Peter O wrote:Elwood: "Illinois Nazis."
Jake: "I hate Illinois Nazis."
- The Blues Brothers (1980)
What does the average reader know about the brothers in arms of Luftwaffe? For a start, the Japanese air force of course, at Pearl Harbor in particular; some know about the Regia Aeronautica Italiana, whether they fought more or less well; and beyond that, even the average reader of history and WWII quickly loses ground. How many of us know anything at all about the Hungarian, Slovak or Manchurian Air Forces? Did you know that the Royal Thai Air Force traces its roots to 1913, and at times flew Thai warplanes? How many of us non-experts know that the top non-German ace was Ilmari Juutilainen with 94 confirmed victories? Or that the RAF once fought it out with the Iraqi Air Force?
Frank Joseph has chosen an excellent subject for his book. The result could have been exciting, interesting and enlightening. It’s anything but.
The author is not just a bad writer, but someone with a true gift of incompetence; you cannot write this bad by mistake. One of his tics is the urge to tell us, whenever units fight, the numbers: just how many of each kind of plane or ship participated and fell on both sides. Whether we get context, colour or any historical meaning whatsoever is another matter completely, but we do get to know that 5 of these destroyed 2 of these et cetera. Another tic is that whenever a new plane is mentioned (which of course happens frequently in a book like this), he can’t wait to tell us the most important data: how many engines, of what builds and how many horsepowers, how many guns of what kinds, top speed, service ceiling, wing area and so on. These hairballs of digits turn up on just about every page. I soon learned to skip them, since any data that mattered was pointed out anyway. The author seems to be completely ignorant of the concept of flow. Any association can take over at any time, steering the text in random directions. No chapter is dedicated to the Soviet warbirds, but a description of them runs for several pages in the middle of a chapter on something else. Retold in this unfocused, haphazard fashion, minor events turn strangely surreal, and the war as a whole frequently feels as some epic conflict I’ve never really heard about before.
The introduction is a good way to get a feel for this book. In just ten pages, all quirks as listed are demonstrated.
As I eventually got used to the style — or rather, abandoned hope — I began to see other things. Whenever Frank Joseph describes the darker aspects of war, he’s almost always describing the Allied forces. The occupation of Czechoslovakia, the division of Poland and the invasion of Manchuria are explained as sensible and necessary actions, or not explained at all. Manchukuo and the Vichy regime were certainly nothing like puppet states, we’re told. Churchill, on the other hand, was a criminal of the lowest kind, sabotaging the European fight against communism. And on it goes.
The Allied are not only evil but incompetent. Numerous fights are outlined, and it is soon apparent that any Axis pilot invariably outfights any Allied pilot, lest the latter brings at the very least twice as many comrades in twice as good planes.
One might ask how such a pitiful alliance ever could win the war? With the help of traitors and collaborators, with unmanly diversions such as project ULTRA and the like. As long as the fighting was fair and clean, the reds and their friends always lost.
The book wasn’t only somewhat unreadable, but truly unreliable as well. By now, I got curious about the author. Who was this Frank Joseph?
On the cover, he’s presented to us as ”professor of world archaeology”, not with any known university but with a ”Savant Institute” in Japan. I’ve yet to find any information whatsoever about this institute. He is a regular contributor (editor?) of Ancient American magazine, which keeps track of ”neglected and even suppressed factual evidence” demonstrating contacts across the Atlantic and the Pacific hundreds and thousands of years before Columbus. He’s written many books on Atlantis, not as a phenomenon but as the real deal. In short, Frank Joseph is a crank. — Yet, this is only the beginning.
In 1970, Frank Collin, Chicago, founded The National Socialist Party of America. They soon got infamous locally for their marches directed toward black people. In 1977, they got attention from all across the country when they announced a march through the mainly jewish suburb of Skokie. They are the real ”Illinois Nazis” as featured in The Blues Brothers. The Skokie march turned into a complex legal process with no clear winner. The march never took place.
By now, however, Frank Collin had run into much bigger personal problems. First, it was revealed that he, of all people, was Jewish. And then he got arrested for molesting young boys. The now very much former president of the NSPA got in prison. When released three years later, he changed his name to Frank Joseph.
He turned to writing, in particular about the esoteric, mystic and new age. The secrets of the pyramids, the mayas, rune magic, the holy grail... And, in particular, Atlantis. A couple of years ago he turned to World War II. In 2010 he published Mussolini’s War; according to reviews, it appears to be as imaginative as Axis Air Forces.
How come this stinker was published by a real, respectable company as Praeger? Even if they did zero research on the author (as they possibly did zero editing of his text), one of his ”merits” listed in the book is being a feature writer of the revisionist The Barnes Review — ”Politically incorrect, but historically accurate!” — founded by Willis Carto of IHR infamy. If the contributions of Joseph/Collin there are half as bad as Axis Air Forces, the better.
Rated: 0 of 5.
(Reviewed by Peter O)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
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