Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Old book bonanza
This weekend I ended up picking through a rummage sale where I happened upon a trove of vintage war books. The price: $5 for all the books I could fit into a paper grocery bag. Check out this literary haul I walked away with:
A seven-volume, hardcover "History of the World War" published in 1918.
It reads like journalism, obviously being fresh off the signing of the Armistice, and it's filled with naive boasts about how the Allied victory has essentially ended war for all time, with democracy coming out the winner for eternity.
"American Guerrilla in the Phillippines"
First edition of a 1945 book by Ira Wolfert, chronicling the experience of U.S. Army commandos in the Phillippine campaign against the Japanese. Referring to the enemy as "Japs" throughout the book, it's a good example of a "sensational" contemporary military account -- written in the heat of the conflict and leaving the niceties for history to sort out later. It's illustrated with drawings that might have been cut from Boy's Life magazine or an early G.I. Joe comic...a book that was clearly marketed as an "adventure tale," if nominally a piece of war journalism.
"The Conquest of Civilization"
A 700-page 1926 hardcover by James Breasted, summarizing the military victories of Western civilizations dating back to the ancient Greeks. Interesting intellectual precursor to the work of Victor Davis Hanson, a Stanford professor who builds on Breasted's theory that the European democratic tradition is the ultimate explanation for the West's military effectiveness throughout history.
And the best:
A yearbook from the 1955-1956 cruise of the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany.
In mid-1955, the Oriskany (pictured above) sailed out of the port of Alameda for a year-long tour of East Asia, where its air group helped enforce the tenuous Korean War armistice. (The carrier had been produced at the very end of WWII, and saw combat during the Korean War.) This yearbook is just spectacular, with tons of photos from the cruise, including port calls in Yokohama, Manila, and Hong Kong. It's a great snapshot of the old-school Navy life, and must have previously belonged to a veteran of the cruise. This is a pretty precious document in my eyes...I'll give it a safe home.