U-Boats and World War I: A Reading List

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 9:05am -- baglio

As part of our 2018 Spring Life of the Mind Salon Series, historian Brian L. Wallin will be discussing the story of German submarine Bremen that made a surprise visit to the Newport Navy Base in October of 1916 and the events that immediately followed. To coordinate with his upcoming lecture, this reading list will share some light on the extraordinary tales of U Boats, and their impact on the Atlantic Ocean during not one, but two World Wars. To further prepare for the lecture, there are titles on World War One and America's involvement in "The War to End All Wars".


World War II Rhode Island

By, Christian McBurney, Brian L Wallin, Patrick T. Conley

Rhode Island's contribution to World War II vastly exceeded its small size. Narragansett Bay was an armed camp dotted by army forts and navy facilities. They included the country's most important torpedo production and testing facilities at Newport and the Northeast's largest naval air station at Quonset Point. Three special, top-secret German POW camps were based in Narragansett and Jamestown. Meanwhile, Rhode Island workers from all over the state--including, for the first time, many women--manufactured military equipment and built warships, most notably the Liberty ships at Providence Shipyard. Authors from the Rhode Island history blog smallstatebighistory.com trace Rhode Island's outsized wartime role, from the scare of an enemy air raid after Pearl Harbor to the war's final German U-boat sunk off Point Judith.


The U-Boats

By, Douglas Botting

Reviews the history of Germany's foremost naval weapon in two world wars, documenting its victories, which include the sinking of 8,000 merchant ships, and its final defeat


The Lusitania: Saga and Myth

By, David Ramsay

The SS Lusitania entered service with Cunard in 1907. The first transatlantic express liner powered by marine turbines, she could complete the Liverpool-New York crossing in five days and had a top speed of 25 knots. She restored the British supremacy of the key North Atlantic route which the Germans had seized. All this ended on 7 May 1915 when she was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank 18 minutes later with the loss of 1,198 passengers and crew (interestingly 39% of those aboard survived whereas only 32% of those on the Titanic survived despite the latter taking 2 hours, 40 minutes to sink.) The Author concentrates not just on the disaster but its aftermath including the political recriminations and the inquiry. As a result of the loss of 128 American citizens the Germans signed an agreement not to attack US shipping. Their breach of this was a major contributory reason, along with the Zimmermann Telegram, why the USA entered the War. This is a fascinating study of a major shipping disaster with profound consequences.


Battle Beneath the Waves : U-boats at War

What was it really like to be a German U-boatmen in WWII, to undergo the terror and tedium of living for weeks on end in a narrow, stinking tube--and to targeting your counterparts for sudden, sinking death? In these vivid first-person accounts of true stories, even the torpedo attacks are routine; what creates alarm is the instant when something goes horribly, often fatally, wrong.


The Wolf: How One German Raider Terrorized the Allies in the Most Epic Voyage of WWI

By, Richard Gulliatt and Peter Hohnen

World War I. On November, 30, 1916, an apparently ordinary freighter left harbor in Kiel, Germany, and would not touch land again for another fifteen months. It was the beginning of an astounding 64,000-mile voyage that was to take the ship around the world, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation in her wake.


The Last Days of Innocence: America at War, 1917-1918

By, Merion & Susie Harries

In the Spring of 1917, America went to war with an innocent determination to re-make the world. When the smoke lifted in November 1918, the nation emerged with its sense of purpose shattered, its certainties shaken, and with a new and unwelcome self-knowledge. Seventy-five thousand American soldiers were dead, and back home a Pandora's box of suspicions and surveillance had been opened.

The Last Days of Innocence reveals how the fight to preserve freedom abroad led to the erosion of freedom at home. Drawing on American, British, and French archival material, the authors reveal unplanned and uncoordinated field efforts, as well as the unsavory activities of anti-dissent groups, from the Committee for Public Information to the Anti-Yellow Dog League, including a posse of children organized to listen for antiwar talk among families and friends. Here is the story of the fifty-billion-dollar war that gave birth to the Selective Service Act, threatened labor rights, stoked the fires of racial and religious intolerance, and concentrated the nation's wealth into fewer hands than ever before. The Last Days of Innocence tells the untold story of the war that rudely thrust Americans into an uncertain future--a war whose effects remain with us today.


The Unsubstantial Air: American Fliers in the First World War

By, Samuel Hynes

The Unsubstantial Air is the gripping story of the Americans who fought and died in the aerial battles of World War I. Much more than a traditional military history, it is an account of the excitement of becoming a pilot and flying in combat over the Western Front, told through the words and voices of the aviators themselves.

A World War II pilot himself, the memoirist and critic Samuel Hynes revives the ad­venturous young men who inspired his own generation to take to the sky. The volunteer fliers were often privileged-the sorts of college athletes and Ivy League students who might appear in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and sometimes did. Others were country boys from the farms and ranches of the West. Hynes follows them from the flying clubs of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and the grass airfields of Texas and Canada to training grounds in Europe and on to the front, where they learned how to fight a war in the air. And to the bars and clubs of Paris and London, where they unwound and discovered another kind of excitement, another challenge. He shows how East Coast aristocrats like Teddy Roosevelt's son Quentin and Arizona roughnecks like Frank Luke the Balloon Buster all dreamed of chivalric single combat in the sky, and how they came to know both the beauty of flight and the constant presence of death.

