by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
With the recent 75th anniversary of D-Day, the world has had a chance to honor the Allied troops who invaded Normandy in 1944 in the largest combined land, air, and naval operation in history. It was remarkable to hear about the veterans in their nineties who commemorated the anniversary by once again parachuting into France as they had as young men. The anniversary gives us an opportunity to remember the troops who gave their lives – over 4000 Allied troops on D-Day alone – and to learn more about all who did their part to fight tyranny in World War II.
World War II at Sea: A Global History is a definitive naval history of the war. Author Craig L. Symonds wrote a narrative history of the engagements, the people, and the strategies, beginning with the London Conference of 1930 and ending with the surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945. It includes accounts of U-boat attacks, Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Normandy. Symonds explains with historical details that naval operations were key to the outcome of the war.
If you like your history as historical fiction, you may enjoy The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal. One of the most recent in the Maggie Hope mystery series, this one finds American-born British spy Maggie working in occupied Paris. Another agent was gathering research for the impending invasion of Normandy when she was captured, and Maggie needs to locate that information for England while working to discover a traitor and find her missing sister.
For some inspirational true stories, look for the brand-new book Invisible Heroes of World War II: Extraordinary Wartime Stories of Ordinary People by Jerry Borrowman. These are not the stories of the generals and world leaders. These are soldiers, ordinary citizens working with the resistance, journalists, combat engineers, code breakers, and factory workers.
A biography of one of those unknown heroes is very popular right now. A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II is a bestseller by Sonia Purnell. Virginia Hall was a Baltimore socialite who loved studying languages and who lost her leg in a hunting accident. She worked for the State Department in Europe and then joined Churchill’s spy organization SOE in occupied France. While posing as a newspaper reporter, she was crucial to building the French resistance and building a network of spies. At one point, the Gestapo considered her the most dangerous of all Allied spies. Reviewers say this biography is fast-paced and gripping.
Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin is a novel based on the true story of another American woman who worked for the French Resistance. Blanche Auzello was an American actress who married the French hotel manager who took over the Ritz in its glory days. When the Nazis set up their headquarters in their Paris hotel in 1940, the Auzellos hosted them while secretly working against them. In addition to the tension of that situation, the Auzellos’ marriage was in trouble throughout their years together. Reviews say this novel is well-researched and written in a compelling way, with historical figures like Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway appearing as supporting characters.
When it comes to such a huge, worldwide conflict, there are endless stories to be told. Look for the D-Day display at the Litchfield Library to find even more books about this pivotal time in history.