary conflicts. there's no doubt that we were on the side of good and the forces of liberation even though many bad things happened as we've discussed. and i think people find that that has an enduring appeal also. >> host: this e-mail from dick conrard, kirkland, washington. in your view, how much did the strategic bombing campaign by the british and americans contribute to the defeat of nazi
germany, and what was the casualty rate, something you write about in "the guns at last light." >> guest: thank you, don. i'm sorry, if i said dick, i apologize. >> guest: thanks for the good question. the strategic air campaign is absolutely invaluable. these are large bombers flown by the british and the americans primarily and flying over strategic targets. there was a bitter dispute over press sighly -- precisely how this should be carried out. the british believed that bombing cities was most effective in trying to whittle away german morale, to have the germans essentially implode. the americans flew mostly by day. the americans believed that hitting certain strategic targets, particularly oil starting in the spring of 1944, that oil was the achilles heel
of the german war machine. and that proved to be true. it's absolutely vital in understanding how the ground forces are able to eventually prevail to know that these air forces by the time we get to 1945 have been hammering all this panoply of targets. the casualties were staggering. the odds of surviving and fulfilling your quota which can kept going up, initially it was 25 missions you had to fly and then it was raised to 30 missions, in some cases 35 missions, the odds of fulfilling those 30 missions, 35 missions and going home became pretty dire. and you found that there were few professions within the profession of arms that were as
dangerous as being a crewman on a b17, for example. it was extremely hazardous flying against both german fighter planes and german flak batteries. >> host: jack is a world war ii veteran living in lafayette, louisiana. jack, you're on booktv with author rick atkinson. >> caller: oh, they misquoted you. i'm not a veteran of that war. but i want today pay tribute, if i could, to some dear, dear friends of mine who are gone now whose names go down in history. but they were very, my engineer was one of the 82nd and 101st paratroopers that was at norman day. and i'll never forget his tears in his eyes when he said, yes, our mission was to take those gun, and i lost about 100 of my friends doing so, and they were not even there. and then he went from there to
market garden where he was mortally -- not mortally wounded because he lived through it, seriously wounded. he'd taken a bridge, the last bridge, and then he went and fought in bastone. and my uncle who was in patton's army throughout the campaign and lived through it and loved his general but said this of the soldier who was slapped, he said we had a serious problem with people shooting themselves in the foot, and he was actually incented about it, and that's -- incensed about it, and that's why he slapped the men. he loved the general. he said a lot of our boys died, but not because we weren't fighting. >> host: all right, jack, we're going to leave your comments there. we appreciate you calling in. and this e-mail from anna in: i'm looking forward to hearing
you speak in atlanta, she says n. 1944 and '45 i was a child of 8 in northern italy. my family had moved to get away from the bombings. often at night we were visited by the partisans or the fascists who were looking for the partisans. at these times we, the kids -- she writes -- were always shuffled away in the bedroom out of sight, but we still could hear everything, and we were scared. so my question is, how effective was the role of the resistance in the war? >> guest: and she's talking specific specifically about italy there. and every occupied country had its own flavor of resistance. particularly in italy it's not until you get into northern italy in that last year of the war from the summer of 1944 to may of '45 that the partisans become a formidable force.
