tv History Bookshelf CSPAN May 10, 2015 10:00am-10:48am EDT
every contributor to the arsenal of democracy had done their part from the servicemen to the factory workers and businesses providing servicemen the weapons of war so vital to their success , to the families who went without so that the boys overseas could have all of the a victory was a collaborative effort, a triumph that the entire country could be proud of. seven decades later, we are no less proud. for all those here today who played a role in america's victory in world war ii, whether in military or civilian capacity thank you for your service and for everyone else, thank you to -- for commemorating our country's victory in world war ii. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3. for information on our schedule
and to keep up with our latest history news. the seven days anniversary of the german surrender to allies in 1945. next author rick atkinson examines the last year of world war ii in europe in his book, the guns at last flight. he focused on the national mall in 2013. this is about 45 minutes. >> now to our author and speaker, writ -- rick attkisson. it is my personal misfortune that i arrived too late to work with him. he is rightly regarded as one of the most distinguished journalists of our time. his talents as a writer and a reporter, and unparalleled expertise in military affairs were a gift to the post and our readers. with his latest book, rick
reminds us again that his -- he continues in different form, as a historian. the guns at last light is the final installment in his trilogy about world war ii. he dedicated nearly 15 years of his life to these three remarkable volumes. alled the "liberation trilogy" a masterpiece of deep reporting and rich the new york times review calls the children ethic calls it at that again this finale a tapestry of richness and complexity. the "washington post" reviewer described the process achingly sublime. now it's 877 pages, but the reviewer noted while saying this is a very long book this one seemed too short. in a recent interview with the national world war ii museum, rick remarked on the necessity of remembering and telling the
story of this sort what he called the greatest self-inflicted catastrophe in human history. 60 million dead one life snuffed out every three seconds for six years. rick added of more than 60 million american veterans of world war ii if you than 2 million remain alive. when i contemplate what is lost as culturally as they slip into the shadows at the rate of 800 a day, foremost perhaps is the ability to bear witness, to tell the story firsthand, to attest to the authenticity and authority why they fought suffered and died. further stories told and retold, countless others will now go untold. so is the primary storytellers die off, it's important for survivors for us to sustain the story to keep it a vivid narrative that lives and breathes rather than some being rapidly receding into the past with every diminishing power to stir us.
rick atkinson has done more than almost anyone to sustain the story to give a continued life. for that, we can all be grateful. i am proud to introduce rick atkinson. [applause] >> well, thank you, marty. i also regret that we didn't overlap. thanks so much for coming this afternoon to this fantastic conclave of readers and writers. i apologize to those of you sitting here expecting to see my friend evan thomas. that was the last hour. i really apologize to those who expect to see my friend khalid husseini that is in a different tent. i'd also like to thank the library of congress and the "washington post." the other corporate sponsors for
making this one of the great annual event in our town. it is not this time, it not that town. it's a hard time they live in the district of columbia are not. [applause] from the national book festival shows you can still be civil and thoughtful and thought in washington d.c. said jack london said a writer i'd not wait for inspiration to knock the door, but instead go looking for up at the club. 15 years ago i took what i found what inspired me was the second world war. the war lasted 3174 days and i began with the greatest greatest catastrophe in human history. as marty said, 60 million dead. that's 27,600 dead every day or 1150 dead an hour.
if you're a german boy born between 1915 in 1924 the odds are one in three bye-bye 1945 you would be dead. 14% of the soviet population of 190 million perished during the water. 60 million dead in six years is a death every three seconds. one, two three. one two three. that's world war ii. the writer kingsley and mouse once said that he only wanted to read books that begin a shot rang out. the way i've approached the second world war is to look on it as a trilogy, with three panels that mutually reinforce one another and i'm not still many, many more shots ring out.
