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Book Review: Dirty Little Secrets of World War II (Eric Hammel): WWII

Originally published on Published Online: August 12, 2001 
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Dirty Little Secrets of World War II: Military Information No One Told You About the Greatest, Most Terrible War In History
by James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi, William Morrow and Co., New York, $19.95. James Dunnigan and Albert Nofi have produced a fulsome compilation of trivia, anecdotes and statistics regarding the greatest war in human history, World War II. The facts they have gathered into one compact volume are indeed fascinating and provocative, but hardly "dirty" or even "secret" for that matter. Unfortunately, the provocative title is blatantly fallacious; even the most inattentive World War II buff will not be shocked or surprised at the book's "revelations," as most of them are already common knowledge. Of course, the publishers, rather than the authors, are the likely culprits in their all too familiar zeal to sell books.

As this book aptly demonstrates, World War II continues to fascinate the reading public and remains an integral part of popular culture, with legendary figures such as Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Douglas MacArthur, words such as "snafu," and enduring myths about Pearl Harbor or the supposed whereabouts of a living Adolf Hitler. Dunnigan and Nofi are to be commended for their adeptness at conveying a myriad of conflicting and sometimes tedious information in a lucid if occasionally redundant prose. Of course, this latter tendency may well be intentional as they clearly state that the book need not be read in any particular order; each item can be self-contained.

Many of the accounts of events are comical. For example, the image of General George S. Patton and Churchill urinating in the Rhine River to demonstrate their contempt for Germany is profoundly farcical. So, too, is the description of an American naval bombardment of Japanese latrines to destroy hidden ammunition.

On the other hand, the book gives serious consideration to the efforts of minorities and women in the American war effort and does not neglect the famous female fighter pilots of the Soviet Union. The book's misleading title does not diminish its value as a wide-ranging reference source and a valuable addition to the ever growing mountain of literature written about World War II.
William John Shepherd

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