they harass the german occupiers, they blow up train tracks and bridges, they ambush patrols. they became pretty formidable, and they were aided by the oss, the forerunner of the cia, and by their british counterparts. so they play a role. it's not a decisive role because there are not enough of them and, obviously, it's very hazardous. the germans were absolutely ruthless. if you were partisan or a suspected partisan, you were likely to be summarily executed. in france it's a bigger network. and, again, it's only the last year of the war where they play a role because prior to that there was simply very little partisan activity that really put a dent in the germans. and, again, you had to be incredibly brave to participate in the french resistance because the germans would go through, and in several cases execute
everyone in the village if, in fact, the partisans had been active in that area. again, it's not decisive. i think it's important to acknowledge them and to recognize that they played a role in southern france especially. there were american agents, soldiers, basically, who would parachute in and rendezvous with the french resistance units and help in various ways, instruct them in explosives and so on. it's not what decided the battle for france. but it's an important part of keeping the pressure on the germans and keeping them uneasy and making them sleep very lightly at night in some instances. >> host: jeff meek, hot springs village, arkansas. e-mail. first question: why in your opinion didn't eisenhower and bradley better heed the warning signs that led to the battle of
the bulge, and what do you think of ike's decision to let the russians take berlin? >> guest: yeah. well, in the first one the warning signs were fairly opaque. it's easy to say in retrospect that you could see the germans were massing along that border in the ardennes in belgium and luxembourg. at the time there was a belief that the germans had been so thoroughly battered in their flight across france that they lacked the wherewithal to put together this kind of three-army offensive that took place beginning december 16th. there was also an overreliance on the british ability to intercept and decrypt the military rid owe traffic. if you didn't hear it i via ult, there was a belief it hadn't happened, and all of the planning for the ardennes offensive, the battle of the bulge, was done face to face, basically, or by written message, and there were not
messages transmitted by radio that could then be intercepted and decoded. and consequently, there was not a recognition that this huge preparation was underway. of you know, i think in retrospect you can say, yeah, it was unpardonable that they had no clue this was coming. it was an intelligence order -- failure of the first magnitude. and yet there are reasons for it. why didn't they take berlin? be well, he had intended to. that was in the plan for normandy. eisenhower reaffirmed in the fall of '44 that the ambition was to go to germany, and then he changed his mind in part because the russians were virtually on the doorstep of berlin, that the russians had beginning in january 1945 amassed several million troops
that were going to fall on berlin. the western allies, the americans and the british, were still 200 miles from berlin. and the decisions had already been made about how germany in general and berlin specifically would be divided up after the war, that they would be partitioned with zones for the russians, for the british, for the americans and ultimately for the french and that the same would happen with berlin. and eisenhower came to believe and he was encouraged by roosevelt to avoid conflict with the russians, he came to believe that it was pointless to risk tens of thousands of casualties racing to berlin when the russians were already virtually inside the city limits of berlin. and so he changed his mind, and he directed his armies toward dresden, toward the southeast in order to cut germany in half. in retrospect, i think it was
entirely the right decision. the british were not happy with it, churchill in particular believed that there was -- there should have been an effort to push to berlin. but i think 70 years later that decision holds up really well. >> host: who is joachim piper, speaking of the ballot of the bulge. >> guest: yeah. piper was a, an ss soldier. he was a lieutenant colonel. he was the point of the spear in the attack that began on december 16, 1944. his task was to lead an armored column through the american defenses and get to the muse river. and to help capture bridges across the muse. and then they were going to proceed on to antwerp, a huge, important belgian port. piper, who was quite sophisticated -- spoke english, spoke french, he'd had two
brothers who had been kill inside the war, very intelligent, utterly ruthless -- and so so what we find with piper's column, first of all, they're finding difficulties right from the get go on december 16th. their timetable is disresulted, things are moving -- disresulted, things are moving slower than they're supposed to be moving. he comes to a village in belgium, there's an american unit traveling by truck. his forces happen to fall on this unit, they shoot up the convoy. american soldiers who survived this initial end counter are taken into a field, they're lined up and massacred. there are more than 80 of them who are shot to death. others get away. word of the normandy massacre gets around very quickly. it begins a cycle of reprisal. piper never makes it to the muse. he gets close but not quite.
