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New Must-Read Book: Craig Shirley’s April 1945

Spoiler alert: The Allies, led by the United States, won World War II, but how, why and through which decisive battles is something that memory and 75 years of revisionist history have obscured for many Americans.

Our friend bestselling author Craig Shirley, noted historian of President Ronald Reagan, and author of December 1941 endcaps World War II with his new book, April 1945, detailing the pivotal month when ultimate Allied victory finally manifested itself.


We think Shirley’s April 1945 ranks with Richard Overy’s Why The Allies Won as a masterpiece of analytical history in it’s almost day-by-day, month-by-month dissection of the social, political and military history of the final months of the war.


One of the most interesting elements of Shirley’s analysis is how he interweaves the challenges facing America and the Allies on the home front with what was going on on the battlefield as they struggled toward victory.


Just one example of which was America’s draft dodger problem. Although I consider myself to be well-read on World War II I was surprised to learn that:


Even as late as early 1945, draft dodgers still posed a problem for the FBI… Toward the end of the war, with the countryside pretty well cleaned out of country boys who didn’t stay down on the farm as essential workers, the FBI could focus on catching them. “As in the last war, the willful violators have resorted to all kinds of schemes, from shooting off a toe or a hand or adopting disguises for acquiring a criminal record.” The FBI had handled 464,640 cases since 1940 and reclaimed enough men for thirteen full divisions.”


Shirley is especially adept at weaving into his narrative reminders of just how evil the Nazi and Japanese regimes were, and how the Allies’ commitment to unconditional surrender was reinforced by the atrocities they discovered as they pushed forward through Nazi and Japanese occupied territory.


Again, one example with which I was unfamiliar from the Pacific Theater:


In the Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific, 452 natives were saved from death at the hands of the Japanese by the Americans. The Associated Press reported, “The rescue started with receipt of a report that the Japanese were threatening to decapitate the entire group, apparently because food was running short and the Japanese knew their by-passed garrison had little chance of getting supplies from home.” The Maloelap Islanders were rescued by a navy landing craft. The Marshall Islands had been taken by American forces a year earlier, but somehow this Japanese military base had been missed.


In the story of a war so vast in death, devastation and geography Shirley captures an obscure speck in the Western Pacific where good triumphed over evil.


The incongruities of the American war effort also find their way into Mr. Shirley’s narrative of the final months of the war. The baseball season, fashion, books and movies have their place but also this interesting vignette demonstrating how America’s industrial might was transformed from producing farm machinery to implements of war:


The end of the war may be coming, but that did not stop American companies from advertising their best war products like the “Water Buffalo” made by the Food Machinery Corporation. The print ads touted “steel clad – the amazing land and water ferry of the Yanks – the ‘Water Buffalo’ – repeated in daring landings of the Pacific and Normandy when it transported troops and material under fire across the never-before-stormed Rhine River.”


The Food Machinery Corporation also made bean, orchard, and crop sprayers.


In April 1945 Craig Shirley documents for us that Allied victory in World War II wasn’t achieved on the battlefield alone, but through a whole of society effort that took place amidst the sometimes-incongruous cultural life of America in the early 20th century. The book is available now at https://www.thomasnelson.com/p/april-1945/.We consider it to be one of the must-read books about World War II and you won’t be disappointed, even if you already know how it ends.


  • WW II surrender

  • Germany

  • Reagan biographer

  • December 1941

  • April 1945

  • draft dodgers

  • Japanese atrocities

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