28 February 2010

Winning the Peace with Hershey's Bars: Review of The Candy Bombers

The Candy Bombers The Candy Bombers by Andrei Cherny

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
OK, so I know this isn't technically a WWII book. But I am counting it anyway.

I enjoyed this history quite a bit. I have a few complaints though. First, I'm a bit annoyed at how relentlessly American the sources are. With the exception of sources from West Berliners themselves, this book focuses almost exclusively on the American perspective on the Airlift. Since it was published 60 years after the events it describes, the author had a good 17 years after the fall of the Soviet Union to interview people and access archives to get into what the Russians were really thinking.

I understand that an author has to choose his point-of-view and focus, but I feel like the book could have been written 10 or 20 years after the fact just as well. It's a missed opportunity (especially since Putin has closed so many of the former Soviet archives).

My second complaint is more with the facts than the author. There was one scene where General Clay, commander of all American forces in Germany is about to take off from Templehof Airport, just after Lt. Gail Halvorsen has made his first (against regulations) candy drop. I found myself saying "No! It can't have worked like that!" as the book described Clay seeing the German children waving their handkerchief parachutes at the plane. If that scene were in an alt-history novel, I'd ding the novel fro absurd coincidence.

Speaking of alt-history, I find this book to be a rebuttal to many of the suppositions in Turtledove's The Man with the Iron Heart. In my review of that book I asked "Why did Nazi Germany accept Allied occupation when so many other countries have fought long guerrilla wars against occupying forces?" No, the German's didn't rise up against the Americans, but in 1948, before the Airlift, it really didn't look like Germany was likely to be an effective democracy let alone a staunch US ally. Lt. Gail Halvorsen and the other men of the Airlift changes that and really won the peace.

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