Everyone loves top 10 lists, right?
So how about the top 10 best and worst military commanders of the Second World War?
If that’s the kind of juicy, gossipy history you like to argue about, then Cedar Rapids author Thomas R. Flagel’s latest book: “The History Buff’s Guide to World War II” (Cumberland House $16.95) is right up your alley.
And if you only have a passing knowledge and interest in the war, pick it up anyway - it’s the kind of book that makes learning history a fascinating pleasure.
Flagel, who brought us the “History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War” last year, said popular misconceptions about the war on its 60th anniversary were part of the reason he tackled the subject.
“Nostalgia does that; it tends to breed misconceptions,” Flagel said. “So I decided to go on a little journey to see if my knowledge and the public’s knowledge jibed.”
Flagel, a history teacher with degrees from Loras College, Kansas State University, Creighton University and postgraduate study at the University of Vienna, sought out the best primary sources available - the veterans themselves.
It was not always a pleasant experience to dredge up the worst of man’s inhumanity to man.
“I felt especially guilty when I was conducting these interviews,” Flagel said. “The veterans always started with ‘I don’t remember much,’ but then they would get going and the tap would open up.”
“It felt at times like I was conducting a reverse exorcism and it gave me a huge guilt complex,” Flagel said.
The final writing also coincided with the death of Flagel’s mother, Clarice, of Cedar Rapids, to whom he dedicates the book.
History buffs will love picking fights with Flagel on many of his top 10 lists. None other than the legendary “Desert Fox” General Irwin Rommel finds himself on the “10 Worst” list. You’ll have to read it to find out why.