2020 Book Talks

A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time: Julia Wilbur’s Struggle for Purpose

By Paula Tarnapol Whitacre

Recorded live December 17, 2020

On 17 December 2020, Paula Tarnapol Whitacre joined the National Museum of the United States Army for a discussion of her book “A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time: Julia Wilbur’s Struggle for Purpose.” Wilbur left her family’s farm near Rochester, New York, in 1862 and boarded a train to Washington, D.C. As an ardent abolitionist, the 47-year-old Wilbur entered the chaos of the Civil War, and spent the next several years in Alexandria, Virginia, devising ways to aid recently escaped slaves and hospitalized Union soldiers. Whitacre’s presentation focuses on Wilbur’s various experiences against the backdrop of Union-occupied Alexandria, the travails of the civilian population there, and her efforts to comfort sick and wounded Federal soldiers and runaway slaves.

Paula Tarnapol Whitacre is a professional writer and editor for organizations including the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she is a former U.S. Foreign Service officer and staff writer for “The Washington Post.”

Unconditional: The Japanese Surrender in World War II

By Marc Gallicchio

Recorded live November 19, 2020

On November 19, 2020 Marc Gallicchio joined the National Museum of the United States Army for a virtual discussion of his book, “Unconditional: The Japanese Surrender in World War II.”

Bancroft Prize co-winner Gallicchio offers a narrative of the 1945 surrender in its historical moment, revealing how and why the event unfolded as it did and the principle figures behind it, including George C. Marshall and Douglas MacArthur, who would effectively become the leader of Japan during the American occupation. He also provides a thorough description of events and participants leading to the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, and reveals how the policy underlying unconditional surrender remained controversial at the time and in the decades following, shaping our understanding of World War II.

Marc Gallicchio is Professor of History at Villanova University and was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer in Japan, 1998-1999 and 2004-2005. He received his Ph.D. in history from Temple University. Dr. Gallicchio is the author of “The Scramble for Asia: US Military Power in the Aftermath of the Pacific War,” and is co-author of “Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945,” which won the Bancroft Prize in History.

Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War’s Most Audacious Espionage Operation

By Steve Vogel

Recorded live October 22, 2020

“Betrayal in Berlin” is a heart-pounding account of “Operation Gold,” a wildly audacious CIA plan to construct a clandestine tunnel into East Berlin to tap into Soviet telecommunication lines. If successful, the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) would have live access to a vast treasure of Soviet military and intelligence communications. Yet as the Allies were burrowing into the German soil, a traitor, George Blake, was burrowing into the operation itself.

“Betrayal in Berlin” is an exciting account of the operation and its disastrous betrayal. After U.S. Army engineers and British telephone specialists succeeded against long odds in secretly digging the tunnel and placing the taps in May 1955, the West captured a flood of Soviet military and intelligence communications. Upon its discovery nearly a year later, the tunnel was celebrated as an astonishing CIA coup, and the agency basked in its new reputation as a bold and capable intelligence agency that had outwitted the KGB. But that celebration ended when Blake’s treachery was revealed by a Polish defector in 1961, and Western intelligence learned to its shock that the KGB had known about the tunnel from the beginning. Afterwards, it was widely believed that the Soviets had fed the CIA and SIS disinformation. But as Vogel shows, the KGB left Soviet military and intelligence secrets exposed in order to protect Blake—and the intelligence deemed worthless was actually enormously valuable.

Steve Vogel is a veteran journalist who reported for “The Washington Post” for more than two decades. He covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War, as well as military operations in Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans, and Iraq. His coverage of the war in Afghanistan was part of a package of “Washington Post” stories selected as a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. Vogel also covered the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. The author of “Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved the Nation” and “The Pentagon: A History,” he lives near Washington, D.C.