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Q&A with Pulitzer Prize winning Author and Journalist Rick Atkinson

The Guns at Last Light, Rick Atkinson’s long-awaited third and final book in his “Liberation Trilogy,” about the US military in Europe in World War II, is being released to the public on May 14th. Rick has long been a friend and supporter of the Museum and we are honored that he and his publisher have selected the Museum to host his official book release event on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 — V-E Day!

As we approach this much anticipated event, we wanted to ask Rick some questions and share his answers with our members. Here is a preview of the conversation — click the electronic version link at the bottom of the e-mail to read the full transcript.

WWII Museum: Congratulations on the upcoming release of The Guns at Last Light. Could you tell us where the book picks up, what is covered and where you conclude the final volume?

Rick: Thanks so much to The National WWII Museum for supporting this project. I feel that we’ve come of age together: the Museum opened in 2000, shortly before the first volume of my trilogy was published. The Guns at Last Light opens on May 15, 1944, at St. Paul’s School in London, where Eisenhower, Montgomery, Churchill, Patton, Bradley, and several dozen other American and British commanders gather to review the final plan for the invasion of Normandy. It’s a wonderfully cinematic scene, full of color and high drama. For the next twelve chapters we live and die with those determined to obliterate the Third Reich, at places like Omaha Beach, St. Lô, Hill 314, Falaise, the Hürtgen Forest, Antwerp, Nijmegen, Arnhem, and on through the Bulge, the crossing of the Rhine, the encirclement of the Ruhr, and the final drive across the Elbe through V-E Day on May 8, 1945. As in An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle, we periodically shift from a tactical, foxhole view of the battlefield to the wider aperture of operational and strategic perspectives; much of chapter 7 is set in Malta and Yalta, for instance, in the company of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and the Allied high command. And we often peek in on the other side of the hill, to understand what the Germans are doing.

I also recount at some length the invasion of southern France in mid-August 1944, as well as the subsequent drive up the Rhône Valley and the Franco-American lunge through the Vosges Mountains to capture Strasbourg and reach the Rhine, four months before other Allied forces arrive on the river. That controversial campaign in southern France is unknown to many Americans, and it’s an important part of the liberation of Europe.

Read the full interview in the spring 2013 V-mail.

RSVP now to the Book Release Event on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

Pre-order Guns at Last Light from the Museum Store.

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70th Anniversary Spotlight: The Death of Yamamoto — April 18, 1943

In February 1943, the United States emerged fully victorious at Guadalcanal as the remaining Japanese forces withdrew from the island. The Americans hoped to keep up their momentum in the Pacific War by bringing pressure against the Japanese stronghold on Rabaul. The Japanese Navy prepared to defend Rabaul, and its combined fleet headquarters at Truk, through aggressive defense of the Solomon Islands, only to find that the Imperial Army wished to focus on defending New Guinea as a better staging area for ground operations. On March 25, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was directed to provide support for the Japanese Army’s plans on New Guinea.

Within the Japanese military establishment, Yamamoto was a legendary figure who had successfully changed Japanese strategy at the beginning of the war. He had argued that a crippling first strike, followed by a “decisive battle,” would more likely bring success against the Americans than the current Japanese strategic doctrine which sought to pursue the decisive battle as a first, singular event. The first part of Yamamoto’s plan had in many ways succeeded brilliantly with the attack he led on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. However, when he attempted to lure the Americans into a decisive battle at Midway in June 1942, it was the Americans who emerged as the decisive victors. Now, nearly a year later, Yamamoto and the Japanese Imperial Navy found that their Army colleagues held the upper hand in setting strategy for the war. Yamamoto was ordered to devise plans and then carry out strikes to destroy Allied air and naval forces across the Solomons in preparation for the Army’s plans in New Guinea. He accordingly moved his operations to Rabaul in early April 1943.

But after a few days of personally directing Japanese offensives in the area, Yamamoto decided to take a one-day inspection tour of the Solomon defenses to thank and inspire the troops before returning to headquarters on Truk. He refused to consider the warnings proffered by General Imamura and Commander Watanabe.

Read more of this article, written by Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Director of History and Research Keith Huxen, in our V-Mail mailing.

For more 70th anniversary news, follow our blog at www.nww2m.com.

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Loyal Forces: The American Animals of World War II

“In the frightening and uncharted world of war, servicemen and women could count on the transport given by horses and mules, the protection offered by dogs, the communication delivered by pigeons, and the solace provided by mascots and pets.”   — from Loyal Forces

At a time when every American was called upon to contribute to the war effort—whether by enlisting, buying bonds or collecting scrap metal—the use of American animals during World War II further demonstrates the resourcefulness of the US Army and the many sacrifices that led to the Allies’ victory. Through 160 photographs from The National WWII Museum collection, Loyal Forces captures the heroism, hard work and innate skills of innumerable animals that aided the military as they fought to protect, transport, communicate and sustain morale.

From the last mounted cavalry charge of the United States Army to the 36,000 homing pigeons deployed overseas, service animals made a significant impact on military operations during World War II. Authors Toni M. Kiser and Lindsey F. Barnes deftly illustrate that every branch of the armed forces and every theater of the war utilized the instincts and dexterity of these dependable creatures who, though not always in the direct line of enemy fire, had their lives put at risk for the jobs they performed.

The Museum is excited to have such a publication in its catalog, and looks forward to the response from readers. Loyal Forces will be released in March 2013.

Toni M. Kiser, Assistant Director of Collections and Exhibits/Registrar at The National WWII Museum, earned her master’s degree in museum studies at the George Washington University.

Lindsey F. Barnes, Senior Archivist/Digital Project Manager at The National WWII Museum, earned her master’s degree in library and information science from Louisiana State University.

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Electronic Version:

View the full spring 2013 V-mail — before anyone else!

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