By drawing on letters sent home, diaries kept, and memoirs published in the years that followed, Hynes brings to life the emotions, anxieties, and triumphs of the young pilots. They gasp in wonder at the world seen from a plane, struggle to keep their hands from freezing in open­ air cockpits, party with actresses and aristocrats, rest at Voltaire's castle, and search for their friends' bodies on the battlefield. Their romantic war becomes more than that-a harsh but often thrilling reality. Weaving together their testimonies, The Unsubstantial Air is a moving portrait of a generation coming of age under new and extreme circumstances.


The Great War: Perspectives on the First World War

Edited by, Robert Cowley

The great war—or the First World War, as most Americans call it—was the true turning point of the century just past. It brought down dynasties and empires, including the Ottoman—one of the roots of our present difficulties. It changed the United States from a bumptious provincial nation into a world power. It made World War II inevitable, and the Cold War as well. Above all, the Great War was history’s first total war, an armed conflict on a world stage between industrialized powers.

Robert Cowley has brought together the thirty articles in this book to examine that unnecessary but perhaps inevitable war in its diverse aspects. A number of the subjects covered here are not just unfamiliar but totally fresh. Who originated the term “no-man’s-land” and the word “tank”? What forgotten battles nearly destroyed the French Army in 1915? How did the discovery of a German naval codebook bring the United States into the war? What was the weapon that, for the first time, put a man-made object into the stratosphere? 

The Great War takes a hard look at the legend of the “Massacre of the Innocents” at Ypres in 1914—an event that became a cornerstone of Nazi mythology. It describes the Gallipoli campaign as it has never been described before—from the Turkish side. Brought to life as well are the horrors of naval warfare, as both British and German sailors experienced them at the Battle of Jutland; the near breakdown of the American commander, John H. Pershing; and the rarely told story of the British disaster on the Tigris River in what is now Iraq.

Michael Howard chronicles the summer of 1914 and the descent into a war that leaders were actually more afraid to avoid than to join. John Keegan writes about the muddy tragedy of Passchendaele in 1917. Jan Morris details the rise and fall of Sir John Fisher, whom she characterizes as the greatest British admiral since Nelson. Robert Cowley tells the haunting story of the artist Käthe Kollwitz, determined to create a memorial to her dead son.


Pandora's Box : a History of the First World War

By,  Jorn Leonhard

In this monumental history of World War I, Germany's leading historian of the twentieth century's first great catastrophe explains the war's origins, course, and consequences. With an unrivaled combination of depth and global reach, Pandora's Box reveals how profoundly the war shaped the world to come. Jörn Leonhard treats the clash of arms with a sure feel for grand strategy, the everyday tactics of dynamic movement and slow attrition, the race for ever more destructive technologies, and the grim experiences of frontline soldiers. But the war was much more than a military conflict, or an exclusively European one. Leonhard renders the perspectives of leaders, intellectuals, artists, and ordinary men and women on diverse home fronts as they grappled with the urgency of the moment and the rise of unprecedented political and social pressures. And he shows how the entire world came out of the war utterly changed. Postwar treaties and economic turbulence transformed geopolitics. Old empires disappeared or confronted harsh new constraints, while emerging countries struggled to find their place in an age of instability. At the same time, sparked and fueled by the shock and suffering of war, radical ideologies in Europe and around the globe swept away orders that had seemed permanent, to establish new relationships among elites, masses, and the state. Heralded on its publication in Germany as a masterpiece of historical narrative and analysis, Pandora's Box makes clear just what dangers were released when the guns first fired in the summer of 1914-- Provided by publisher.


1917: War, Peace, and Revolution 

1917 was a year of pivotal importance in the development of the First World War. Historian David Stevenson examines the year in context and illuminates the century that followed. Two developments in particular - the Russian Revolution and American intervention - had worldwide repercussions. Offering a close examination of the key decisions, he considers Germany's campaign of submarine warfare, America's declaration of war in response, Britain's frustration of German strategy by adopting the convoy system, and why the military and political stalemate in Europe persisted. He offers an international understanding of events, including the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the disastrous spring offensive that plunged the French army into mutiny, the summer attacks that undermined the moderate Provisional Government in Russia and exposed Italy to national humiliation at Caporetto, and the British decision for the ill-fated Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). He analyzes the global consequences of the year's developments, describing how countries such as Brazil and China joined the belligerents, how Britain offered "responsible government" to India, and how the Allies promised a Jewish national home in Palestine. Blending political and military history, and moving from capital to capital and from the cabinet chamber to the battle front, the book highlights the often tumultuous debates through which leaders entered and escalated the war, and the paradox that continued fighting was justifiable as the shortest road toward peace.


The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War 

By, Richard Rubin

“Richard Rubin has done something that will never be possible for anyone to do again. His interviews with the last American World War I veterans—who have all since died—bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here.”—Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918 

In 2003, 85 years after the end of World War I, Richard Rubin set out to see if he could still find and talk to someone who had actually served in the American Expeditionary Forces during that colossal conflict. Ultimately, he found dozens, aged 101 to 113, from Cape Cod to Carson City, who shared with him at the last possible moment their stories of America’s Great War. Nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century, they were self-reliant, humble, and stoic, never complaining, but still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win, and the complexity of the world they helped create. Though America has largely forgotten their war, you will never forget them, or their stories. A decade in the making, The Last of the Doughboys is the most sweeping look at America’s First World War in a generation, a glorious reminder of the tremendously important role America played in the war to end all wars, as well as a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.