Monday, May 17, 2010

Book review - The Sinking of the Bismarck.

William L. Shirer's The Sinking of the Bismarck is a 169 page account of the sea battle that ended with the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck in 1941. The book was published by Random House in 1962. Mr. Shirer explains what sources he drew from in writing the book but since it is primarily aimed at the younger set he does not have footnotes.

The book begins with the notification to the British naval command that the Bismarck has sailed. What follows is a broad search for the elusive ship as it breaks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Mr. Shirer does a good job of setting the stage for the coming confrontation as the German ship is located and the British close in.

An initial battle results in the sinking of the Hood with almost all hands and the crippling of the Prince of Wales. Things look grim for the British. What follows is a chase on the high seas as more British ships converge and the Bismarck attempts to return to port.

The final showdown is well written from both perspectives on the battle. Using captured German records Mr. Shirer is able to partially reconstruct what was going on with the Bismarck as the battle progressed. Of course, the outcome is given in the title.

The Sinking of the Bismarck is engaging and well written. The style is such that it will easily hold the attention of its target audience. Serious scholars of World War II will likely find little to hold their interest. However, those not familiar with the war or those just beginning to delve into history will find themselves learning much.

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