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Revisiting World War I draws new interest. (Bookshelf).

Interest in World War I seems to be on the increase among historians and authors. Labeled as "the War to End All Wars," it brought about the concept of total war. It saw the rise of modern warfare in the form of new and deadly weapons that included poison gas, flame throwers, machine guns, tanks, aircraft, zeppelins and submarines.

World War I was the first of the major 20th Century catastrophes. Never had so many nations taken up arms at the same time and in such a violent manner. It was fought in so many divergent places--from the trenches of Europe, across the seas of the world, into the far reaches of the deserts--that it reshaped the political landscape of the planet. The following books shed some light on the Great War.

"World War I: Turning Points In World History," by Donald J. Murphy (Ed.), Green-haven Press: San Diego, Calif. $19.95 (paperback). This book describes:

* The war's trigger, the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

* The conflict's expansion, from 1914 to 1916 with the battles of Verdun, the Somme, Gallipoli, Germany's introduction of gas attacks, unrestricted submarine warfare, and the home fronts both among the central powers and the allies.

* The war's end, from 1917 to 1918, including the Russian revolution, U.S. intervention, and the defeat of the central powers.

* The war's aftermath, including President Wilson's 14 points, the Treaty of Versailles, collapse of the central powers, creation of the League of Nations and the rise of totalitarianism, which laid the groundwork for World War II.

"Mother of Eagles: The War Diary of Baroness Kunigunde von Richthofen," by Suzanne Hayes Fischer, Schiffer Military Books: Atglen, Penn. $29.95. First published as "My War Diaries" in 1937, this book details the exploits of her sons, Manfred--the Red Baron--and Lothar.

Letters from both sons describe their love of the hunt in the air. Manfred was known to celebrate each of his kills with a silver goblet engraved with the date of the victory.

"Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations," by John Milton Cooper Jr. Cambridge University Press: New York. $34.95. The league was to become one of the great political debates of the 20th Century. Wilson was a key architect of the league, and he had assured the world that the United States would lead it.

Wilson failed to understand the forcefulness of his opponents, France and England. He struggled throughout 1919 to drum up support in a crusade across America, suffering a debilitating stroke in the effort. The Senate ultimately rejected the league, and without the United States as a member, the league failed to realize its potential. The author is chief historian of a biography of Wilson for the Public Broadcasting Service series, "The American Experience," scheduled to air later in 2002.

"Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I," by John S.D. Eisenhower, Free Press; New York. $35. This volume--by the son of World War II General and later President Dwight D. Eisenhower--is a history of the building of a U.S. Army to fight in France against one of the most professional armies in the world.

Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing and his staff created a formidable force from scratch, entered the war at a crucial stage and tipped the balance towards victory. The effort marked the origin of today's U.S. Army. In 19 months, an organization of approximately 200,000 National Guardsmen and regulars--trained to Fight Mexicans and Indians--had mobilized, trained and equipped an army of 4 million men and shipped 2 million of them to France ready to fight.

It is also the story of future military leaders that included Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton and Marshall. The doughboys of World War I and their experiences on the battlefield provided the foundation for an army that would lead to another victory two decades later in World War II.

"The Great War: and the Shaping of the 20th Century," by Jay Winter and Blame Baggett. Penguin Studio: New York. $40. This book is a companion to the PBS presentation, "The Great War."

World War I was a conflict on a scale never before seen, one that had multiple dimensions--in the trenches, at sea, and in the air. It affected not only the lives of those directly in the battlefields, but people far removed from the battlefields. Even to this day, the shock waves that began in this war are still rippling through parts of the world.

The book has excellent coverage on the war's aftermath, including the emergence of new nations, the lingering effect on victims and survivors and the legacy of brutality passed along to later generations.

"World War I: Day-By-Day," by Ian West-well. MBI Publishing: Osceola, Wis. $17.95. In August 1914, the Great Powers had hoped for a short war, but by Christmas of that same year, those hopes had evaporated, especially on the western Front.

The casualties would become enormous and continue to grow for the next four years. Estimates would reach eight million dead and 21 million wounded. The armistice in 1918 signaled the descent of the old Europe, with the demise of three empires and the birth of a new violent world of confrontation leading to World War II. This is an excellent chronology and reference book.

Dr. David LL. Silbergeld is a member of the Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Division of the National Defense Industrial Association. His e-mail address is:
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Author:Silbergeld, David L.L.
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2002
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