i begin with the american water were the war really begins in northern africa with the invasion by british and american troops in november 1942 and then we moved in second panel, the second panel my second volume, north across the mediterranean but reddish american troops for the invasion of sicily. in july of 1943 unanswered mainland italy places like salerno, the repeater river and see how, the vulture now rather than onto the liberation of rome on june 4, knight and 44. well, this third volume the final panel opens on may 5th team 1944 at st. paul school on hammersmith road in london. and they are on may 15th, eisenhower patton, omar
bradley, winston churchill, king george the sixth and several dozen of the most senior commanders have gathered to review for it last time the plan called overlord, which is the invasion of france, which is to take place in three weeks. they met in an auditorium at st. paul's called the model room and the general said that girls were bundled up in their overcoats because even that was the middle of night it was cold as a meat locker and they sat on hold with benches normally reserved for schoolboys. the poet john milton among other english luminaries had gone to st. paul. on the florida cop put it this auditorium was an enormous paris relief map of the normandy coast, where the rivers and teeth into the atlantic and a british brigadier and no skid stotts shuffled around on this
hop is a discussed the individual locales and what would be coming in three weeks, the most famous battlefield in the world. the beaches, for example. utah on a hot gold juno sword and towns no one had heard of it soon would become infamous. towns like saint lo and sure board and just on the edge of the map their spirits. and for the next 12 to yours, detail unspooled that these places than others, the less paris, but her can for us. nine aikin arnon. the battle of the bulge the encirclement of the rower and final drive to pick every day on may 8, 1945. as in the first two volumes and
would periodically shift from a tactical thought fulvio to a higher ed ruby can see operational and strategically with going on. much of chapter 10 for example assenting altec, where we are red from church of roosevelt stalin and their senior commanders. we also peek in on the other side of the hill to see what the germans are doing. i us a recount of some of southern france in august 1944 as well as the subsequent drop of around river valley by french and american troops and the per show matches to capture strasbourg and to reach the rhine in november 1944 at 4 months before the armies that are coming from normandy arrive on the rhine. it's an important part of the liberation of europe from a part many of americans know very little about the carrot terser
fantastic. alexander patch and the army commander a general named john who is beyond. u.s. described by one of his admiral of actions and a lot would often appear in the middle of the night were his soldiers are sleeping and would roar row we cannot not. but if he done for france? he's that kind of guy. as you may suspect, the liberation of europe is not a non-scuppers subject. amazon.com was 60,000 hardcover world war ii titles. how do you tell that story said that you and you and you feel that you are hearing it again as that for the first time. part of that is voice of course and narrative coherence. but a good part of it must be archival spade work.
when it comes to world war ii and archive rat like me can look large. the u.s. army records alone for the second world war with 17,000 tons. like all great events in american history world war ii is bottomless. there are wonderful things still to discover. so for example i found that the national archives in college park about 15 miles from here, a document that revealed thinking about, how are you going to get onto the beaches at the normandie if you know the beaches are going to be heavily defended. how are you going to get ashore by air, by parachute or bake later. someone or posed how about taking a time out under the english channel? and so there was a study done at
the officers who reported back to the handset can do this. it will take 15,000 miners a year to excavate 50,000 tons of spoil but we can do that. but they couldn't finance, what they could never forget out is when the first minor popped out an entire german seventh army was waiting. there was a whole collection of these problems and they had their own acronym. can't wait, problems of the invasion of northwest europe. there was anxiety for example, the german airplanes wood fired over it lind and drop rats and dust with the bonnet plate and a bounty offered on rat carcass is to test for plague. they would think that the germans of fly over london and drop some thing called radioactive agents on london and there were geiger counters hidden all around the city to test for radio tv.
the ally since the l.a. start out 160000 tons of chemical weapons in england and the mediterranean in case the were turned chemical. that's about 160 times more than the syrians are suspect it to harbor at this point. my son also at the national archives, to plans for chemical warfare in normandie. both of them had been approved by eisenhower. the first is predicated on caring about french civilian casualties. the second plant not so much. in fact there would've been tens of thousands of french civilian casualties of the war become a chemical war. u.s. army drafty standards during the second world war are progressively lowered for the drafting of what were known as physically imperfect men.
