Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk : Defeat Into Victory

Book - 2017
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"Combining epic history with rich family stories, Michael Korda chronicles the outbreak of World War II and the great events that led to Dunkirk. In an absorbing work peopled with world leaders, generals, and ordinary citizens who fought on both sides of World War II, Alone brings to resounding life perhaps the most critical year of twentieth-century history. For, indeed, May 1940 was a month like no other, as the German war machine blazed into France while the supposedly impregnable Maginot Line crumbled, and Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister in an astonishing political drama as Britain, isolated and alone, faced a triumphant Nazi Germany. Against this vast historical canvas, Michael Korda relates what happened and why, and also tells his own story, that of a six-year-old boy in a glamorous movie family who would himself be evacuated. Alone is a work that seamlessly weaves a family memoir into an unforgettable account of a political and military disaster redeemed by the evacuation of more than 300,000 men in four days--surely one of the most heroic episodes of the war. "The incredible, almost miraculous story of what happened at Dunkirk in the year 1940--and why--is unfolded in Alone with great narrative skill and superb delineation of a highly interesting cast of characters, including, importantly, the author himself and his own remarkable family." -- David McCullough
Publisher: New York :, Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W. W. Norton & Company,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781631491320
Branch Call Number: 940.54214 Korda 09/2017
Characteristics: xiv, 525 pages :,illustrations ;,25 cm


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Feb 05, 2018

I enjoyed the book. It has an unusual structure, almost like 2 books, one about the war, one about the Korda family. But it was all interesting. A series of mistakes led to WW2. France had a better army and should have beat Germany. I loved the comment that the Korda brothers knew from their experience in the Hungarian army that generals are stupid.

Page references.
P. 108, great cartoon for General Hore-Belisha getting the shaft. He was Jewish, and his dismissal is an example of the endemic anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States. There were Quislings and fifth columns all over Europe and the U.S.

P. 295 mentions the capture of Brigadier Claude Nicholson at Calais, near Dunkirk, May 26, 1941. He died a prisoner of war in 1943 and is buried in Germany. This source is from the boarding school he attended:

P. 339 describes how the French naval officers generally "regarded Britain as France's hereditary foe. The Germans were merely a coarse and unwelcome interruption in a naval rivalry that had been going on since the early eighteenth century." The lack of cooperation between France and Britain seems to be one reason for the rapid defeat of France.

P. 31 talks about the Polish Corridor separating East and West Prussia. Prussia was the largest state in the German Reich. The treaty of Versailles granted a strip of land to Poland to give it access to the sea.
Here is a map from the U.S. Military Academy (West Point)showing the corridor:

Here is another map from West Point showing the battle in France. Red is German, Blue is Allied. Notice how Allies are encircled; Alone talks about a purse -shaped pocket. 21, 1940

Here is the situation June 4:

P. 341 has an unclear description of Dunkirk harbor: "The entrance to the outer harbor was narrow, formed by two moles running out to sea at an angle of about forty-five degrees to each other like a giant funnel, its spout pointing out to sea, its wider end opening out as one approached the inner port, and leading to a longer . . . entrance to the docks themselves. . . ."
Here is a map of the harbor from an organization called Hyperwar

P. 352. Churchill became prime minister May 10, 1940. It is interesting that in late May, Chamberlain stopped appeasing and supported Churchill.

P. 362 talks about guns, meaning artillery pieces, not pistol rifle or machine gun. Here is a picture of a replica, the standard British field gun


Maxime Weygand was commander in chief of allied armies in 1940. He was minister of defense for the Vichy government. From September 1940 to November, 1941 he ran France's North African colonies. He ordered harsh anti-Semitic policies. The Germans decided he was not sufficiently loyal to them and arrested him in 1942. The Americans captured him in 1945 and took him to France, where he was arrested as a collaborator, imprisoned until 1946, and cleared in 1948.

Here are BBC photos of Dunkirk:


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