Book Helps History Buffs Hunt for World War II on the Web

Article excerpt

Plug the term "World War II" into an Internet search engine and prepare to sift through a mind-numbing 2 million results of varying reliability.

History professors Richard Jensen and J. Douglas Smith are trying to make the hunt for information about the war easier. They've compiled a road map to online resources, recently published as "World War II on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites" (SR Books).

About 80 percent of the sites included in the guide are maintained by eager but often amateur historians, Mr. Jensen says.

"A librarian goes through and selects and rejects [books]. Nobody selects on the Web," Jensen says. "The purpose of the Web guide is to tell what's there. We usually ignore the mediocre and the bad stuff."

The first section reviews their top-rated sites in categories including political and military leaders, theaters of operations, the home front, and the Holocaust.

A whole chapter focuses on the oral histories of veterans. Many of the websites described in the book are posted by the families of soldiers and sailors and include letters from the front lines and diaries and photos from back home.

After a brief description, each site's content, aesthetics, and navigation are rated using stars.

Part 2 gives briefer treatment of an additional 250 sites worth visiting. If readers decide to turn to paper sources after reading the guide, the authors suggest a few key books to read, too.

In choosing sites, Mr. Smith says, they emphasized those with primary documents rather than just links to other sites.

They also tried to focus on sites associated with libraries or other institutions that are less likely to change quickly or vanish from the Internet any time soon.

Still, the authors say they realize much of what they publish will rapidly become out of date. …