This was my very first World War II book; I “acquired” it from my father’s bookshelf when I was in 6th grade (mid 1970s) and I’ve treasured it ever since. Even today, with the deluge of books covering every facet of World War II, I still believe THE DECLINE AND FALL OF NAZI GERMANY AND IMPERIAL JAPAN deserves a permanent slot on the bookshelf.
What separates this book from others is that it specifically addresses the DAILY happenings during the last weeks of the war in both Europe and the Pacific. The manner in which this period is covered is as uniquely detailed as any of the hundreds of World War II volumes in my library. Hundreds upon hundreds of photos, documents and maps I’d never seen before (or since) make this book worthy to own in and of itself. Rather than straightforward chapter form, every turn of the page includes photos, maps, copies of documents, reports, communiqués, propaganda leaflets/newsletters and brief eyewitness accounts providing a meticulously detailed account of virtually every combat action in those final weeks. The majority of the book is dedicated to the fall of Germany, mainly because its eminent collapse involved numerous Allied advances (British, American and Soviet) that had them fighting through many smaller German cities/towns. My first take on the book as a kid was how dark and foreboding this period must have been, the photos (black and white) projected the imagery of a violent storm looming over Germany and Japan … that visual sticks to this day as I still mentally refer to those images whenever I think of World War II’s final days. Many of the photos clearly depict Germany’s last-ditch attempt to gather older men (Volkssturm) and young boys to do fight off the Allied onslaught using any weapon available. Coverage of the Pacific theatre is mainly confined to Okinawa, but also includes details on the bombing of Japan, the death throes of the decimated Japanese Navy, the Soviet Union’s eventual advance and of course, the dropping of the atomic bombs.
The material is too meticulous and choppy to enjoy a relaxing read and those looking for a linear and straight-forward approach to the subject may not enjoy the book as much. But for those interested in getting their hands on a one-of-a-kind World War II book that presents a “view-from-above” perspective of the wars chaotic end, I would highly recommend picking up a copy.