so for example when the draft began in earnest in 1942 you had to have at least 12 of your natural 32 teeth in order to be drafted. by 1944, how many teeth does you have to have to be drafted? zero. and that is because the army in the navy had drafted one third of all the dead to sin america and collectively they extracted 16 million teeth and build 68 million more than made two and a half million sets of dentures, all to allow those draftees to be able to masticate the army ration. i know it sounds like an obscene act, but that was the standard. in 1944. in newest correctable to 2040 in one eye. the vision standards have eroded so badly that deal bromide the army did examine how just
counted them had come churros if you are blinded in one eye, just in one manner and if you're messing those external yours. you could be drafted if you're messing night, or three fingers on one hand and reading your trigger finger. when the draft began they kept many soldiers out of the army but that restriction to a certain restricted in the army soon drafted in 1944 12080 patients a month most of them syphilitic. how could they do that? penicillin. an extraordinary discovery of a burger scientist in the 1920 is had been converted into an extraordinary industrial project by the american and the british said that a substance that had been made originally by that graham was soon named by the
kilogram and eventually by the time. why these extreme measures to fill the ranks? it was because of the crying need for soldiers, especially infantrymen and especially riflemen. even a country of 130 million we were running out. the grits did run out. the war remains brutal and voracious to the very and. in april 1945, the last four months of the war in europe, almost 11 dozen american soldiers were killed in action in europe. that's nearly as many as died in june 1944 the month of the invasion. it was awful virtually to the last gunshot. so desperate was the american army for infantrymen that the high command taken action that had been absolute unthinkable just a few months before.
they allow black soldiers to volunteer for duty as infantrymen in weight unit. 53 platoons of colored infantry were integrated into above an otherwise all-white divisions. many of those african-american soldiers surrender sergeant stripe they had earned as cooks and drivers and laborers for the privilege of being rifled. very many other surprises and discoveries in mississauga. i found that the franklin roosevelt library in hyde park new york for example a detailed account written by the atlanta funeral home director who had prepared franklin roosevelt body for burial and the president died at warm springs georgia on april 12, 1945. the document is as powerful in his minivan as it is clinical. after several hours spent
injecting six bottles of embalming fluid into the president's veins and arteries this partition summer arthur prettyman, the president's balloting handed him a call and then had called the president's hair just told. john updike once said that world war ii was the 20th century's central myth. he called it a tale of stories. angles are infinite and his central figures never fail to amaze us with their size, and astra talladega. theatrical day our. i believe the narrative historians tru calling is to bring back the dead. i try to do that not only with the outside familiar with the eisenhower's patents of the war but also others who are thus familiar a generous ted roosevelt junior emotion triscuit junior.
even amid the clash of army groups my eyes always drawn to the particulars mall tragedy that eliminates the larger catastrophe. so for example, i tell the story of the death of the son of general alexander patch, a young captain named mac patch. i tell it through the letters that general patch and his wife exchange to each other. and they're unspeakably heartbreaking. young captain patch has been wounded in normandie. he's recuperating under his father's command in southern france. his mother writes to general patch, baking her husband not to let him go back into combat teams and. he goes back into combat in october 1944 and is killed almost immediately. general patch rights to his ways in me says i cannot and must not
allow myself to dwell upon our irreparable loss. as i write the tears are falling from my eyes prominence decrees that we must obey. how many families in the second world war had similar sentiments i tell the story of the suicide her admiral don p. noonan who had commanded the naval forces landing at utah beach on june 6 1944 and shortly before the invasion of southern france, where he was also to have a large responsibility, blew his brains out in the cabinet's flagship in harbor. the stress and unhinged him and the suicide note that he left for his wife and four children is really devastating. part of a read, what am i doing to you my wife in your children? i am sick so sick.
i mentioned that the united states had a population during world war ii of about 130 million. what the 16150,566 into uniform during the war. of those there were about 1.5 million veterans still alive, my father among them. they are leaving us at the rate of more than 40,000 a month. it's almost 1500 a day now. the number of surviving american veterans of world war ii will slip the low 1 million just about this time next year and in 2024, the number of survivors will drop below 100,000 in 2036, the last year for which government demographers has made calculations, the number of survivors of the most distraught of war in human history and the
united states will drop below 400, less than half the size of an infantry battalion. this country suffered less than any other major belligerent. we emerged from the war with iran is still based not only in tact but driving. we emerged from the war with two thirds of the world's gold supplier, with clinical energy is a great sense of optimism and hope in the future. but about 400,000 americans died during the war. 291,000 were killed in action and of those killed in action, all south of those occurred in europe in that last year. in 1947, the next of kin of all americans who had died and whose bodies had been recovered overseas, and i was nearly everyone who went died in the pacific or atlantic theaters.