he doesn't have the combat power. he's running out of fuel. he manages with very few of his original force of 1500 or so men to get back. he's tried for war crimes after the war. he's sentenced to death along with scores of others involved in killings near normandy. it was a tainted procedure. the confessions that have been extracted from the defendants were considered to be under judicial review to be improper, and so the death sentence was lifted, the life sentence eventually was commuted. he served about ten years in prison, and then he was let out of prison. he became a salesman for porsche and later volkswagen. he was in charge of american sales, if you can believe it. he was murdered in the early
'70s. he had a house in the eastern france. the house -- there was arson. piper's burned body was found, the case was never solved. it remains unsolved. there were very few tears shed for im, it should be added. >> host: so after the war he sold cars to americans and had a house in france. >> guest: he did. >> host: there we go. david tweets in to you: do we tend to overvalue our contribution to the allied effort to defeat nazi germany and to undervalue the role of the ussr? >> guest: i think, i think we do. and i think that's a good point. and i try to make the point whenever i can that the soviets did most of the killing, bleeding, dying for the alliance. they had 26 million die during the war, unimaginable for us. and i think that there is a tendency frequently to overlook the soviet contribution. of course, world war ii
immediately turns into a cold war, and the soviets become our adversaries, but i think 70 years after the fact it should be recognized by every american that were it not for the russians, the war would certainly not have been won as quickly as it was, and for every russian soldier that died, that was one american soldier who didn't have to die. >> host: steve is in california. hi, steve. >> caller: hi. i read -- i'm into the third book, i've read the other two. i think they're great books. thank you for writing them. my question about enigma and december 16th was just answered. so i'm going to go off on to your crusade book and ask about the pressure, the blitz call
pressure -- political pressure to stop the war in iraq. how big an effect was that? i remember it visibly and listening to nancy pelosi rant about continuing the war. was that a factor in the ending of it? >> guest: thanks for your question, steve. no, i don't think it was. congress congress had -- i don't think congress had anything to do with it. the decision was made really in the pentagon, it was made specifically by colin powell, obviously, with the concurrence of his civilian masters. he called general schwartz cop and said we're at the 100-hour mark, we've kicked them out of kuwait, we've fulfilled the terms of both the congressional and the united nations authorizations. what do you think about ending
it? powell was concerned that eventually there would be a backlash, that photos, television photos in particular would be seen of carnage on the so-called highway of death leading out of kuwait city. in fact, none of those photos had yet been on television when powell made the decision, but he was aware that there was carnage and that there would be photos. so i don't think nancy pelosi or anybody else in congress had a thing to do with it. >> host: thomas, a world war ii veteran in richmond, virginia, you're on booktv with author rick atkinson. >> caller: hi there. thank you so very much for putting this program on. and rick's observations are very profound. it was my privilege to go to the normandy cemetery, the american cemetery at the beaches of normandy, and one time with a
next door neighbor to a congressional medal of honor winner james mcteague. there are two congressional winners in the cemetery, one being general theodore roosevelt jr., and i enjoyed so much those comments. and those two, i just wanted to point out, are the only two there, and their grave sites are easy to find with the gold markings on the white crosses. >> guest: thank you for that, sir. >> host: thomas, what was your service in world war ii? >> caller: i was both in the marines in college and on attack transport as a navy ensign in the pacific. but we got off very light. >> host: thank you, sir. >> guest: thanks. thanks for the question.
>> host: um, we've had some callers calling in about rape and sexual assaults in the military. in "the guns at last light," you write about this a little bit. you've got some figures here that i just want to share with some viewers. 443 death penalties were imposed on g.i.s, most for murder or rape. and a severely disproportionate number fell on black soldiers. often after dubious due process. 70 executions took place in europe including several public hangings. >> guest: yeah. and one execution for desertion, a private named eddie slow vick, which i write about at some length. yes, i think you find in general that the racism that was pre lent in many -- prevalent in many institutions in the united states in the 1940s certainly
could be found in the armed forces and that the disproportionate punishment that was meeted out to -- meted out to american black soldiers was something that reflected both prejudices toward them and the lack of counsel that they often did not receive. and, you know, it extends all the way to the death penalty. i don't remember the number of black american soldiers who were among those 70, but it was disproportionate. >> host: the german military had half or more death sentences carried out. 21,000 soldiers would desert from the u.s. army during the war, less than half had been caught by the late 1940s. do we have any idea where some of these deserters are?
