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Wish List

Everyone is familiar with "want lists", but no one more than secondhand booksellers who constantly deal with requests for hard-to-find and out-of-print books, often with no more to go on than a nebulous "it was a book about Guadalcanal with a red cover and it mentioned my uncle's name."

This compilation is a "wish list" rather than a "want list". The distinction? Secondhand booksellers won't be able to locate any of these titles, because they seem never to have been published, at least not in English-language editions, and they are certainly unavailable through any of the dozens of specialized military publishers and booksellers we regularly deal with.

So think of this as a public service for military-oriented publishers everywhere. The books listed here haven't been published yet, or even written, so it's a great opportunity to come up with manuscripts and contracts and be the first on the block with some sure-fire bestsellers.

Luftwaffe Units and Order of Battle

For the USAAF we have a pair of comprehensive OB/unit history volumes from Maurer Maurer. For the RAF we have many similar volumes from the likes of Rawlings, Moyes, Jefford, Sturtivant, and Lewis. (See our RAF Squadrons book survey of April 1996.) Even the units and OBs of the Regia Aeronautica are nicely covered in Chris Dunning's recent Courage Alone. But where is such a book on the Luftwaffe? Many titles offer a few partial orders of battle for selected dates, and Barry Rosch provides a useful listing of units and dates in his Luftwaffe Codes, Markings, and Units, but his information and layout don't do for the Luftwaffe what others have done for the USAAF and RAF.

Soviet Air Units and Order of Battle

The same gap in the literature for the Luftwaffe also exists for the VVS. Hans Seidl in Stalin's Eagles probably comes closest, but his listing of units is almost an after-thought in a book about aces. So what do we want to see in these titles about German and Soviet air units and air OBs? For each unit there should be comprehensive information on dates of formation/transfer/redesignation/disbandment/destruction; higher headquarters and subordinate formations; names of commanders; aircraft types serving in the unit; bases; area of operations; types and targets of missions; victories; losses; strength returns; and so on-- all these with dates, of course. A tall order, but definitely part of the wish list.

Operation Ironclad: The British Invasion of Vichy Madagascar

In May 1942 a British amphibious force conducted the first major Allied landing against an enemy-held shore in World War II. Although the story is told briefly in a few places (notably as one part of Buckley's Five Ventures) and this website offers an outline of the forces involved (on our History pages), there is no single book specifically devoted to telling the entire story of the invasion and rather lengthy if not especially kinetic campaign. In particular, there seems to be -- other than Chris Shores' treatment of the air aspect as part of Dust Clouds in the Middle East -- almost nothing written from the French perspective. What is needed? A full-length book along the lines of Marder's Operation Menace or Williams' The Guns of Dakar, two titles about a similar, although less successful, amphibious expedition.

Iraq in the Second World War

Nominally independent, Iraq was nevertheless treated as little more than a possession by the British during the war. When the pan-Arabist, anti-colonialist Rashid Ali and the four colonels of "the Golden Square" overthrew the government, attempted to force London to adhere to the letter of the bilateral treaty, surrounded the RAF garrison at Habbaniya outside Baghdad, and sought Axis support, a brief but very entertaining campaign ensued. Once more we can find a synopsis of the story in Buckley and some very personal observations in Dudgeon's The War that Never Was and de Chair's The Golden Carpet (as well as much of the Iraqi political angle in Majid Khadduri's Independent Iraq), and our History pages offer a brief overview (detecting a pattern here?), but nothing more substantial is available. With Richard Stewart's excellent political and military explication in Sunrise at Abadan: The British and Soviet Invasion of Iran, 1941 and Anthony Mockler's very nice Our Enemies the French: Syria 1941 we already have two-thirds of the Near East trilogy in hand. We'll be the first in line to buy a full account of Iraq cut from the same pattern as the other two.

The Dutch East Indies

Although the Dutch defenders of the East Indies were weak when war broke out in Europe and weaker still after the fall of the Netherlands to the German blitzkrieg in 1940, the manner in which relatively small Japanese forces in early 1942 conquered the entire colony -- hundreds of islands stretching some three thousand miles from the Asian mainland to the edge of Australia -- has never been satisfactorily explained in a serious English-language book devoted to the subject. Chris Shores in Bloody Shambles does his usual outstanding job on the air campaign, but we need something that will provide air, land, and naval orders of battle for all the participants, compare equipment, training, tactics, and weapons, and describe in detail the sequence of landings, battles, and maneuvers that decided the fate of the islands. Plenty of opportunity to include US air operations and a single US ground combat unit on Java.

World Economies, 1939-1945

This won't be the most exciting tome on anyone's shelf, but it will be one of the most important, especially given the way economic considerations caused and shaped the war. For every nation of the world is needed a chapter with textual explanation followed by mountains of tabular data with statistics for petroleum production, refining, importing, exporting, and consumption; the same for coal and other raw materials; industrial capacity, especially regarding military-related areas such as armaments production and shipbuilding; dependencies on specific scarce resources; manpower limitations; rail capacities; port capacities; and so on. Pieces of this puzzle can be found in a variety of other works, but there seems to be nowhere to turn for a book that combines comprehensive figures with comprehensible analysis.

Indian Units and Order of Battle

In terms of manpower in uniform, India fielded one of the largest armies of the war. There are a number of compilations (such as Sandhu, Gaylor, and Sharma) with useful unit history data on a few formations, and some useful OB material on certain Indian units can be gleaned from Joslen's magnificent Orders of Battle: Second World War, but that is really a book about the British army, not the Indian. A great addition to the literature would be a similar OB compendium specifically for the Indian army -- including the forces of the Princely States, the Gurkhas, and battalions that never left India -- with details of commanders, attachments, movements, and so forth done in the fashion of Joslen.

Chinese Armed Forces

Since this is, after all, a wish list, why not ask for the moon? What a treat it would be to have a complete reference to all the forces fielded by the Chinese in their war against the Japanese. It's possible to dig some of this out of a few books, but once again there seems to be nowhere to turn for a full accounting of Chinese divisions, their component elements, when and where they were raised, where they served and under what headquarters, where they fought, their eventual fate, etc. While this would be almost entirely a book of ground units, might as well throw in everything there is to know about Chinese air and naval forces.

So that's it-- a wish list rather than a want list. We hope the authors and publishers out there will get busy on these so we can nominate them for our Top Ten voting in 1999 and 2000. And to any booksellers who actually have one or more of these little items in stock, please contact us at once!

Meanwhile, altering our usual closing lines slightly:

"None of these titles are available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from the publishers.

Thanks to publishers who eventually provide these books."

Reviewed 28 May 1999
Copyright © 1999 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone


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