those next of kin were given a one-time opportunity to choose whether or not to bring their dead sons and they were mostly sons to bring them home or to live in. overseas in one of about two dozen american battles on the case. about 40% chose to leave their boys overseas and about 60% brought them home. across the united states government $564.50 per explanation regardless of the ultimate disposition of the body, something only a rich victorious nation could afford. every grave was opened by hand and the remains of every dead soldier dusted with an embalming compound of for not hide, aluminum chloride and plaster of paris. they were then plays in a metal casket with a side hello.
labor strikes in the united states had caused a shortage of cat visio and there is also a shortage of life embalmers. the debt accumulated in warehouses at cardiff ensure board and elsewhere. finally the ss joseph viacom might come in the first to 21 go ships from europe and the pacific sailed with more than 5000 soldiers in her hold it on october 27, 1947 the connolly birth in new york and stevedores whinge the caskets are a hold of specially designed slayings to buy two mps dead and those of father he can make great diaspora across the republic for burial in their hometown cemeteries and national
cemeteries. that's how the dead came home. but what about their belongings? what about things they carried? even before the debt came home these things had been coming home at a large warehouse in hardesty avenue and can see. the u.s. army affects bureau had begun as a modest quartermaster and a price is only a half-dozen employees in february 1942. that expanded to more than a dozen workers. by august 1945, bearing handling 6000 shipments a month, each leg with the effects of american dead from six continents. hour after hour, day after day, shipping containers were
unloaded from the rail freight cars that pulled up to the siting next to that warehouse in hardesty avenue. they were pulled onto the receiving document hoisted by elevators to the depth of his 10th floor in here and spent years old who the crates to extract, ammunition perhaps amorous letters from a girlfriend you did want a grieving widow to be -- to see. workers use grinding stones in dentist drills to remove corrosion and blood stains from what kerry and other end. bloggers this took pains to scrub blood stains out of the uniforms and the containers worked their way by assembly line down to the seventh floor and finally a detailed inventory of the effects for spin to a
container and less stack in a storage bin and all the while a large adjacent room banks of typists are banging out letters. 70,000 mothers, and the gist of those letters was this dear sir, dear madam we have your dad son stuffed. where should we send it? over the years the affects bureau found many thing, tapestries enemy swords, a german machine gun and italian accordion tobacco sack full of diamond shrunken head. a month now since the diaries also collect it in kansas city with a small notebook that belonged to lieutenant herschel g horton 29 from aurora,
illinois. shot in the right leg and hip in a firefight with the japanese on new guinea where it had dragged himself out of the fire zone and into the crash be another several days it took for him to die, he wrote his final letter home to his family. and to begin, my tears sleep father mother and sister, i lay here in this terrible place wondering now why god has forsaken me but why he is making me suffer. the first duty is to read them her. i can think of no better way to close out the national book festival. and to quote from our current party or it natasha fresh way she answered palm pilgrimage a
visit to pittsburgh with these lines. in my tree and come up the of history lies down beside me, rolls over, it pains me beneath a heavy iron. my ambition with this trilogy has been for you too, to feel that heavy iron. to fill the palpable presence of those who suffered much and in some cases gave every day for a period thank you so much for being here. i look for your questions and comments. thank you so much. thank you. [applause] server. >> yes, i am particularly interested in the battle of the
bulge where it seems that american command -- american commanders according to hodges seem to really fall down in the performance of their job were even omar bradley is kind of denying that the line has broken and their german troops pouring through in the army is coming through. i'm always fascinated as to why these commanders are made plays particularly court may hodges who wasn't suited for the command of the first place for the first time he and considering the ramifications of what occurred subsequently. how did he survive cliques and did we learn anything from the situations were his teams like everything devolved upon the chief of staff and not the actual commander? monday brought in field marshal macomber, processing. >> were going to make him read the book. briefly because the battle of the bulge was the largest battle
fought in american history that takes a long time to go through it in detail. in answer to your questioning began december 16, 1944. it took the americans to fall almost on the americans raised in the belgian ardennes that extend down into luxembourg almost entirely by surprise. it was an enormous intelligence failure. if intelligence failure ranking up there with pearl harbor and 9/11. because there was great surprise and because the germans had attacked a part of the ardennes swear we were particularly lately defended, there was great confusion. in fact, courtney hodges lieutenant general who is the commander of the u.s. first army had what appears to be a nervous break down of sort at a very inopportune moment. he closed the door of his office