>> guest: i don't know where they are. [laughter] yeah. paris in particular was a haven for guys on the lam or guys with shady business. eddie, i just mentioned, he was a kid from detroit who was drafted. he had the virtue of writing to his wife, antoinette, every day while he was in the service. he ended up being sent to the 28th infantry division, deserted immediately, was hanging out with a canadian unit for a while, and he was finally caught. he was court-martialed. he refused the offer to, basically, have his sentence set aside if he would go back into combat. he said i'll just te cert again -- desert again. his appeal came to eisenhower in 194 at the darkest time of the
battle of the bulge, and eisenhower was not in a forgiving mood. and unfortunately for slovic, eisenhower affirmed the death sentence, and eisenhower also said his unit in the 28th division was to carry out the execution. so i describe how slovic is transported by mps, military policemen, to where the 28th division is at that time, and a firing squad was set up. i think slovic believed to the very end that he was going to be, that the sentence would be commuted. and it was not. they shot him dead. now, the division commander was a guy who had been at ohm ma beach -- omaha beach, he's been at one of the worst of all the battles of world war ii, he'd been at the battle of the bulge where the 28th division was shot to pieces but fought heroically, and norm said the worst 15 minutes of his life were the 15
minutes during the execution of eddie slovic. it left just a hollow feel anything the hearts of everyone who witnessed it or participated in it in any way. >> host: bill lynch, tweet: thanks for the story of 601 hardesty boulevard, kansas city, missouri. he says he was a draftee there in the '60s. what's he referring to? >> guest: well, he's referring to, this is the very end of the book, and i found a document, more than 400 pages, written right after the war. and it describes the operations of the quartermaster effects bureau. and the effects bureau was set up at 601 hardesty avenue in kansas city to handle the effects of the american dead. it began in february 1942, the first months of the war, as a small operation, fewer than a dozen people.
and grew to more than a thousand people working in this converted warehouse. and what would happen at 601 hardesty avenue is rail boxcars would pull up onto the siding next to the warehouse and foot lockers and other containers with the effects of the dead from six continents would be hoisted by elevator up to the tenth floor. and then by assembly line/conveyor belt down to the seventh floor where inspectors all along this line would go through the effects, and they would take out pornography, ammunition, letters from a girlfriend you didn't want the widow to see and other things that were inappropriate for one reason or another. and all the effects would then be repacked. and as this was happening in a very large room adjacent to this assembly line, there were banks of typists banging out letters, 70,000 letters a month by 1945,
and the gist of the letters was this: dear sir, dear madam, we have your dead son's stuff. where should we send it? finish it's an extraordinary scene, and the, you know, the inspectors found all kinds of things; tobacco sack full of diamonds, an italian accordion, shrunken head, all the things that soldiers can and do accumulate. they also found many, many diaries, thousands of diaries in these effects. and those were also collected at hardesty avenue. and i quote from the diary of one young lieutenant who's killed in new guinea at the end, and the gist of what he has written in the diary, it's actually a last letter home because he's wounded, he's dying, it takes him a couple days to die in this shanty in the jungle in new guinea, and it's a letter, my dearest, sweet father, mother and sister. and what he writes is i can
understand why god is taking my life if he wants to. what i cannot understand is why he's making me suffer. and that's the gist of the question that so many have to ask about world war ii and the suffering of war in general. so that's what 601 hardesty avenue's about. >> host: smithfield, virginia, good afternoon. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. we've read your other two books in the trillion i have, and -- trilogy, and we've been very interested. my father-in-law, john t. corley -- a member of the 6th infantry -- was at the surrender of akan. it's kind of interesting that modern historians haven't given more credit, particularly to the forest. and i'd like to know your comments on that. >> guest: well, thank you for that. thanks for your call. john hurley, of course, is one to of the great soldiers of world
war ii. how many silver stars is it, seven or eight? i write about the hur kin forest extensively. it's one of the most appalling bits of combat in world war ii. it's terrible generalship by american generals starting with omar bradley and on down the line. and i have almost an entire chapter devoted to the forest. what you find there is a very dense, not very big patch of woods not far from akan on the western edge of germany. and the decision is made to throw one division after another into the forest, and they are chewed to pieces. i write specifically about the 28th division. i just mentioned the commanding general, norm coda, but there were more than five divisions altogether that fought there. it went well for none of them, including the first division,
and colonel hurley was there for them. so i write about the forest, and it's not a pretty picture. and, you know, corley is with me in africa. he's with us for the invasion of sicily. i don't write about him a lot, but i sure do admire him. >> host: tom e-mails in: at the beginning of world war ii, mark clark was looked upon as sort of a golden boy. was he as bad a general as he is portrayed now? >> guest: i don't think he is, and i don't portray him as a bad general. he's the dominant figure in volume two of this trilogy, particularly the second half of it. ..
