[book review] APRIL 1945 The Hinge of History by Craig Shirley

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[book review] APRIL 1945 The Hinge of History by Craig Shirley

June 08, 2024 - 12:40
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Several months ago, I read a book review on APRIL 1945 The Hinge of History by Craig Shirley which I tore out of my magazine and kept – eventually buying the book. I knew that April of 1945 was significant for the death of President Roosevelt and the World War II Victory in Europe. I thought I had maybe given the book away during a recent move, but it reappeared shortly thereafter. I have since read it not wanting to put it down.

APRIL 1945 is a 500-plus page book that begins with a short 27 page prologue leading to the first chapter which is titled January 1945. Chapter 4, April 1945, begins some 223 pages later. It is a phenomenal book covering all three fronts in great detail – Europe, the Pacific, and the Home Front. It references many primary sources including local news reports and the man on the street or on the battlefield. It includes the national economy, international relations, and the news of the day. And, it includes even more (to include hundreds of footnotes).

The author, Craig Shirley, is a recognized and well-respected historian and author. He has also written four books on Ronald Reagan, one on Newt Gingrich, and the other “hinge of history”, DECEMBER 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World. The endorsements printed on the book’s cover are noteworthy.

Admittedly, there are personal reasons why this book was of great interest to me. In World War II my Dad was in the Navy “somewhere in the Pacific” and my father-in-law had been in North Africa with Patton. Imagine my interest when I read that the US Navy had built a floating Naval base “somewhere in the Pacific” for the assault on Iwo Jima that included floating cranes, hotels, repair ships, bakeries, refrigerated warehouses, dry docks, and repair shops. This floating base had twelve thousand workers (Was my dad, who was on a repair ship, one of them?) and enough food to feed a city the size of Columbus, Ohio for 30 days.

Another reason for my interest was that I had two three-year Army tours in what was then West Germany. We visited many historic sites in West Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, and The Netherlands to include the site of the Concentration Camp where Anne Frank died and we met many West German citizens that had memories of World War II. One had been a toddler that escaped to what became West Germany with his Mother during the war. In 1989, after the Iron Curtain came down, and after he could go home for the first time in 45 years, he included a Thank You comment with his Christmas greetings for what the American Soldiers had done in both keeping Europe free and reuniting Germany.

A second paragraph that stood out was just a day or two after Roosevelt died. The paragraph started “Roosevelt was hugely beloved but also hugely hated, even more than Eleanor. He had changed the very nature of American politics…” A few sentences later the same paragraph concluded:

“The Democratic Party of 1932 resembled little of the Democratic Party of Grover Cleveland of the late 1880s, save its harshness towards black Americans. As the party of the South, the Democrats had been the party of the Civil War, the party of the KKK, the party of segregation.”

I might add the obvious that the Democratic party of John F. Kennedy (“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”) is not the Democratic party of today after Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and today’s attitude and aptitude on socialism and disregard for the Rule of Law.

The 160-page April 1945 chapter ended with a short sentence: “And so, almost appropriately, April 1945 came to an end.” (I might have included that 20 months later I was born.) The book continues with an Epilogue (May to August 1945) ending on September 2nd, 1945 when peace with Japan was signed in Tokyo Bay.

Craig Shirley does an excellent job with a complex subject involving three fronts! This should be recommended for all American citizens – especially if their ancestors were personally involved. My next book may well be Shirley’s other “hinge of history”: December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World.

There is 1 Comment

Great Job Webster!

My Dad and uncles all fought in the Second World War, my dad lying about his age to enlist in the Navy at 17, his brothers already fighting.

Yes, America saved the world. Others helped, but without America, the outcome would have been a disaster. That is such a mouthful, and needs understanding and remembering!

One more comment that might not be relevant here, but I will say it anyhow. We used to hear about Blue Dog Democrats. Then I heard whatever happened to them. I thought they got more liberal, some did, but now I wonder if they are coming back, it is not that hard to see the big picture nowadays. Webster mentions JFK, who was an American who loved America and while he might disagree with Trump's lack of tactful verbality at times, Kennedy was in line with the conservative philosophy of Trump.

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