spot and put his head down on the desk and basically for 24 hours his chief of staff ran first army at a time when it appeared as though the germans might overrun first army. there was concern hodgins was not up to it. field marshal montgomery although this is not a suspect or was given the responsibility of taking over hodges first army and a big portion of the american forces. and montgomery went and looked hodges directly in the eye and came to the solution that in fact he had righted the ship somehow, that whatever affliction had cost him to put his head down seem to have passed. he wrote to eisenhower, who is the supreme commander in europe as it is not the man i would've chosen but i think were going to be okay and i will keep a close eye on him. hodges actually recovered sufficiently to finish the war out. there were a number of instances
where commanders not just at the battle of the bulge battle of the bulge just simply didn't measure up and they were believed. first army and particularly ironically very precipitous and relieving commanders and replacing them. and hodges casey got a second chance. thank you. >> first of all, thank you for your trilogy and you're very powerful thoughtful presentation today. >> thank you sir. >> my question is someday surveyed until this last question. i want to get your take on eisenhower as commander-in-chief. we know that he had no battlefield experience. and your first book, you mention how lousier generalship was an african campaign to the extent that eisenhower himself was surprised he was relieved. then in your last book you
mentioned again eisenhauer stationed himself in positions way behind the front, unaware of what was going on at it day by day business. you also mention that eisenhower was not aware of montgomery's failure in the opening of the attempt to open supportive and dark, which was so important. >> german to talk about eisenhower? all right, eisenhauer someone i've lived with every day very intimately for 15 years. my estimation is solely grown. i think some of you may have heard of and talk about them as president. he goes to the presidency basically by virtue of what he goes through the second world war. it's true he shows up in gibraltar, command name his first command, having never
heard a shot fired in anger. he never committed even a platoon of the first world war and that he's a theater commander. he's got the entire allied force in the mediterranean. eisenhower has a number of things going for it. he's learned as he goes as do most of this american commanders. he's had a very big rain. he's extremely articulate. churchill and us something about worth the point says the chief of the imperial general staff, i'm not sure i trust agent wrote whose this glib. so he can speak and write very precisely. there's rarely any ambiguity about what it is that eisenhower once you do if you're a subordinate of his. instead of basic humanity to him that appeals not only to his immediate support is, but all through the rain. the average private although he may not know eisenhower from pat to bradley might not know him to cease and has the sense
that eisenhower cares about him personally in there's something to that. eisenhower was able to convey that he knows the way home and that's the soldiers really care about in hee hee will do his best to be sure that you do not risk your life and if it costs in medicine soldiers also care about. so eisenhower has his credibility i think to project confidence. and to project a sense he is then command of this enormous, sprawling, multinational team called the allied coalition. he's an extraordinary guy. i think very, very highly of him. >> thank you so much for your trilogy. it's really superb. i'm doing a lot of world war ii oral history interviews establish and not proper world war ii history archive to encourage people to do an interview. i was just wondering have you
ever consulted coming in now any oral history in your work and if not, what are some of the thoughts he might have had to utilize them? >> i use oral histories a lot, but he is almost no contemporary oral history made you almost none myself. the reason for this is my father is 89 years old enlisted in the army 1943. i would not rely on what he told me happens to years ago any more than i would rely on what somebody told me they thought had happened a century ago. the contemporaneous record including oral history is so extreme hairy the army sent some very good historians, including people like martin blume and send who became one
of the finest world war ii historians after the war was a sergeant in world war ii out to interview soldiers virtually if they are coming off of the battlefield. sometimes it was within hours frequently within days or weeks. these extraordinary transcripts of those oral histories are in the national archives. there's hundreds and hundreds have been from all major actions particularly late in the war. so there's that. and then there are many, many other contemporaneous archival records of one sort or another that allow you not to rely on 70-year-old memories. as much as i admire what you and others do now sometimes you try to tease out that little and joked that he would never get anywhere else by some guy telling you in 2013 even though it may have happened in 1843. i'd rather go back to 1943
myself. >> yes i read extensively about world wars one and two and thank you for greatly enriching the library. it always astonishes me our capacity to do harm to ourselves. my wife always wonders why i immerse myself in this ongoing horror story. my question is, you spend a lot of time reading about what we do to each other in a graphic way. i'm curious how that affects you how that changes your view of humanity. >> that's a tough question. i've been living with the greatest catastrophe in human history for 15 years. i live with young men dying young every day. i know it affects me. it breaks my heart.
