North Atlantic Civilization at War: The World War II Battles of Sky, Sand, Snow, Sea, and Shore

North Atlantic Civilization at War: The World War II Battles of Sky, Sand, Snow, Sea, and Shore

North Atlantic Civilization at War: The World War II Battles of Sky, Sand, Snow, Sea, and Shore

North Atlantic Civilization at War: The World War II Battles of Sky, Sand, Snow, Sea, and Shore

Synopsis

This book recounts the World War II journeys of a soldier, a ship, and a bottle of spirits through, and around, five great turning-point battles. Those battles were influenced more by geography and climate than by generals and admirals. Properly titled they would be known as the Battles of the Sky (Britain), the Sand (El Alemein), the Snow (Stalingrad), the Sea (North Atlantic), and the Shore (Normandy). Slogging their way through this quintet are an eighteen-year-old G.I. from Missouri (as seen through his letters home), an "ugly duckling" of a Liberty ship (as seen through its Armed Guard reports), and a bottle of rum (as traced by those who, after the war, made money in selling war souvenirs). It is the history of the North Atlantic sea basin and its extensions at war: the story of the lulls between battles, when America's teenage warriors often watched war movies (Humphrey Bogart made and Warner Brothers released seven during the war), sang or listened to popular tunes by songsmiths like Irving Berlin, and drank rum-and-Coke (while listening to Dick Haymes sing the hit "Rum & Coca-Cola"). While accessible and vastly entertaining, this is a serious work of history. By treating World War II in Europe much as Fernand Braudel treated the origins of Western civilization in his masterpiece The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Hatcher brings Braudelian detachment to his narrative.

Excerpt

North Africa has one dominant geographical feature, the Sahara. the largest tropical and climatic desert on earth, it covers an area of 3,320,000 square miles (8,600,00 square kilometers). As large as the United States, this queen of deserts holds eleven countries within its sun-scorched boundaries. With a 3,200-mile coastline, the Sahara constitutes the eastern end of the Afro-Asian desert. the name is derived from the Arab word for desert, sahra: a petrified ocean. It is opposed to the Mediterranean as a camel is to a horse or a date is to an olive. in a word, different. It is assumed to be mostly sand, but in fact sand makes up only 20 percent, the remainder being small stones and smooth rocks. Libya, which is 99 percent arid, and Egypt, which is 98 percent, are true Saharan states.

The Sahara has the highest evaporation rate in the world. Some areas receive no precipitation for years at a stretch. It also has the lowest relative humidity, with some areas falling to the life-endangering low of 2.5 percent. Along the North African coast from Tunisia to Egypt, rain is rare. Ten inches (250 millimeters) per year would be considered flood stage. and the Mediterranean basin is a mixing bowl for strong winds. Funneling in from the north is the mistral, a cold, dry river of air. Around Saharan Africa flies the warm, dusty ghibli or khamsin (Arabic for "fifty"). and out of Africa storms the sirocco, dry and hot.

Sandstorms take regional names; in southern Morocco the fellahin . . .

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