Tag Archives: World War II

Operation Dragoon from the Front Lines

72 years ago, Allied forces invaded Southern France as part of Operation Dragoon, pushing the German forces back into the Vosges Mountains. Originally conceived to be executed in tandem with the better-known Operation Overlord, Dragoon was overwhelming successful. Along with the German retreat, the important and strategic port of Marseilles was liberated by the Allies.

Aboard the U.S.N. transport General George O. Squier, surgeon Paul A. Kennedy was on watch—4 am to 8 am—as, “Naval guns [were] throwing salvo after salvo into the beach area,” at Le Dramont Plage.

kennedyComps.inddAs a member of the US Army’s 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group, Kennedy spent thirty-four months working in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, and participated in some of the fiercest action of the war—Operation Avalanche, the attack on Anzio, and entered the Dachau concentration camp two days after it was liberated, and 72 years ago, Operation Dragoon.

From the beginning of 1944 until the end of the war, he kept a medical journal in which he meticulously recorded and illustrated 355 of these cases. He also kept a personal diary and took more than 1,500 photographs, most of which were developed and carefully labeled, but never printed. Below, in an excerpt from Battlefield Surgeon, Kennedy’s diary describes the wait before Dragoon, the confusion of landing, and the routine of setting up a mobile surgical hospital.

 Thursday, August 10, 1944

Aboard the U.S.N. transport General George O. Squier

Had a poor night last night—the British right behind us drank scotch ’til all hours. Up at dawn to start a long wait ’til noon. Had cold meat and beans for breakfast. Large truck convoy to Naples and the docks—greeted there at 1:00 by the Red Cross with doughnuts and lemonade (pretty good). Ship is a new navy transport (2,500 troops) and the accommodations excellent, much to our surprise. Room for 18 but only 10 of us in it. Had a saltwater bath (hot and filthy dirty when we boarded), then later had an excellent dinner. (Another real surprise—we expected C rations.) I’m certain where we’re going but we’ll see—and it won’t take long to get there.

Friday, August 11, 1944

On ship—

Pulled away from the harbor of Naples and sailed across the bay to Castelammare, where we’re lying at anchor with other transports and L.S.T.s (Landing Ship, Tank), most of them combat loaded. Weather still hot but cloudy—rained hard last night. Meals still excellent and ship more comfortable than anyone expected. (They sell ice cream on board here that is excellent and there seems to be plenty of it.) (The navy lives right!) Still lots of speculation as per usual as to where we’re going. I got a job assigned to me—a watch from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Paul A Kennedy

Surgeon Paul A. Kennedy

Saturday, August 12, 1944

On ship

Still just off Castelammare sitting in a blazing hot sun and minding the heat more all the time. Up at 4 a.m. to sit out watch from then ’til 8 a.m.—a long four hours in a dark hatch filled with sweating soldiers. Fortunate your sense of smell tires after a time and you smell nothing. Eating two meals a day with sandwich at noon, and the food continues excellent. Reading—on my bunk, on deck, a saltwater shower, ice cream, more speculation—signs!! The L.S.T.s pulled out this evening—a sign we may go tonight or early tomorrow. This waiting is difficult, particularly for something that might be disastrous.

Sunday, August 13, 1944

At sea Up for my watch at 4 a.m. to find us still at anchor. My watch interrupts my sleep no end. To Mass and Communion at 9 a.m. Pulled anchor and sailed at 1300 hours—all the transports that were around us plus a few line ships. Speed pretty good—must be 18 knots—wasn’t long before we were at sea. Four hours out all C.O.s were briefed on the mission, but we’ve not been enlightened as yet. Our general guess was right. Got my money back in francs—13 500-franc notes. A Grumman Wildcat  zoomed past us—there are many carriers in the vicinity, so the story goes. But you can hear anything you want on the ship.

Monday, August 14, 1944

At sea—on eve of D-day.

What I feel—the million things that are running thru my mind would more than fill this page. What happens tomorrow can be so disastrous in so many ways. I hope and pray that all goes well.