every day it breaks my heart. i tried to use it as a propulsion system. i tried to use this calamity both individually and globally as a means of harnessing the energies and talents as a writer in order to convey 70 years later what it was like, what it costs, what it meant. click courtney hodges every once in a while i want to close the door of my head down on the desk, but we soldier on, don't we? so i do believe there's actually a name that god the vista really and emotionally. but i try to use it effectively to my own purposes. at that time for two more questions than told. the maxtor. >> yes hi.
i'm currently in the midst of another war trilogy, show he put civil war narrative. if i were to take on your trilogy, what would i find that was similar and what would i find that was different? >> thank you. and mind you would find such a. [laughter] but, i love shall be further. i go back in reread a lot because i very consciously try to emulate some of what shelby foote does. but there's three dozen pages on the civil war and there's not a single foot no. you cannot get away with that today. now, i am not impugning the scholarship at all. he did the work. what i find in him that speaks to me personally and that affects the way i wrote this trilogy is i think something we were talking about a minute ago. you're looking for the emotional
center of this. you are looking for residences that speak to us through the decades. you're looking to find the same day that speaks to us about war that we find exclusivity. shelby foote is i think extraordinary have been able to find not only a delicate story and to take a very complex yarn and make it coherent but in ways they really resonate. you read that book with your eyes and with your brain do you feel those three books in your heart. and so i think that it's probably something i try to emulate from an plus fitness pierced and i ma'am. >> following up on footnotes could you address what is the process that you follow to undertake some another scope? you just dive into the 17 tens
of the archives? how do you keep track of what you are finding in the archives and have you committed on paper? >> this crowd really wants to hear about my process i'm sure. 17000 tons. well, i'll be very sustained. i don't just dive in. that would be a prescription for wandering into the woods and never wondering now. my process is to set a date certain when i will stop researching. and i can fix that date because the contract tells me with a manuscript is due. and i can count backwards and they know roughly how long it will take me to write and i know roughly how long it will take me to outline the research i've gotten that leaves me with x amount of months to do the research and then i try to be smart about where and doing the research. so when my case i spent a lot of time at the national
archives, library of congress and carl pennsylvania which is a fabulous archive. a key with the british national archive is and probably a couple dozen other places. and then you've got to do with the secondary material. i mention the 60000 votes. you feel obliged to release waved a hand over a good portion of the end in many cases to get down into them because there's fabulous works there. i put it all and every piece of information that i come up with goes into a word file. the word files are kept in my own filing system. i deal with the documents when it comes time to write and then i write and extrude or the detailed outline. i use outlining software, which is the greatest invention since the pile. and i build an outline and
yelling for this third and final volume is about 700,000 words long. it's more than twice as long as the book sells. but it acts not only as a roadmap to tell me where in going when i sit down to write but also tells the world information has come aware different files it is. so then i'm ready to write and i said don have a better old newspaper of manic type really fast. i write about a thousand words a day. morsels newspaperman, that's about equivalent to typical day stories that any reporter can knock out. 270,000 word book for this third and final volume is. i tell myself it's only 270 day stories. that is less than a year of writing. so that's how i do it. instead the afternoons -- i write until my brain turns to mush around noon. i spent the afternoon at 18 and
reading back through what i have read them but in the morning and preparing for the next these writing, which consists of taking a segment to the outline and further refining it and agreed upon last time after dinner and that's it. i put it away and i usually don't miss it but again until we are the final editing of the book in the next thing you know you've got a book. that's it we're out of time. thank you so much. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on face book. each week, real america brings you archival films that help tell the story of the 20th century.