Garland’s two-volume encyclopedia of the war in Europe places a wealth of information at readers’ fingertips.
By Adam Headley
More than a decade of exhaustive research, writing and editing has resulted in what is surely the ultimate reference work on World War II in Europe. Colonel David T. Zabecki, a frequent contributor to World War II Magazine, led an editorial team of 15 scholars of military history and coordinated the efforts of 155 distinguished individuals from eight different countries who contributed to the text of World War II in Europe, An Encyclopedia (Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1999, $195). The complete two-volume work includes 1,400 separate entries ranging from the well-known to the obscure.
World War II in Europe is the seventh installment in Garland’s military history of the United States series, which began with a treatment of the colonial wars of North America. Organized for easy use, the encyclopedia consists of six major sections. Entries are arranged alphabetically within each section so that readers who want to focus on a specific aspect of the war may do so more quickly.
The first section, “Social and Political Issues and Events,” covers the years before, during and after the war, providing a wealth of information on the issues and events that shaped the course of history. “Leaders and Individuals” focuses on prominent political and military figures, as well as those whose involvement through other means became an integral part of the story of the war. “Units and Organizations” includes information on the military and paramilitary groups that fought the war, the media that reported it, and the organizations that provided aid and comfort to the troops. “Weapons and Equipment” chronicles the weapons systems and technological advances that came about during World War II and affected its outcome as well as the way future wars would be conducted. “Strategy, Tactics and Operational Techniques” discusses the doctrine, methods and planning for the prosecution of the war. “Battles, Campaigns and Operations” is the largest section and fully covers the military aspect of the war. One noteworthy strength of the encyclopedia is its thorough treatment of World War II on the Eastern Front. This in itself is worth the price of admission, since Western historians have recently been able to examine sources that were unavailable on this part of the conflict until the end of the Cold War, and a wealth of interesting information is included here.
To complement the extensive entries, the text is interspersed with photographs, fine maps and informative statistical tables. Distinguished author Martin Blumenson supplies the foreword.
For all those World War II scholars and buffs who have sought a comprehensive, well-put-together encyclopedia on the conflict in Europe, this two-volume set is difficult to improve upon. Zabecki and his cast are to be commended not only for producing a user-friendly treatment of a vast quantity of information in a concise, highly readable style but also for ably filling a great void in the written record of the war.