Thursday, December 29, 2005

Stalag 17

If you've never seen this gritty, yet humorous movie, you're in for a surprise.

William Holden plays a Sgt. Sefton, an American soldier in a German POW camp, who has a way of getting what he wants. He trades with the Germans—cigarettes, hosiery, wine—to get an extra ration of food, perhaps an egg, or maybe even a visit to the Russian female prisoners compound.

But there is something amiss at Stalag 17. The last two American prisoners to escape didn't make it out alive. And it looks like someone is ratting out the information to the Germans.

But who is it? The zany comedians Animal and Shapiro? What about Joey, the POW with a haunted look in his eyes who never speaks? Is it Sefton? Whoever it is, the rest of the guys in the barracks are determined to find out.

When two pilots are captured and put into the barracks, one of them is taken to the commandant's headquarters and questioned about his role in the sabotage of a German train. The situation becomes dire when the pilot is about to be taken into Gestapo headquarters. Can they rescue him in time or will the snitch claim yet another American life?

The television show Hogan's Heroes was based on this movie. Although there are moments of comedy, it also brings a relatively realistic look at what life was like in a German POW camp. While it may be a bit too far-fetched in places, it still is an excellent film.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Daughters of Fortune Series: Book One

Written on the Wind

Judith Pella delivers an absolutely stunning series about three American sisters enduring the trials of World War II. The first book of the Daughters of Fortune series, Written on the Wind, is the introduction to the three sisters - Cameron, Blair, and Jackie. The daughters of a wealthy newspaper publisher, the three continually struggle to gain his approval. Cameron is a hard-edged reporter, bent on showing her father that a woman is just as capable as a man in reporting the news and travels to Russia to report on the war. Spoiled and selfish Blair has Hollywood aspirations that quickly turn to shattered dreams. Jackie falls in love with a Japanese-American, a friendship threatened by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the midst of the three sisters' struggles with their lives, they also struggle with their faith.

With this first book, Pella does an outstanding job of introducing this intriguing family and the problems they face in pre-war America. She also paints a colorful portrait of Russia during the war, skillfully portraying the Russian people's strength and courage in the midst of one of the country's darkest periods.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is December 7. Sixty-four years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked. And it's a day that will truly "live in infamy."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Wing and A Prayer

What a movie.

I found this on sale at a local department store and bought it on a whim. A great decision!

Staring Don Ameche and Dana Andrews, this World War II action-adventure takes place on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Sent on a decoy mission, the men are ordered not to engage in combat with the enemy in order to lull the Japanese into a sense of false security before the battle of Midway.

With frustration increasing and moral hitting an all-time low, the men engage in their own private battles with each other.

But it's not long before they have their chance to fight - and become heroes.

Wing and A Prayer has a lot going for it. One, it has great actors. Don Ameche does a stellar job of the ship's commander who has to make tough decisions. Dana Andrews is the squadron leader, struggling to hold his men's moral together while battling his own personal frustrations. William Eythe gives a wonderful performance as a Hollywood star who is now fighting in the war.

The realism of this movie is wonderful. From the inner workings of life on an aircraft carrier to how the men lived, Wing and A Prayer is a history lesson as well as a moving tale of men fighting for their country.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Best Years of Our Lives

I bought this DVD without ever having watched the movie. Call it a leap of faith. And I wasn't disappointed.

The Best Years of Our Lives portrays three soldiers and their struggles to readjust to civilian life after World War II. Dana Andrews, Frederic March, and Harold Russell all do a magnificent job of coming to terms with returning to a sense of normalcy.

Each one manages to capture different aspects of civilian life, whether it be trying to find a job, returning to an old job, dealing with the memories of war, or dealing with the injuries of war. All three actors do a wonderful job.

Highly recommended not only for a great look at the difficulties of servicemen returning from war, but a touching story.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The North Platte Canteen

Right here in little ol' Nebraska, in a small town right in the middle of the state, stood the North Platte Canteen. During World War II, troop trains from all over the country went through North Platte every single day. And every single day, they would stop at the Canteen for a short time - usually no longer than 10-15 minutes - and disembark. There they found something they did not expect...

Food. Smiles. Thank you's. Birthday cakes. Hot cups of coffee. Warm sandwiches. Music. Pretty girls to dance with. Popcorn balls. Magazines. Women that reminded them of sisters, wives, girlfriends...mothers.

Bob Greene wrote a fabulous book called Once Upon A Town about this remarkable place. It was so remarkable, in fact, that many a World War II soldier would talk about the Canteen to other soldiers and more often than not would get an enthusiastic, "I've been there! It was wonderful" Years later, when Greene found these veterans and interviewed them about the Canteen, they choked up, tears coming to their eyes, as they recalled the overwhelming kindness shown to them by those small-town Nebraskans.

It's a book that makes you feel good and puts you right back into the 1940's. But more importantly, it shares the story of people willing to sacrifice their own comforts for others...for those defending their country.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

America in World War II Magazine

One of the newest magazines on World War II, America in World War II is a wonderful treasure.

With only three issues out so far and the fourth to be released soon, this magazine captures the very essence of being an American during the war.

What I enjoy so much about this magazine is its personal feel. First-hand accounts of the war - from soldiers, nurses, bomb plant workers, farmers, and everyone in between - brings the war home. Photographs, diary excerpts, and photo essays bring this period to life in every aspect.

There are also wonderful ads from the time period - and articles on the ordinary things in life. For example, the premiere issue discussed a new form of bread spread that looked like butter, but was really what we now know as margarine. It even came with a little capsule of yellow food coloring to make it look yellow instead of the bland, white, lard-like substance you saw when opening the package.

Movie and book reviews are also included.

Unique in that it doesn't solely focus on the battlefields of World War II, America in World War II is a must-have for any WWII enthusiast. In fact, I just ordered my subscription this weekend. I encourage you to do the same!

For more information, go to

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Welcome to "The Best of World War II" - a resource for those who have an interest in World War II history. On this blog, I hope to introduce you to some new and old resources on the war, reviews of World War II movies, books, magazines, and even websites.

Why Did I Start This Blog?

It's been nearly 5 years now since I completed my MA in History. For my thesis, I focused on the German POW camp at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, during World War II. Since I had plenty of wonderful archival sources to work with, I became immersed in the time period. I'd already had an interest in World War II before this - I credit my father and my brothers with that love - and my research only deepened my interest.

I've also started an inspirational World War II novel and have a three-book series in the works. Late this October, I'll have an article published in Nebraska History on an aspect of the POW camp in Fort Robinson. I'm slowly gathering a nice collection of research books, but as we all know, World War II is a vast topic.

It was a war that is still very much in people's memories - young and old alike. The Holocaust will forever remain an important aspect of this war, as it should be, as we struggle to understand why such a horrific act could happen in the "civilized" twentieth century. Veterans still cry when they dig deep into their memories and recall the days of hell they endured. Movies and books - both fiction and non-fiction - continue to be produced in an effort to understand this global event.

"The Best of World War II" is my humble contribution.