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Boatner III, Mark M. The Biographical Dictionary of World War II. Novato: Presidio Press, 1996.
Acknowledgments; Introduction; Glossary; Bibliography.
While many of the existing "dictionaries", "encyclopedias", "who's who", "almanacs", and "chronologies" of the Second World War already provide biographical sketches of the main participants, none can match the range and depth of coverage in this new book by Mark Boatner.
More than 1000 key personalties are presented in alphabetical sequence, with material ranging from 250 words to several pages. Using a careful selection process (which involved, among other things, tallying index entries in hundreds of important WWII books), Boatner goes well beyond the usual "Alexander to Zhukov" level of familiar figures to include lesser known WWII personalities from Abd-el-Krim, Abdul Illah ibn Ali, and Hiroaki Abe to Ahmed Bey Zogu, Hans Zorn, and Solly Zuckerman. In addition to military leaders (including, for example, most Soviet front commanders and German army commanders), the Dictionary contains political leaders, scientists, diplomats, writers, resistance leaders, engineers and inventors, royalty, spies, religious leaders, and more.
Each entry is succint, enlightening, and thoroughly cross-referenced to other biographical entries as well as the useful glossary.
It's always possible to quibble with the selections in a volume such as this ("Where is Rashid Ali? Why such lengthy entries on people like Hitler, Churchill, and Stalin who are already thoroughly dissected in dozens of full-length biographies?"), and a little more care with a spell-checker would have paid off, but Boatner's work asserts itself as absolutely the best of the genre. Highly recommended for anyone's WWII collection, and a resounding choice for our reference shelf.
Available through mail order booksellers and local bookshops, or directly from Presidio Press for $50.00.
Thanks to Presidio Press for providing this review copy.
Reviewed 28 October 1996
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