GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Saturday, January 17, 2015

World War I---as it might have been.


Alternate history is one of my favorite literary genres, and is  a fine art that few authors really master, in my opinion.

Harry Turtledove really made this realm of fiction stand out for the masses, I think, and I really enjoyed his Great War trilogy of trilogies. However, I didn't really like his recent series and never got beyond starting the first book. However, I think he may have a winner is new book out this summer Bombs Away: The Hot War which brings the Cold War HOT when MacArthur uses atomic bombs in Korea. Hopefully it will be as good as his earlier works.

Robert Conroy has really stepped up to fill a gap in the field that Mr. Turtledove used to dominate, and his last two books, published in hard cover, have been really excellent. I particularly liked his recent book on an alternative American Revolution where the British win the Battle of Yorktown.

But, in my humble opinion, the undisputed master of hardcore military alternate history remains Peter Tsouras. I have read nearly all of his books, covering D-Day, Gettysburg, World War II (several volumes), the Cold War, and an individual volume on Stalingrad.

All of them, particularly his anthologies, are well written, very realistic, and really make you think about how fragile history is and how the smallest of details, decisions, or even weather, could have changed everything.

His anthologies in particular are a magnificent collection of essays by military historians who get to let their imaginations run free while carefully following the 5 rules of alternate history put forth by my favorite grouchy guy, Ralph Peters, in the introduction of Tsouras' Stalingrad book.

Which brings me to the latest volume, a look at alternative
possibilities for World War I. This is an extremely timely book, coming at the close of 2014, the beginning of the 100th anniversary of the keystone conflict of the 20th century....the war that did not end all wars, but created the conditions for World War II, the Cold War, and even the current upheavals in the Middle East..(can anyone say Sykes-Picot...public school kids probably need to Wiki that...I'm certain it's not in Common Core Language Arts) .

This volume examines a number of potential scenarios- from the Germans shifting their attention to Russia and ignoring the Schlieffen Plan in 1914, to a more decisive Battle of Jutland, to a great Russian triumph of the Brusilov Offensive of 1916.  All of the essays are very well written, extremely plausible, and show how the tragic Armageddon from 1914-1918 could have ended quite differently.  

I was particularly intrigued by the essay on the Brusilov Offensive--the Austrian Empire was a large albatross on the Central Powers...ehh, the Ottomans weren't much better actually, but the Russians could have really made a strategic difference in the war with a little better leadership and a little more luck and persistence.  The Germans faced some real challenges in the East propping up their weaker ally, and if the Allies had been a little more coordinated and lucky with their 1916 offensives, they  might have forced the Central Powers to seek an armistice two years early.

Some of the smaller essays were equally intriguing, especially the essay on Greek assistance with the Gallipoli Campaign.  With the usual micro attention span of Americans, and the need to sweep a lot of past sins under the rug for the sake of maintaining alliances, it's good to remember that ISIL and Al Qaeda are only carrying on the tradition of ethnic cleansing of Christians by the Ottoman Turks (good Muslims all) starting with the great Armenian genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans (hmmm where have I heard that before)  after the Balkan Wars just prior to World War I.  

History does indeed have a funny way of repeating itself..eh?

But I digress...I think I am getting my mojo back...this was a great book...the ONLY complaint is that I never got my hardcover from Amazon...I pre-ordered it....then it kept getting push back on release...THEN they said they were out and back ordered....WTF?  I have always gotten my pre-orders within a day or two of the release date.  Very disappointing...so I ordered the Kindle version and read it.  Very enjoyable, but I am one of those whiners that likes pictures and to flip back and forth to the provided maps.  Neither of which works well on Kindle.

Now, to be fair I will say that all of Tsouras' books seem to disappear quickly and you can often buy them only on the used market.  Disappointing, but one of those publisher things I guess.  The good news is that now many of them are available on Kindle...albeit without pictures.  

So, for an interesting look at the World War I that might have been...pick up or download this book...it is a quick and thought provoking read.

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