The Hidden Places of World War II...

 

...The Extrordinary Sites where History was Made During the War that Saved Civilization, from Lyons Press

 

Title: The Hidden Places of World War II

Author: Jerome M. O'Connor

Publisher: Lyons Press

ISBN: 978-1-4930-3038-5

 

What an interesting book from author Jerome M. O'Connor and US publisher Lyons Press. A very experienced military history jounalist and lecturer, this is his first book. Over the years he has had an opportunity to meet people and visit places which were once secure or secretive places which played a part in the story of WW2. The chapters provide the story of what happened at each of them during the war itself, and for most he goes on to describe what remains to be seen or visited to this day.
The 22 chapters cover a wide variety of topics, and each one makes for some interesting reading. There is the story of the Cabinet Meetings which took place in the Cabinet War Rooms in London, now open to the public as a part of the Imperial War Museum, and a site I must agree makes for a fascinating visit. There are two elements of the war at sea, with the command centres of the Western Approaches in Liverpool, so vital in fighting the U-Boat war and later the huge concrete U-Boat pens on the French coast, and which have still survived to this day and can be visited. Other stories include what is now one of the most famous, that of the role of Bletchley Park in breaking the German Enigma codes, again a site that is today a museum, complete with modern reproductions of the 'Bombe' machines and the first real computer, 'Colossus'. The work of the code breakers was kept a secret until 1974, when a book, 'The Ultra Secret' was first published. Today we know much more about their work, and that of Alan Turing. Still more with the story of Southwick House, which was the Command Headquarters for the D-Day invasion. Another US focussed story is of course that of the USAAF Air Bases in the UK, when the B-17 and B-24 bombers undertook their huge series of daylight raids over Europe. This includes the story of film star James Stewart, who served in the UK during WW2. Today there are still memories to be found, even down to footprints set in the concrete of the surviving tracks, derelict buildings and runways. More assistance to the Allied war effort came from secret monitoring of German senior officers who were held as POWs, and housed in Trent Park in London, where all their conversations were bugged. Back home in America, huge factories were built to build the weapons of the 'Arsenal of Democracy', and these include  aicraft factory for building the B-29 Superfortress. Today it has been divided up to different businesses, but the tunnels underneath still remain in use today.
There are even more remains in Germany itself, such as the Nuremburg stadium and others, all of which can still be seen. I throughly enjoyed this, it is very much my kind of book. Visiting these places and just thinking/imagining what went on there all those years ago can be a moving experience. Recommended.

Thanks to Lyons Press for this review copy.

Robin