The day has been very quiet. More ships have joined us—battlewagons among them, other transports, but we can see only a small part of the task force. There’s no great excitement among the men though they know as well as anyone that tomorrow may be their end. The morale is good and most everyone feels that only success will be ours. I’m sure it will but I’m not sure of the price.

Tuesday, August 15, 1944

Le Dramont Plage on the Riviera

Things started to happen at 5:30 this morning while I was on my watch. Naval guns throwing salvo after salvo into the beach area. At 7 it stopped, and heavy bombers in waves of 36 each then came out of the southwest and hit the beach area. Just before the first assault wave went in to land at 8:00, ships mounting hundreds of rockets “peppered” the beach. We landed at H 10 riding from our transport 15 miles out on an L.C.I. (Landing Craft Infantry). Uneventful ride in—landed on green beach. Things seemed a bit confused—100 prisoners waiting on the beach to be taken out to a ship.

They were shelling the beach occasionally so we got out of there (loaded down) and found a bivouac area for the night on the side of a hill overlooking this little town. At 9 p.m., just at dusk, a Jerry plane came in from the east and when it was still 1,000 yards from the beach it released a robot radio-controlled bomb which flew just ahead of the plane and then gracefully slid downward and hit an L.S.T. square on the bridge. Flames and a terrific explosion and the L.S.T. burned and exploded all night. Four Long Toms were on it plus lots of ammunition.

No other ships lost. There were three other beaches but news from there is scarce tonight. 155s are just below us and are firing over us—the noise is terrible—that plus the ack-ack would wake the dead. We’re right in the middle of it too and the flak falls too close. I’ve got my bed laid out in a ditch with a door lying crossways over my head. Here’s where an air mattress comes in mighty handy.

I’ve landed on D-day and I’m all in one piece, thank God. Things seem to be going well although they’re only six miles from the water as yet. There was little resistance here, and with the way the Normandy front is going I think we’ll meet little.

Wednesday, August 16, 1944

In a villa on the French Riviera just east of San Raphael. Had a good night in spite of the noise, et al. Explored the countryside this morning, and this place looks like a war hit it all of a sudden. I can see that it was a beautiful place in peacetime—villas all overlooking the sea—small coves that seem to be separate little lakes hidden from everything, war included. Saw Jerry pillboxes dotting the hill that naval shells blasted out of existence.

The L.S.T. still burning. Many prisoners in the 36 Division P.O.W.enclosures. Not looking too happy.

Progress is good. The 155s have moved up some and we have a house to sleep in. Tomorrow we’re setting up six miles from here on a golf course.

On the Road to Le Muy via Battlefield Surgeon by Paul A Kennedy

On the Road to Le Muy

Thursday, August 17, 1944

One mile south of Le Muy

Had another robot bomb thrown at the beach last night just after sunset. We could hear it roaring, getting closer all the time, and everyone dove for the floor—it hit the water and exploded. A 155 is just outside our yard and it fired a mission (15 rounds), almost making me deaf. We waited around all day to move and finally left at 3:00 in a 6 x 6—passed thru San Raphael, Frejus. French flags flying from every house—people all in a holiday mood waving to us.

More prisoners coming in; walking, in trucks, and all seem not too unhappy. Glider traps covered the fields hereabout—poles with barbed wire strung between them. We set up just a mile south of Le Muy. 11th Evac next door.

 Friday, August 18, 1944

Draguignan, France

Moved here this afternoon and set up immediately—patients already waiting. Clean-looking town and people much improved. The countryside is pretty. We passed a couple fields on the way here that had hundreds of broken-up gliders in them. Jerry had lots of glider traps around.

Jerry had cleared out of here yesterday, so you see even the medics are close on his heels. There’s a building right behind us that a shell hit this morning—it’s still burning and fires are burning on the hill just ahead of us. Did one Jerry belly this evening.

Saturday, August 19, 1944

Patients have been nil all day. I guess nobody is getting seriously wounded.