a third for publicity that's beyond belief. and what you find when you get to italy, where clark is the commander of the fifth army, is a man who cares about his soldiers, who is attentive to their welfare, who is personal hi brave, unlike some of the stories that have been told about him. and yet is insubordinate at times especially when it comes to dealing with the british. makes certain decisions that are indefensible about pressing on to rome. and so i find personally that he
is a mixed bag. you can see mark clark as somebody who is able to handle 23,000 american battle deaths in italy. not everyone is able to handle that kind of pressure. he is a guy who can deal with the pressure of heavy casualties. on the other hand, he is a man who has clearly got flaws as a commander. eisenhower begins to see that clark's compulsiveness about personal vain glory, is something that eisenhower has difficulties with, handling. so, i think my portrait of clark is probably more sympathetic than most. and yet i think he -- you have to see him as a very nuanced character who's got a different facet to his personality and to
his generalship. >> host: from the day of battle, regarding the fall of rome, you write: at 6:00 a.m. on tuesday, june 6th,en and aide work mark clack in his suite with the news that german radio had announced the allied invasion of normandy. clark rubbed the sleep from hi eyes, quote, how do you like that. they didn't even let us have the newspaper headlines for the fall of rome. >> guest: you have too be sympathetic. a they had been fighting in itly, and the next thing you know he captures rome, doesn't do it very gracefully. doesn't permit the british to share in the glory of it and he does disobey orders in going to rome. failing to cut off retreating germans, and yet june 4, 1944, two days later normandy, and italy becomes a back water. >> host: robert, world war 2 veteran, new york city.
please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: yes, the question to go to war, hubris was -- the campaign to get abuse the iraq war. did you support going into the war when it was happening? >> guest: does the media have a responsibility? is that the question? and did i support the -- going into iraq, the 2003 invasion? i did not personally. i was with then-major general david h. petraeus, commander of the 101st airborne division, i was an imbedded reporter, and general petraeus had doubts, as did many others in the military, wondering whether containment had run its course, whether this was the best option, whether it was precipitous. so i had some anxiety about it personally, and i think in
retrospect it was fool hardy, frankly. does the media have responsibility? sure, that what the free press is about to ask the most pertinent, most difficult questions related to the national life and no larger issue than war and peace. i think we -- i would include myself -- didn't do particularly well before that 2003 invasion of asking the hard questions about whether in fact there were weapons of mass destruction, whether saddam hussein had intent to do ill to others. i don't think we did particularly well as an institution, and there's been a lot of soul searching in the ten years since then and that should continue, and i think asking a question like that is entirely appropriate. >> host: in the company of soldiers, a chronicle of combat, came out in 200 about mr. atkinson's experience with
imbedding with the 101st army in the iraq war. from "the guns at last light." leonard received an extra allocation of crisis remarkses to commemorate hitler's birthday. a pound of sausage, a half pound of rice and an ounce of coffee. allied planes pummeled the city and citizens risked their lives to cue for the special groceries. quote, with these remarks -- rassions. both stamp and slogan seemed uncommonly ironic for a regime not known for its rye humor. you rite that: in april in berlin, almost 4,000 suicides would be reported in berlin, and an ss report noted that the demand for poison, a pistol, or
other means of ending life, is great everywhere. a pastor shot himself and his wife and daughter. wrote a 16-year-old girl. and mrs. h shot her two sons and herself and slit her daughter's throat. one teacher -- our teacher, mrs. kay, hanged herself. she was a nazi. >> guest: yeah, the final months in berlin and in many german cities had this quality to it with the temples coming down. they were under incessant bombardsment in berlin. they know the soviet armies are at their door. the know the war is lost. many have suffered personal loss with family members who died in the bombings or soldiers killed, and it's awful. and you can feel sympathy for germans even if you have a disdain for their larger guilt
and responsible for the war. >> oo jim is in greenville, south carolina. you're on book tv. >> caller: mr. atkinson, good morning. i read the first two of your trilogy, and i'm reading the third, and i want to thank you for those. i've read a number of books on world war ii, and there seems to be one major american general who seems to be universally ignored as a subject of books best historians of that period. almost to the point of disdain. he only appears in the narrative of other historians books, and the only book i can remember about him was his own book, "a soldier's story" from the early 1960s, and i'm speaking of omar bradley. after reading your books i think i have an opinion as to why this is so, but you're the historian,
