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Commando: Winning World War II Behind Enemy Lines Paperback – 1 Aug 2013
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Praise for Danger UXB 'A heart-in-mouth story ... A fine memorial to the unsung heroes of WWII' Daily Telegraph Praise for Danger UXB 'James Owen successfully captures the nerve-racking tensions and everyday heroics of a job in which lives depended on the ability to stay a crucial step ahead ... An honourable and readable tribute to men who knew that they were only ever one false step away from oblivion' --Nick Rennison Sunday Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Commando is the first authoritative book on these formidable fighting forces of WWII for a general readership - out now in paperbackSee all Product description
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Those heroics are made all the more moving by the number of people who are introduced to the reader in some detail before dying early in their career. There is always the sense that over the turn of any page, one of the people you have just been told about may be killed. It makes the deaths more individual and more shocking, for they are the deaths of rounded personalities, not briefly mentioned names.
Commando goes through many individual operations, giving a good sense of the range of work Commandos carried out and how their training, their structure and their tactics evolved during the war. From the farcical ineptness of early raids through to the myth-making shock troops of later years, the account by James Owen keeps the story moving along briskly without glossing over wider questions such as whether or not the heavy losses by Commandos were justified by their successes.
The hardback edition of this book is very well produced, with interesting photos, a useful map, good quality paper and high-class typography. The audio book version, alas, far less so with some really bizarre pronunciations of names and places, including "Boulogne" as if it is "Bologna". Plenty of scope for confusion the reader there!
The book is broken down into chapters covering individual operations - from huge battles like D Day and Dieppe to small raids - and from well known operations like the Cockleshell Heroes and Raid on Rommel to less known ones - like pirating Italian ships in a Spanish colony. That structure is much easier to follow (the Commandos had a truly bewildering history), lets individual stories to be told, and gives a sense of the weird and wonderful range of what the Commandos got up to.
There is a good mixture of accounts of fights, the battles in London over strategy and tactics (whether the Commandos were raiders or assault troops; and rivalry over who controlled them) and fascinating detail - the use of German Jewish refugees disguised as Germans, or the history of commando training. The author is honest about failures and uncertain overall effect, while highlighting the bravery of the individual soldiers, and impact on future generations of soldiers.
It's neither ridiculously gung ho nor a dry military history - and written in a clear straightforward style - often using the words of the Commandos themselves. So highly recommended to anyone interested in WW2 - or as a present for someone else who is.
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