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Book Talks

Immortal Valor: The Black Medal of Honor Recipients of World War II

By Robert Child

Thursday, September 15, 2022 | 7 p.m. (ET) | Virtual
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In 1945, when Congress began reviewing the record of the most conspicuous acts of courage by American Soldiers during World War II, they recommended awarding the Medal of Honor to 432 recipients. Despite the fact that more than one million African Americans served in the conflict, not a single Black Soldier received the Medal of Honor. Recent historical research has brought to light some of the extraordinary acts of valor performed by Black Soldiers during the war. Men such as Vernon Baker, who single-handedly eliminated three enemy machine guns, an observation post, and a German dugout. Or Sgt. Reuben Rivers, who spearheaded his tank unit’s advance against fierce German resistance for three days despite being grievously wounded. And Lt. Charles Thomas, who led his platoon to capture a strategic village on the Siegfried Line in 1944, despite losing half his men and suffering wounds himself.

Ultimately, in 1993 a U.S. Army commission determined that seven men, including Baker, Rivers, and Thomas, had been denied the Army’s highest award due to racial discrimination. In 1997, more than 50 years after the war, President Bill Clinton finally awarded the Medal of Honor to these seven heroes, sadly all but one of them posthumously.

Robert Child is a military history writer, director, and published author. He has also garnered more than 26 writing and directing awards including an Emmy® nomination, and is one of only a handful of writer/directors whose work has screened in the United States Congress.

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More Precious than Peace: A New History of America in World War I

By Justus D. Doenecke

Thursday, October 20, 2022 | 7 p.m. (ET) | Virtual
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The entry of America into the “war to end all wars” in April 1917 marks one of the major turning points in the nation’s history. In the span of just nineteen months, the United States sent nearly two million troops overseas, established a robust propaganda apparatus, and created an unparalleled war machine that played a major role in securing Allied victory in the fall of 1918. At the helm of the nation, President Woodrow Wilson and his administration battled against political dissidence, domestic and international controversies, and their own lack of experience leading a massive war effort.

In “More Precious than Peace,” the long-awaited successor to his critically acclaimed work “Nothing Less than War,” Dr. Justus D. Doenecke examines the entirety of the American experience as a full-scale belligerent in World War I. This book covers American combat on the western front, the conscription controversy, and scandals in military training and production. Doenecke explores the Wilson administration’s quest for national unity, the Creel Committee, and “patriotic” crusades. Weaving together these topics and many others, including the U.S. reaction to the Russian revolutions, Doenecke creates a lively and comprehensive narrative.

Dr. Doenecke is professor emeritus of history at New College of Florida. He is the author of numerous books, including “Storm on the Horizon: The Challenge to American Intervention, 1939–1941,” winner of the Herbert Hoover Book Award.

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Churchill’s American Arsenal: The Partnership Behind the Innovations that Won World War Two

By Larrie D. Ferriero

Thursday, November 17, 2022 | 7 p.m. ET | Virtual
Book cover featuring a parked plane on the left flanked by American Soldiers saluting Winston Churchill as he walks by on the right followed by officers in uniform.

 

Many weapons and inventions were credited with winning World War II, most famously in the assertion that the atomic bomb “ended the war, but radar won the war.” What is less well known is that both airborne radar and the atomic bomb were invented in British laboratories, but built by Americans. The same holds true for many other American weapons credited with the Allied victory: the P-51 Mustang fighter, the Liberty ship, the proximity fuze, the Sherman tank, and even penicillin all began with British scientists and planners, but were designed and mass-produced by American engineers and factory workers. “Churchill’s American Arsenal” chronicles this vital but often fraught relationship between British inventiveness and American technical might.

Prize winning historian Larrie Ferriero’s presentation explores how, at first, leaders in each nation were deeply skeptical that such a relationship could ever be successful. But despite initial misunderstandings, petty jealousies, and continuing differences over priorities, scientists and engineers on both sides of the Atlantic found new and often ingenious ways to work together, jointly creating the weapons that often became the decisive factor in the strategy for victory that Churchill had laid out during the earliest days of the conflict. While no single invention won the war, without any one of them, the war could have been lost.

Larrie D. Ferreiro is an engineer, historian, and the author of several award-winning books in history, science, and technology, and was the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist in history for his book “Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It.” He teaches at George Mason University in Virginia and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

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The Heart of Hell: The Soldiers’ Struggle for Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle

By Jeffrey Wert

Thursday, December 15, 2022 | 7 p.m. ET | Virtual
book cover featuring a civil war battle

 

The fierce struggle over the Confederate fortifications during the Battle of Spotsylvania known as the “Mule Shoe” was without parallel during the American Civil War. The massive Union assault that began at 4:30 A.M. on May 12, 1864, sparked brutal combat that lasted nearly 24 hours. By the time Federal forces withdrew, some 55,000 men from the Union and Confederate armies had been drawn into the fury, battling in torrential rain along fieldworks at point blank range in a “seething, bubbling, soaring hell of hate and murder.” Some 17,500 officers and men from both sides had been killed, wounded, or captured by the time the fighting ceased in the dense Virginia woods. The site of the most intense clashes became forever known as the “Bloody Angle,” a notorious part of the famous Overland Campaign that pitted Grant versus Lee.

Learn more from renowned Civil War military historian Jeffry D. Wert as he draws on the personal narratives of Union and Confederate troops who survived the fight to offer a gripping story of Civil War combat at its most difficult.

Jeffry D. Wert is author of many previous books, including “Gettysburg, Day Three,” “From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864,” and “The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac.”

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