and i'd like to know what you think about that. >> host: well, jim, what do you think? whoa why do you think that is? >> caller: i think he seems to be incompetent at some points. i think that he seems to be stuck on the original plan of battle, rather than shifting to -- rather than shifting his strategy as circumstances change. he also seems to be -- this is a point of character -- but he also comes across as a bit of a prig in the way he handled theodore roosevelt, jr., and -- >> host: all right. thank you. i think we got the point. rick atkinson. >> guest: thanks, jim. i don't think you can think i ignore omar bradley good lord. i've been writing about him for three volumes now. he is certainly -- look in the
index. you can see there are many pages devoted to omar bradley. i think your analysis of him is pretty much in line with mine. i believe that you see omar bradley, who is a west point classmate and friend of dwight eisenhower, show up in north africa in the spring of 1943, and he takes over second corps, which patton has briefly commanded, and he does pretty well at that. he has a knack for it, and he not been in combat before, like eisenhower, he misses world war i combat action. but he is pretty good at it, and then in sicily he commands second corps there again and shares capabilities as a corps commander. the next thing we know, he leaves sicily, goes back to england to prepare for the invasion of normandy, where he
commands an army. the major american force in the invasion of normandy, and then he commands an army group, which twice or more armies, the largest armed force that the u.s. army has ever put overseas. i think the is promoted beyond his natural level of competence. used to be called the peter prim and it's hard to not feel also sorry for him. that's a steep learning curve to go from commanding a corps to commanding an army group in a very short period of time. i think that he, again,es not a natural battle captain. i'm pretty hard in my assessments of him. he wrote two memoirs. you mentioned "a soldier's story." he also wrote a book "a general's life" which was published posthumously. he outlived almost everybody
else from that generation and had a large role in shaping his own reputation and shaping the narrative of post war. he was the consultant on the movie, patton, that came out in 1970. and so consequently what you see with omar bradley is the benefit of longevity. he managed to help shape our general belief he was a hero, as a general, and a very competent general. i don't feel that is entirely accurate, and i certainly write to that effect. >> host: at the end of world war ii, the european theater, rick atkinson write. i. i what churchill called the american prodigy of organization had shipped 18 million tops of war stuff to europe, equivalent of the cargo in 3600 liberty ships or 181,000 rail cars. the kit ranged from hundred
thousand military vehicles to foot wear in sizes 2-a to 22ee. u.s. munitions plant turned out 40 billion rounds of small arms ammunition, and 56 million grenades. from d-day to ve day, g.i.'s fired 500 million michigan gun bullets and 23 million artillery rounds. quote. i'm letting the american taxpayer take this hill, one prodigal gunner declared, and no one disagreed in 1945 the u.s. hat built two-thirds of all ships afloat and was making half of all manufactured goods in the world, including nearly half of all armaments. the enemy was crushed by an economic juggernaut that produced much, muff more of nearly everything that germany could. tom in las vegas, good jana.
>> caller: good afternoon, thank you for taking my call. it's a privilege to speak to mr. atkinson. i read the first two volumes and am on the third volume. i was -- i'm retired chaplain for 30 years, '63 to '93, in world war ii i was a boy scout collecting rubber and et cetera for the war effort, and the korean war, i was in the seminary eight years, and defender, -- deferred. and i felt a responsibility to my country so i went into the chaplainsy. i have a question. there's no mention of chaplains in the first two volumes and i didn't see any in the third volume. i know one chaplain personally who wrote the prayer for patton, the prayer for good weather, i know of a second chaplain who jumped with the 101st, on
d-day, was captured, was put up against -- to face the firing squad. the german officer was raised by nuns and -- not raised by educated. he pulled him out of the line, and then that german company was overrun so the chaplain was sent back into -- with his unit. my question, i know you do a lot of research and a lot of things you have to leave out. did you run across any contribution of chaplains, pro or con, towards the war effort? thank you for taking my call. >> host: thank you, ir. >> guest: thanks for the call and the question. yeah, of course, and i do write about chaplains. i write about they chaplains who wrote the prayer for good weather you mentioned. there's a chaplain, a rabbi,
named eichorn, and i write about him in the current back. chaplains are important to combat units then and now. they are part of the morale structure of the army. it's a place for soldiers to find solace of one sort of another, even soldiers who aren't especially religious. chaplains act as counselors and confidantes, and i don't write about the chaplain corps much because, as you say, there are some things you have to leave out and that is one of the things that does get left out. but i do touch on it and try to knowledge their contribution. >> host: we have just a few minutes left with our guest, and george is a veteran, world war ii, in dearborn heights, michigan. >> caller: thank you for taking my call.