The advance is still rapid and the news from Normandy is excellent—the Jerry 7th Army is in rout. Went into Draguignan this morning to look around. No war damage worth mentioning—people all very cordial and seem honestly pleased that we are here. One fellow who could talk English said that the Germans were correct but not nice—the Americans are nice. Bought some perfume for Marion and a French book for Paulie.

They have beer here in this town but in no way does it resemble our beer. Hospital is moving in a.m. but we’re staying behind as a holding company.

Wheeler’s ‘Jacob L. Devers’ Honored by Army Historical Foundation

Jacob L Devers WheelerThe Army Historical Foundation recently recognized outstanding contributions to U.S. Army history that were published in 2015. Among those select works honored by the Foundation was Jacob L. Devers: A General’s Life by James Scott Wheeler which won in the category of biography.

General Jacob L. “Jake” Devers (1897–1979) was one of only two officers—the other was Omar C. Bradley—to command an army group during the decisive campaigns of 1944–1945 that liberated Europe and ended the war with Nazi Germany. After the war, Devers led the Army Ground Forces in the United States and eventually retired in 1949 after forty years of service. Despite incredible successes on the battlefield, General George C. Marshall’s “dependable man” remains one of the most underrated and overlooked figures of his generation.

In this definitive biography, Wheeler delivers a groundbreaking reassessment of the American commander whose contributions to victory in Europe are topped only by those of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Wheeler’s exhaustively researched chronicle of Devers’s life and career reveals a leader who demonstrated an extraordinary ability to cut through red tape and solve complex problems. Nevertheless, Eisenhower disliked Devers—a fact laid bare when he ordered Devers’s Sixth Army Group to halt at the Rhine. After the war, Eisenhower’s and Bradley’s accounts of the generals’ disagreements over strategy and tactics became received wisdom, to the detriment of Devers’s reputation.

Bacevich Read Wheeler'seditorial on theV-E Day thatMight Have BeenThis exceptional work of military history was recognized at an annual awards program on June 16, at the Nineteenth Annual Members’ Meeting at the AUSA Building in Arlington, VA. The finalists were judged by a select awards committee of distinguished military historians and writers against a set of criteria, including significance to U.S. Army history, historical accuracy, and quality of writing. The win marks the ninth time a University Press of Kentucky title has won an award from the AHF. UPK’s previous winners in the category of biography are Beetle: The Life of Walter Bedell Smith by D. K. R. Crosswell, Exposing the Third Reich: Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler’s Germany by Henry G. Gole, and Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas V. Mastriano.

The Army Historical Foundation is a member-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the American soldier. Established in 1983, the Foundation funds projects such as educational programs, research, publication of relevant historical materials, and the acquisition and preservation of Army artifacts.

It’s Military History Week!

In honor of military history week at the University Press of Kentucky, here are some of our favorite books commemorating America’s  past.


In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.


In For Slavery and Union, Patrick A. Lewis uses Benjamin Buckner’s story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky’s conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South’s brand of economic growth and racial control.

9780813165639In Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front During World War II, author Richard Holl offers the first comprehensive examination of the Commonwealth’s civilian sector during this pivotal era in the state’s history. National mobilization efforts rapidly created centers of war production and activity in Louisville, Paducah, and Richmond, producing new economic prosperity in the struggling region. The war effort also spurred significant societal changes, including the emergence of female and minority workforces in the state. In the Bluegrass, this trend found its face in Pulaski County native Rose Will Monroe, who was discovered as she assembled B-24 and B-29 bombers and was cast as Rosie the Riveter in films supporting the war effort.

Th9780813146928e first dedicated study of this key region, Kentucky Confederates provides valuable insights into a misunderstood and understudied part of Civil War history. Author Berry Craig begins by exploring the development of the Purchase from 1818, when Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby acquired it from the Chickasaw tribe. Geographically isolated from the rest of the Bluegrass State, the area’s early settlers came from the South, and rail and river trade linked the region to Memphis and western Tennessee rather than to points north and east.

