Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 7-8 V-E Day (+ 69 Years) - June 6 D-Day (+ 70 Years)

May 7, 1945 was V-E Day in Europe for the Western front (the war was still on with Japan). A representative of the German forces signed a surrender to General Eisenhower in Reims on May 7 and in Berlin on May 8. This year was the 69th anniversary of V-E Day. In the Soviet Union V-E Day is celebrated on May 9 because it was a day later in Moscow.

The war in Europe started in earnest for Americans on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allies invaded Europe.  Before then, the United States was mostly involved through manufacturing materiel for the Allies. On D-Day, the American military took the brunt of the huge losses, mostly through the tragically exposed landing of the 1st and 29th U.S. Army Infantry Divisions on Omaha Beach.

The losses in the Soviet Union, Poland and Germany, and among European Jews and Gypsies, were already catastrophic.

Since 22 November 2004, by UN General Assembly resolution 59/26, May 8 and 9 are designated as a Time of Remembrance and Reconciliation for Those Who Lost Their Lives during World War II.
May 8 is the day that officially ended World War II in Europe by Germany's signing of an unconditional surrender of its armed forces in Berlin. The surrender was signed the day before in Reims, France. May 9 is the day that the German surrender became effective in Russia, and therefore they celebrate that day as the day of peace.
My wife Alice and I will be in France, in Normandy and Mayenne (just south of Normandy), the week of D-Day. My uncle Willem van Stockum is buried in Laval, Mayenne with the other six members of his crew and another seven members of another Halifax bomber that was shot down the same night, June 10, 1944.

In preparation for our visit, I have been researching D-Day and World War II in Europe. My main focus is a new book targeted at young people by Rick Atkinson, D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944, published by Henry Holt. It is meant to be used in schools and is adapted from Atkinson's #1 best-selling book The Guns at Last Light.

The book is definitely for the older Young Adult market because the language does not make much allowance for expected vocabulary in the elementary school grades (see my post on age-appropriate books). But it is, as I said in my review, authoritative, comprehensive and compelling. Here are the top 15 books for children on World War II, as ranked by Goodreads. The Diary of Anne Frank is published in multiple editions, so its ranking as #3 is probably a result of some votes for the book going to other editions. These rankings are out of a total of 167 books currently on the Goodreads list for World War II. You can affect these rankings by voting.
1The Book Thief by  4.37 of 5 stars
 4.37 avg rating — 539,713 ratings   score: 4,045and 41 people voted
2Number the Stars by  4.07 of 5 stars 
4.07 avg rating — 248,305 ratings
3The Diary of a Young Girl by  4.06 of 5 stars
 4.06 avg rating — 1,199,357 ratings
4The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by  4.04 of 5 stars
 4.04 avg rating — 151,152 ratings
5Edelweiss Pirates ‘Operatio... by  4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 141 ratings
6Secret Army (Henderson's Bo... by  4.16 of 5 stars
 4.16 avg rating — 1,081 ratings
7The Borrowed House (Young A... by  4.17 of 5 stars 4.17 avg rating — 169 ratings     score: 1,080and 11 people voted
8The Devil's Arithmetic by  4.07 of 5 stars 
4.07 avg rating — 26,193 ratings
9When Hitler Stole Pink Rabb... by  3.84 of 5 stars 3.84 avg rating — 4,086 ratings   score: 1,067and 11 people voted
10Code Name Verity (Code Name... by  4.12 of 5 stars 4.12 avg rating — 25,738 ratings   score: 1,065and 11 people voted
11Between Shades of Gray by  4.34 of 5 stars
 4.34 avg rating — 37,608 ratings
12Grey Wolves (Henderson's Bo... by  4.26 of 5 stars 
4.26 avg rating — 892 ratings    score: 1,061and 11 people voted
13The Prisoner (Henderson's B... by  4.32 of 5 stars 
4.32 avg rating — 658 ratings
14Summer of my German Soldier by  3.62 of 5 stars 
3.62 avg rating — 10,311 ratings
15The Winged Watchman by  4.09 of 5 stars 
4.09 avg rating — 552 ratings  score: 884, and 9 people voted

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