Book Review: The Biographical Dictionary of World War II Generals and Flag Officers (R. Manning Ancell) : WW2 | HistoryNet MENU

Book Review: The Biographical Dictionary of World War II Generals and Flag Officers (R. Manning Ancell) : WW2

8/12/2001 • Reviews, World War II Reviews

The Biographical Dictionary of World War II Generals and Flag Officers: The U.S. Armed Forces
by R. Manning Ancell with Christine M. Miller, Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 1996, $95.As the title forewarns, this is a work for researchers, writers and students of World War II history, not dilettantes looking for anecdotes. It is nicely organized into six sections covering each individual service–
Army, Navy, Marine Corps, the Army Air Forces, the Coast Guard and the National Guard. The officers are listed alphabetically, and the information is, of necessity, brief, skimming a few high points from more than 2,500 lives. Even with such brevity, however, the book is a hefty 706 pages.

There are two appendices. The first, a summary of birthplaces and birth dates, is of only the narrowest use; the second and more useful is a listing by service of those officers who died during World War II and from what causes (a surprising number succumbed to accidents and heart attacks).

Despite its somewhat austere format, however, The Biographical Dictionary is strewn with nuggets of genuinely interesting reading. In the Army section, for example, is included information on Ben Lear (1879­1966), who was born in Canada, commissioned in 1899, participated in the 1912 Olympic summer games and received the Silver Star and two Distinguished Service Medals during the war. In the Army Air Forces section, it’s noted that Richard C. Sanders, as a brigadier general at the age of 28, became the youngest general or flag officer of WWII. Known as the “bombardment brain of the Ninth Air Force,” Sanders received two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Medal. Informative references like this one ensure that such worthy men will not pass into oblivion unmentioned and unknown. And while The Biographical Dictionary does not provide more than highlights, it is an excellent starting point for more in-depth research.

Mary Lou Witmer

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