i'm 87 years old. i was 19 years old when i flew 35 missions with the eighth air force during world war ii. we used to fly over the netherlands, and day in and day out, we'd fly over montgomery's lines and all we would ever see is smoke screens, whereas if we had targets in various parts of germany, sometimes we would have to hit the secondary target because patton had already got there. and also, i've read a little bit on andy rooney. i haven't heard you mention him. and i've read some of his books, and he had quite a disdain for -- what's the -- the other -- the famous author. anyway. and that's about all. i'd like your comment on what
i've just asked. thank you. >> guest: thanks. i don't know if i rev to an -- refer to andy rooney. i read his book, particularly about being a sergeant in world war ii, and i think it's cited in the notes of this one. he is not a character because, again, you got leave certain things out, and just didn't make the cut. 35 missions with eighth air force, that's a pretty significant contribution. i alluded earlier to the mortality rate of guys flying the kind of missions you were flying, and to make it through 35 missions and get home and live to 2013, to bear witness and tell us about it, is really extraordinary, and i really thank you for that call. >> host: some more facts and figures from rick atkinson's reporting in "pi guns at last
light." the provision that traveled with winston churchill when we went to yalta. it included 144 bottles of whiskey, 144 bottles of sherry, 144 bottles of gin 200 pounds of bacon, 200-pounds of coffee, 100 rolled of toy let paper. 2500 paper napkins, 650 dinner plates, 350 tea cups. 500 thank you. leers. 100 wine glasses, and on, 48 bottles of white horse, black and white, and vat 69 whiskeys. 10,000 player cigarettes traveled with him as well. where did you get this information along with the information we read about the end of the war and how many bullets were used, et cetera? >> guest: this information specifically i found at the british national archive outside of london, their equivalent of our national oar archives, and i was delighted to find it. it ifs you some sense how they
were living large even in an awful place like yalta. you know, part of the narrative writer's task is to figure out where this stuff is, and then in the case of manifests like this, i show up at the queue and begin looking through files on yalta, and see what i can come up with. >> host: michael, you're on with rick atkinson. >> caller: it's a real pleasure to meet you by phone for the first time, even though i haven't read any of your books. warfare history is just something i don't care all that much about, but hopefully you can give a good answer to a question that i hope if washington acts fast enough can prevent more wars in the future. it's about the financial and economic underlying causes of
war. for instance, in italy, between 1918 and '22 i don't know how mussolini rose to power. i imagine for years he must have wiggled his way up italy's parliament by -- but i dent know if his rise occurred that way. i do know that italy had a low standard of living before 1914 and it was late to the industrial revolution. >> host: michael, where are you going with this? >> caller: well there are other examples. japan in 1930, after the stock market crash, i read that that's what caused the militarists in japan to rise to power. >> host: we got the point. thank you for your call. did you understand what he was talking about? >> guest: i think the gist of what he is saying is, yeah, there are underlying causes for nations to go to war, and
whether they're economic or political or political economic, yes, and if you look at the end of the war in europe in world war 1, you recognize the seeds of world war ii are planted there, and all the rest of european history plays out ultimately. so, yeah, that's indisputable. >> host: kenneth e-mails in, my grandmother born in 1879 had ten, which i boy whose served in europe and in the pacific. i remember pouring over her scrapbooks at the time with fascination and only understand late are how she and other wives were heroes too. how much is the home front covered in your book? >> guest: not a lot. i break away periodically to come back here, for example to the conferences held in washington in may of 1943, and you can take a snapshot been, of what is happening here, but my books are base cliff set
overseas in the war theaters -- basically set overseas in the war theaters, and these are combat histories. >> host: next call is scott in georgia. scott, you're on the air. >> caller: yes. i just had a comment and then a question. my comment was, i wanted to say thank you for your work. i was close to my granddad and his younger brother was lieutenant colonel george f. marshal who i learn about from your first book not african invasion, and this past memorial day, i went with my family to this park dedication in his oh, thrown by his son who was only three at the time. so i just want to say the again for your work, and my question is, i saw among your greatest influences or among your influences was your editor, john sterling, who has been with you all six books. and so what are some of the
crucial ingredients for a grate -- greeted did for? >> caller: job has been my editor and good friend since 198 7. i think patience, great literary ear, a sense of how to handle tempermental authors and a recognition these things take time, and that -- friendship is at the heart of that relationship. >> host: how often did fdr and churchill meet? >> guest: oh, gosh. they met twice, tehran, washington, -- i don't remember the total number of times but hundreds of hours they spent together. >> host: on the phone were they able to talk. >> guest: not often but they did. >> host: three minutes left with our guest.
