More than 60 years after its conclusion, World War II continues to be a subject for study and conjecture. In recent years, the subject has been enriched by oral histories from the men and women who served on the front lines and the home front.
A unique addition to this scholarship, “The Library of Congress World War II Companion,” by Margaret E. Wagner, Linda Barrett Osborne and Susan Reyburn, has been published in association with Simon & Schuster. Edited and with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy, this comprehensive, one-volume, fact- and quote-filled resource documents the harrowing years from 1937 through 1945, when totalitarianism threatened to engulf the world.
In 12 informative and thought-provoking chapters—each covering a different aspect of this complex and brutal conflict, making the book far more than a military history of the war—Kennedy and the Library of Congress authors skillfully interweave descriptive narrative, eyewitness accounts, maps, tables, charts and more than 160 illustrations to present a vivid and engaging picture of this pivotal era in human history. While concentrating on the American experience, the book also includes ample material on all major Axis and Allied nations and events around the globe. Each chapter concludes with a comprehensive list of sources and suggested further reading.
Many of the American eyewitness accounts in the book are drawn from the World War II archives of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP), a congressionally mandated initiative that preserves personal narratives, correspondence and visual materials of U.S. veterans from World War I to current conflicts. The VHP has joined filmmaker Ken Burns and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in an outreach campaign to encourage World War II veterans to participate in the VHP. The campaign coincides with the broadcast of Burns’ new PBS series “The War,” which debuted on Sept. 23.
The “World War II Companion” also draws from the vast stores of World War II-related material within the Library’s overall collection of more than 134 million items. These include the papers of figures such as diplomat Averill Harriman, atom-bomb project director J. Robert Oppenheimer, and U.S. Army Air Forces commander Henry “Hap” Arnold; Adolf Hitler’s library; Japanese propaganda pamphlets; an international array of wartime books, posters, maps, photographs, drawings, films and radio broadcasts; declassified intelligence reports; and postwar analyses of the conflict. From these unparalleled resources, Kennedy and the Library of Congress have created an indispensable volume for those wishing to understand the seminal World War II era and its continuing reverberations.
David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University. He is the author of several highly acclaimed books, including “Over Here: The First World War and American Society,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1981, and “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945,” winner in 2000 of the Pulitzer Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize.
Margaret E. Wagner headed the Library of Congress team that worked with Kennedy to produce “The Library of Congress World War II Companion” and, along with Linda Barrett Osborne and Susan Reyburn, served as a principal author. Wagner, Osborne and Reyburn, senior writers/editors in the Library’s Publishing Office, were also principal authors of “The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference.”
“The Library of Congress World War II Companion,” a 950-page hardcover publication featuring more than 160 black-and-white illustrations, is available for $45 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Sales Shop, Washington, DC 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557. Online orders can be placed at www.loc.gov/shop/.
Library’s Map Treasures Highlighted in ‘Cartographia’
Maps are a visual record of human endeavor, each with a tale to tell. In their various forms, maps are models of time, diaries of political maneuverings and works of art that provide a unique vision of how the world evolved.
Drawn from the world’s largest cartographic collection, housed in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, “Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations,” by Vincent Virga, has been published by the Library in association with Little, Brown and Company.
Comprising more than 200 maps, “Cartographia” celebrates the work of those who have charted the world from the dawn of civilization to the present. Among the rare gems included in the book are the 1507 Waldseemüller world map, the first to include the designation “America”; Orelius’ “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” of 1570, considered to be the first modern atlas; rare maps from Africa, Asia and Oceania that challenge traditional Western perspectives; William Faulkner’s hand-drawn 1936 map of the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Miss.; and a map of the human genome.
Vincent Virga is the author of “Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States,” which was a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club.
“Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations,” a 272-page hardcover book is available for $60 from major bookstores nationwide and from the Library of Congress Sales Shop, Washington, DC 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557. Online orders can be placed at www.loc.gov/shop/.
Guide to Library’s Air and Space Collections
The possibility of flight captured human imagination long before the Montgolfier brothers’ unmanned hot air balloon succeeded in carrying a duck, a rooster and a sheep above the city of Versailles in 1783. Before and after that date, people sketched, painted, photographed, sang about and described in words the ways a human being might fly like a bird. Each time someone achieved an advance in flight, the world took note. The record of these advances is described in “Aeronautical and Astronautical Resources of the Library of Congress: A Comprehensive Guide” by Ronald S. Wilkinson, John F. Buydos and others.
Funded in part by a gift from Abe and Julienne Krasnoff and by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics (administered by the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division), the guide surveys both the general and special collections.
Joining the papers of the Wright brothers (given to the Library of Congress in 1949 by the Orville Wright estate) are papers documenting the activities of those engaged in military aeronautics, aircraft manufacture and flight to outer space. Pictorial materials relating to aeronautics and astronautics abound in the Library’s collections, which also include a surprising amount of related motion picture and music material. Aeronautical charts and maps present another aspect of the subject, as do oral histories and memorabilia donated to the Library’s Veterans History Project.
Anyone who has dreamed of browsing through the Library’s book stacks will enjoy John Buydos’ journey through its general collections. Here are many of the copyrighted books, pamphlets and periodicals that pertain to aeronautics and astronautics as well as materials gotten as gifts, through exchange or by purchase. Buydos considers each group as it is arranged by the Library of Congress classification system, beginning with bibliographies, encyclopedias and chronologies and continuing through U.S. and international periodicals, biographies and works on aeronautical engineering, military uses of aeronautics, space travel and more.
“Aeronautical and Astronautical Resources of the Library of Congress: A Comprehensive Guide,” a 464-page paperback with 290 illustrations, is available for $29.95 from the Library’s Sales Shop, Washington, D.C. 20540-4985. Credit card orders can be taken at (888) 682-3557. Online orders can be place at www.loc.gov/shop/. The publication is also available from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7954. Fax orders to (202) 512-2250.