9780813133843On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed near Perryville, Kentucky, in what would be the largest battle ever fought on Kentucky soil. The climax of a campaign that began two months before in northern Mississippi, Perryville came to be recognized as the high water mark of the western Confederacy. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle is the definitive account of this important conflict. While providing all the parry and thrust one might expect from an excellent battle narrative, the book also reflects the new trends in Civil War history in its concern for ordinary soldiers and civilians caught in the slaughterhouse. The last chapter, unique among Civil War battle narratives, even discusses the battle’s veterans, their families, efforts to preserve the battlefield, and the many ways Americans have remembered and commemorated Perryville.

Excerpt from Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir

Whether you are a history buff, or a lover of all things book related, this autobiography is something that everyone can sink their teeth into. Written by Jack Galvin, Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir depicts the story of Galvin’s sixty year involvement in shaping American and International history from the start of World War II all the way to the post-Cold War Era.

To get you excited for the release of UPK’s upcoming book, here is a prepared excerpt, which discusses the procedures Galvin was taught, while in Puerto Rico, to deal with nuclear detonation and fallout by simulating a nuclear explosion with exploding gasoline barrels.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After Ranger School, I drove to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, turned in my car for shipment to Puerto Rico, and on the last day of March 1955 found myself looking up in awe as our troopship eased into the narrow channel between Isla de Cabras and the looming walls of the fortress San Felipe del Morro. The ever-pounding waves out of the north pushed us along through the slot and into San Juan Harbor, where we docked at Fort Buchanan.

My orders sent me to the 65th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. I arrived at Ponce as a platoon leader just in time to go on a field maneuver. I scrambled into my fatigues and boots, then dashed for the line of trucks. The lead vehicles were already on the move, and by the time I ran down to the truck bearing the I Company guidon I was barely able to find the platoon and jump for the tailgate before we moved out. My platoon sergeant gave me a hand and pulled me in. I told him that I was the new platoon leader and said, “You’ve probably heard about that.” He replied, rather mournfully, “Yes.”

As we bounced along under the canvas with the dust pouring in over the tailgate, I went down the line of seats and shook hands with the squad leaders and troops. It was awkward: stepping over packs and weapons and ration boxes; trying to talk over the noise of the truck’s engine and the flip-flap of loose canvas. Sergeant First Class Vidro had been the acting platoon leader for quite a while, and he was still the platoon leader as far as he was concerned. He made room for me, though, and we shook hands, and amid quizzical looks I squeezed in between him and the tailgate. As we drove along, first through the cane fields and then up into the hills of the National Forest, I quizzed him on what we could anticipate on arrival, and on how we could expect the day to go.

Sergeant Vidro was taciturn, his responses hesitant. He looked off into the dust behind us and said something close to, “It will be just like always. An order from the captain and we move out.” It was hard to extract much more detail. After we got out to the forest, Vidro and I had our first of several talks about how we would work this out: what his job was now as platoon sergeant once again and what mine was as platoon leader. It was the first big challenge that I faced in my professional life: to keep him motivated and happy, to keep the platoon itself feeling that the right thing had been done, and to insert myself into the proper leadership position. All this took place over several weeks.

Our field maneuvers in Puerto Rico with the 65th followed a certain pattern, in accordance with the colonel’s goal, which was to improve our ability to fight a nuclear war. We would move out to some area that we had rented, seize the best ground, dig our foxholes deep, and await the aggressors. Our plan was to defend as long as we could, then pull back quickly (at night), leaving a small covering force and falling back ten kilometers. Before first light, we would fire a nuclear weapon equivalent to thousands of tons of conventional explosives, which the umpires out in front of us would simulate by detonating a barrel of a gasoline mix. Then—watching carefully in order to avoid our own fallout pattern—we would charge forward and mop up, attacking and defeating the remaining enemy. On a warm, gentle, breezy night in Puerto Rico, with our hill position surrounded by distant fires as the harvested sugar cane fields were burnt off, the sweet smell drifting over us—along with the smell, as in a library, of oxidizing paper—and the sudden flash of fire on the top of a hill gave me a sense of vertigo. One time I said to the company commander, “We’re only backing up a mile or so. The radius from ground zero would be far more than that.” With a pained look he explained, “If we back up any more we’ll be outside the training area that we rented.”

