• Paperback: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 27, 2017)
THE EPIC TRUE STORY OF DUNKIRK—NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE, WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, AND STARRING KENNETH BRANAGH, TOM HARDY, AND MARK RYLANCE
The Battle of Dunkirk, in May/June 1940, is remembered as a stunning defeat, yet a major victory as well. The Nazis had beaten back the Allies and pushed them across France to the northern port of Dunkirk. In the ultimate race against time, more than 300,000 Allied soldiers were daringly evacuated across the Channel. This moment of German aggression was used by Winston Churchill as a call to Franklin Roosevelt to enter the war. Now, historian Joshua Levine explores the real lives of those soldiers, bombed and strafed on the beaches for days on end, without food or ammunition; the civilians whose boats were overloaded; the airmen who risked their lives to buy their companions on the ground precious time; and those who did not escape.
About Joshua Levine
Joshua Levine has written six bestselling histories including titles in the hugely popular ‘Forgotten Voices’ series. ‘Beauty and Atrocity’, his account of the Irish Troubles, was nominated for the Writers’ Guild Book of the Year award. ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’, his history of the pilots of the First World War, has been turned into a major British television documentary. He has written and presented a number of programmes for BBC Radio 4. In a previous life, he was a criminal barrister. He lives in London.
A young English miner, an Irish shipyard worker, a young nurse named Penny, a tailor’s errand boy, an 18 year old member of the German League of Girls, and a British news correspondent – all are real life people who lived and were a part of WW II events. Their stories are can be found in this book, Dunkirk.
Unemployment and seriously depressed economies also had roles in the spawning of the Second World War. In the British Empire finding work was difficult. Young men joined the army just to escape unemployment and find excitement. Germany was still reeling from the financial cost of World War I and paying reparations. Along comes Adolph Hitler who promises the people of Germany renewed prosperity and power. In his plan Germany will once again be a world power.
And so, the Nazi party comes to power and makes its first move by invading Poland. Not content with taking just one country, Hitler moves his armies across Europe. Advancing into France and Belgium, England joins the fray, declaring on September 3, 1939 that it is at war with Germany. England sends its miners, nurses, and errand boys to France. Many of the soldiers are excited to be going to France. They seem to be expecting a sort of holiday. And for a few months this seems to be the case. They rarely see any of the enemy. Training is severely lacking. Most of the soldiers are engaged in manual labor.
The German army, on the other hand, is well trained. Armed with Panzer tanks, the Germans crash through the French Ardennes Forest. Caught between the armies of the Germans in the east and on the west, the British army divisions need to make a hasty retreat to Dunkirk.
Thousands and thousands of soldiers line the beaches at Dunkirk desperately hoping for rescue. Outgunned and low on supplies they wait for ships to come, all the while dodging bullets. A few try to get home to England by swimming across the English Channel. The situation is that desperate. Those who swim don’t make it.
Though the Allies are overwhelmingly defeated, the rescue of the British troops is nothing short of miraculous. It also leads to an unexpected turn of events that could just change the course of the war.
The author is a WWII historian and he shares the behind the scenes thoughts and plans of the leaders of the day. For example, in 1938 Hitler said, “The weak must be chiseled away. I want young men and women who can suffer pain. A young German must be Swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp’s steel.” (Side note, Krupp makes coffee makers used in many places here in the US. During the war, Krupp used an unpaid workforce, the Jewish prisoners from concentration camps, to manufacture weapons as well as other products.)
I absolutely loved this book. The research that went into the writing of this book was detailed and very interesting. The author also made the “characters” who were a part of this drama very real. I could almost picture the people and scenes in my head. I love history. Even if you aren’t a history buff, I encourage you to read this book. I really believe that you will be fascinated with this real life story. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
Many thanks to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for giving me the opportunity to read Dunkirk as part of a book tour. I really appreciate it. I may just have to see the movie.