here's a little bit from the "guns at last light." this is from 1945. on fdr. time magazine had catalogued the many rumors about the president's health herb had been secretly rushed to the mayo clinic and three skieses attended him, he was anemic. the truth was worse. nor for decades would it be revealed that this blood pressure climbed from 128 over 82, to 260 over 150 in december 1944. in the past year he had shed nearly 30-pounds. can't eat, he complained in december; not taste feed. an examination by a cardiologist disclosed the bluish coloringation of his skin, lips and nail bed, with labor bleeding, bouts of stress and symptoms of an enlarged heart and fluid in the lung, all leading to a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. he had been aenemy mick from
chronic bleeding hemorrhoids exacerbated by his inability to stand or walk and suffered symptoms of a mild heart attack in august while giving a speech in washington state. he was periodically treated with injections of codeine, and his physician wanted as little as possible be told the roosevelt, and he made efforts to have his daily smoking and drinking to ten cigarettes and one and a half cocktails as recommended. lots of sleep and still need more. he would write his secretary. that's a little bit from the "the guns at last light." jim in south dakota, your question or comment, please, for rick atkinson. >> host: it helps if i push the button. >> caller: "guns as last light" my first book about world war
ii. i'm a joshist in south dakota. timber lake, not trail city. >> host: thank you, sir. >> caller: two years ago when my mother dade died, she had given me a packet of about a thousand letters written between 1942 and 1945 which represent the correspondence of my parents during those years. my father had enlisted in 1942 at the age of 37. he served with the seventh armored division, and my biggest question today, i've had the letters digitized and now my question is, where do you recommend as a repository for these letters? my father was a very good writer. he never spoke about the war, but his letters are informative, and they're especially insightful when it comes to the training leading up to their tee
part -- departure and all of his letters survived. some of his letters when he was in the front, they do not survive. but his do, and he asks a lot of questions in the letters, and i think they are potentially valuable. >> host: thank you, jim. >> guest: thanks for that, jim, and thanks for taking the time to preserve those letters, and there are a couple of good repositories. the first one i would suggest you take a look at is u.s. army military history institute, which is in pennsylvania, adjacent to the army war college. it is the place where unofficial records -- official records are in the national archives but this is where letters, diaries and the like go, and your dad's trove would fit perfectly in there. among other things they organize
their archive by unit. so your dad's letters would be with the seventh armored division and other letters and diaries diaries and so on from the seventh armored division. that sort of stuff, frankly, for historians like me, is absolutely invaluable, and so i would encourage you to put at least copies of them there. they have a pretty good web site, u.s. army military history institute in carlisle, pennsylvania, part of the army history and education center. you can see how to get in touch with them. >> host: and unfortunately we are out of time with rick atkinson. here's a picture we didn't get to somebody else featured in your books. marlena deitrick. there's a picture offer, and the tuskegee air men are featured in the work and we didn't get a chance to get to either of those. very quickly, mr. atkinson, six bongs, "the long gray line "pot about the west point class of
'66. crusade about the persian gulf war, and army of daab in the company of soldiers, the day of battle, and the guns at last light, liberation trilogy, is the web site. very honored to be here with my friend, richard haass, and i'm here for couple of ropes. the first is that richard and i go really far back. i don't want to tell you how far back but we met when we were 21 years old and you can do the math. and so i have been richard's friend and have