To find out more on Fighting the Cold War and other historic UPK books, go check out our website.

Oscar Nominees for Best Picture

With the Oscars just around the corner, actors and actresses alike are preparing to look their best and dress to the nines for this star-studded event. The red carpet will host hundreds of interviewers, eagerly waiting to ask the Oscar attendees the most important question of the night: What are you wearing? It never fails that this question is asked every year, but what does this have to with the success of the movie or the actor or actress’s own take on the importance of the film? The answer is nothing.

I know! The answer is so shocking! But it is true. The brand of someone’s dress is of no importance compared to the work that these Hollywood stars have done within the last year. The directors and cast involved in the making of each film work tirelessly to create a work of art worthy of being awarded an Oscar. These films deserve that recognition because not only was an extordinary amount of time and effort put into producing and making each film, each movie was created for a purpose and that purpose is much greater than the outfit that a celebrity is wearing.

So in honor of those who have worked extremely hard and have spent long hours in pursuit of creating a film that would stand out among the crowd, here is a look at this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Cue the lights.


Synopsis: Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, with his skill and accuracy, saves countless lives and becomes one of the most legendary and trained U.S. military snipers of all time. However, as Kyle goes through four tours of duty, the stress and the weight of the war have an immense affect on him and his family.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner

Fun fact: Chris Kyle once said that if there is a filmmaker that would make a film about him, it would only be Clint Eastwood and no one else.


Synopsis: Riggan Thompson is an actor whose most famous role is the iconic superhero Birdman. As Thompson prepares for the opening of his Broadway production, an attempt to restore himself to his former days as a serious actor, he tries to find a way to juggle his career, his broken family, and ultimately himself.

Director:Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts

Fun fact:There are only sixteen visible cuts in the entire film. Also, the film is edited to look like one continuous shot.


Synopsis: Over the course of 12 years, this film journeys through the childhood of a boy named Mason as he faces the ugly truth of the divorce of his parents and tries to find his way through childhood and having to grow up.

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

Fun fact: The movie was filmed over a span of 12 years.


Synopsis: This film portrays the escapades of Monsieur Gustave, a hotel concierge, and the lobby boy, Zero Mustafa, as they live and work at the Grand Budapest Hotel during the time between World War I and World War II.

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody

Fun fact: Johnny Depp was Wes Anderson’s initial choice for the role of M. Gustave.


Synopsis: During World War II, Alan Turing and a group of extraordinary English mathematicians work to solve the German Enigma encryption code, an effort that would ultimately save millions of lives. However, Turing must keep his homosexuality secret due to his fear that it would put the entire war effort at risk because of persecution from his own country.

Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Alex Lawther

Fun fact: Alex Lawther, who plays the young Turing, and Benedict Cumberbatch wore dentures in the film that were exact copies of Alan Turing’s own 60-year old set of false teeth.


Synopsis: This film portrays the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his historic campaign for justice and equality for African Americans during 1965 when the freedom marches were taking place from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

Fun fact: The director, Ava DuVernay had to write new variations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches because another studio had purchased the rights of the real speeches.


Synopsis: This film displays the life of Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Hawking as they come to terms with the onset of his motor neuron disease and the challenges that arise.

Director: James Marsh 

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior

Fun fact: Stephen Hawking said that there were certain times throughout the movie when he thought he was watching himself.


Synopsis: At 19 years of age, Andrew enrolls as a student at a music conservatory in the hopes of becoming a legendary jazz drummer with the aid of an instructor who believes he can bring out Andrew’s full potential through his relentless and unusual teaching style.

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

Fun fact: The film was shot in 19 days.

If any of these films sound interesting to you, stop by our website. UPK has a variety of award worthy books for readers of any genre and many more soon to be released for publication. Check them out here!