The book that revealed was another excellent book by historian and former Saturday Evening Post editor Clay Blair, entitled Ridgway’s Paratroopers: The American Airborne in World War II. It was an easy select since I enjoyed some of his other books, notably A General’s Life: An Autobiography of Army Omar N Bradley, Silent Victory, and The Forgotten War: America in Korea. I confess that until I read this book, I had no real interest in paratroopers and only read it to fill a gap in my WWII knowledge, trusting Blair to give a comprehensive look. I wasn’t disappointed. Blair gave this subject his usual fact-filled , thorough history. At the end of the book, I still had no real interest in General Ridgway as a person but felt a new affinity with the role of paratroopers. Of course, the book concentrates on battles in which the 82nd and/or 101st Airborne participated, beginning with the disastrous Sicily invasion, during which many were unceremoniously dropped behind enemy lines. Other than admirably fulfilling its role as settled history, the book also conveys the evolution of airborne troops in the US military, from its uncertain beginnings through the internal fights as to where they belong in the hierarchy, to their successful role in victory. I like Blair is not only for his thoroughness but his reluctance to fall into the opinion trap.
He lived up to his fact-oriented reputation but he did offer a little light onto American-British relations. It’s well-known that Churchill clashed with American leaders’ views when we entered the war and that the British soldiers/sailors/officers scorned American troops for a long time, reaching critical mass at the Kassarine Pass debacle in North Africa. I hadn’t realized the Brits equally disdained the American paratroopers. After a time, these criticisms at all levels became moot since the Americans were contributing the bulk of manpower and goods for the Allies, plus supplying heavily to the Brits and Russia all while bearing the brunt of the war with Japan. Perhaps some of that disdain was reduced by the war’s end but I recall that some British soldiers bitterly boycotted the movie The Great Escape on the grounds that it reduced the British role and greatly enhanced the American role. As to Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Blair merely states the obvious and well-accepted view that Monty was arrogant, indecisive, scornful of the Americans in general and of Eisenhower in particular, often taking advantage of Ike’s diplomatic position.
It is ironic and poignant that Monty, who had so little respect for the American paratroopers throughout the war, essentially destroyed the British paratrooper elite divisions with his ill-advised catastrophic Market Garden project.
The book that concealed was A White House Memoir by long-time journalist Merriman Smith. Compiled and edited by his son Timothy Smith in 1972 [Norton Publishers], I thought I’d enjoy this retro look by a journalist I well remember, covering the WH from Roosevelt through the first term of Nixon. Unfortunately the liberal Democratic views of both the father and presumably the son – a Democrat operative – kept leaking through until it was painfully obvious toward the end. In one writing, the journalist expresses great relief that Goldwater was defeated and Johnson won in 1964. Not all of us today share that belief, I believe LBJ may be the worst president we ever had. Just consider how his personal beliefs affected the coverage of this “great” journalist. Also, Smith won a Pulitzer Prize for his live coverage of JFK’s assassination. It was likely well-deserved but his Kennedy-worship was a vivid reminder that journalists covered the Camelot lie, knowing he was a serial philanderer and worse, was so ill he likely wouldn’t have lived through a second term. I just have no tolerance any longer for the liberal Democratic media that flatters and rewards itself for its pretense of professional standards of objectivity when they’re really political operatives. Yes, I’m one of those angry voters this year and I’m most angry at the MSM. Today’s MSM is the natural culmination of the Merriman Smith.
The book that confused was a weird book The Forgotten Monarchy Scotland: The True Story of the Royal House of Stewart and the Hidden Lineage of the Kings and Queens of Scots by Michael Stewart, HRH Prince Michael of Albany, Head of the Royal House of Stewart [Element Books, 1998] . It doesn’t read like a book written by a European prince but I found the extensive Scottish history interesting until I got to modern days when he basically says he’s the rightful heir to the British crown, not the usurping Windsors, who are likely using their prowess to steal his heritage and wonder if they harmed Princess Di. At that point I read some reviews of him and his book, and he seems quite spurious. Wonder if his book or person had anything to do with the recent vote to establish Scottish independence? Wonder how much of the fascinating history of Scotland is true?