Books in Review – June 2016

Iron CrossWeb

Iron Cross Award Documents of World War II, by Brian Razkauskas (ISBN 978-0991442706, Kleinekill Press, P.O. Box 181, New Paltz, NY 12561; info@kleinekillpress.com; www.kleinekillpress.com. Hardcover, 8.5” x 11”,  304 pages, fully illustrated in color and b/w; 2014, $110)

Iron Cross Award Documents of World War II is the first comprehensive presentation and study of the 1939 Iron Cross award documents (Urkunden). It features over 200 Iron Cross First and Second Class award citations and related material, dissecting the  documents’ various attributes in a way that collectors will appreciate, all while presenting each in historical context of the individual deeds that earned the document.

The author details the award criteria,  the approval process, annotations of the award in a soldier’s Wehrpass (identification booklet), and then goes on to examine German soldiers who were awarded an Iron Cross, First or Second Class, investigating the units to which they belonged and the reasons for being awarded the Iron Cross.

The presentation is magnificent: The photographs make you feel as though you are holding the actual documents or many portraits that accompany the narrative. While some may think of this as a “collecting resource,” Razkauskas has done such a fine job of reconnecting the history with the objects, he has produced a volume that is equally valuable as a “reading book.”

While there have been volumes published on the actual medals, this is the first serious treatment of the documents that accompanied each medal. It is an obvious addition to the resources of Iron Cross collectors, as well as those who simply enjoy learning about the particular acts that warranted the receipt of an Iron Cross during WWII. —JAG

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24577web

The Swords of George Washington, by Erik Goldstein, Stuart C. Mowbray, and Brian Hendelson (ISBN 978-1-931464-71-0. Andrew Mowbray Publishing, Inc., Mowbray Publishing 54 East School St., Woonsocket, RI 02895; 800.999.4697, www.gunandswordcollector.com. Hardcover, 12-1/4” x 10-1/4”, 112 pages, 268 color illustrations, 2016, $49.99)

Nine extant swords are known to have been owned by George Washington.  While historians have thoroughly looked into every conceivable aspect of the General and President’s life, few have taken notice of these nine symbols and weapons of authority – until now.

In a perfect match of talents, three men have combined their respective strengths to uncover the significance of each of Washington’s swords and place it in historical context of the patriot’s life. Brian Hendelson brought his Washingtonian collecting passion and expertise to the table. Erik Goldstein shared his curatorial expertise and research talents to develop a solid baseline of history. And finally, Stuart Mowbray, assuming only the accolades of “photographer,” is far more gifted through his lifelong study and passion for swords and blades of the early Republic. Working together, the trio has produced a singular study that parallels previous works on George Washington’s life as a military and political figure.

To say the photography is “lavish” would simply be an understatement. Each of the swords is presented in a way that allows a person the most intimate study without holding the actual object. These images are coupled with fine historic images of the swords in earlier displays and museum settings.

The narrative finely weaves historic context with material culture details. This book is equally well-suited for a sit down read as an engaged study of sword details and manufacturing techniques. While you may pick up the book intending to do one, you will find yourself wrapped up in the other!

Also included in the premium-paper package is a biographical dictionary, an illustrated explanation of sword terminology, and a selected bibliography. Wrapped together in a landscape hardcover binding with dust jacket, this book is appropriately appointed to present these swords that are more than products of swordmakers’ talents, rather, as the powerful symbols of early American leadership. – JAG

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Yankee Air Piratesweb

Yankee Air Pirates: U.S. Air Force Uniforms and Memorabilia of the Vietnam War, Vol. 2, by Olivier Bizet and François Millard (ISBN 9780764349188, Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310; 610-593-1777; www.schifferbooks.com. Hardcover, 9” x 12”, 352 pages, 1221 color & b/w photos & charts, 2015, $89.99)

With more than 1,200 photos, the second volume of this series gets into the heart of the USAF uniforms and equipment used during the Vietnam War. Focusing on hundreds of Air Force named items, the book offers insight and references covering a selection of 70 units. From the air bases to the mighty B-52s, from the secret missions to the POWs, many aspects of USAF involvement in Southeast Asia are covered.

There is a lot packed into this book: Flight suits, helmets, utility shirts, jungle jackets, plaques, and souvenir lighters are featured together to illustrate the history of these flying and ground units. In fact, there are so many photos, that they compete with each other for space, resulting in many fine artifacts presented to small to appreciate. In an effort to include so many images, the book fails to present the backs of the hundreds of in-country and privately made patches – probably an aspect more important to the collector than the fronts.

In fact, there appears to be two distinct things happening in the book: A history of the different air commands in Vietnam as presented in the text, and a visual perusal of objects associated with those commands. As such, it really isn’t a systematic presentation of “Uniforms and Memorabilia” (though the final chapter does focus on insignia), but rather, a visual treat for someone interested in this aspect of the Vietnam war. Regardless, this volume gives the in-depth treatment that these airmen so richly deserve.– JAG

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