This week we’re looking at a story that I could very easily have seen my own grandparents living elements of in their actual lives during WWII – it truly feels that real and that authentic. This week, we’re looking at Until We Meet by Camille Di Maio.
All Too Real. Di Maio has made a name for herself taking various historical events and wrapping a fictional story around them that stays true to the real world yet tells her own story – and this book is exactly that. Here, she tackles life in New York and specifically around the Brooklyn Navy Yard as it builds the last of the great battleships – the Missouri – and the newest generation of naval ships – the aircraft carrier. At the same time and across the Atlantic, she also tackles life as a new kind of infantry soldier – the Airborne – as they train in England after the US enters the war, attack Normandy on D-Day, survive Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge and finally the end of the war. In both places, Di Maio does a stunning job of being true and accurate (mostly) to the era, and it is very easy for many Americans to see their own parents / grandparents / (and now great grandparents) largely living exactly these types of situations. Di Maio doesn’t hold back from the various tragedies of the era, but she also doesn’t hold back in showing people who were even then “outside the norm” though revealing exactly which norms of the era were broken would delve into spoiler territory – read the book for yourself to see them. 🙂 And yet, through all of this, this is still ultimately a women’s fiction tale that could alternatively be classified (technically) as a historical romance, and indeed it really works in either genre. Very much recommended.
Remarkable Biography Of One Of The Most Influential Men Of The 20th Century. In this, the first biography of John Moses Browning ever written by anyone other than a descendant (and only the second ever written, period), Gorenstein does a truly remarkable job of showing the life, times, and inventions of a man who could arguably be said to be more actually influential on the 20th century than even Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. Yes, Edison revolutionized how we are able to see and gave us the truly 24/7 world, and Ford revolutionized both transportation and manufacturing more generally, but Browning revolutionized how we *kill things* – animal or human – and that alone has driven many of the most important issues of the 20th century. It was Browning’s early rifles that may not have won the West – but certainly made it even easier to live there. It was Browning’s (then-Colt) 1911 that is *to this day* one of the most popular types of pistol in the world, over a century after Browning won the competition for the US Army’s new service pistol (a contract it would keep for over 70 years and through both World Wars, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War). Indeed, that very model – the Colt 1911 – played a legendary part of the lore of one Lieutenant George S Patton and the first motorized military raid in the 1916-17 Punitive Expedition. In WWII, many infantry units – very likely including both of my grandfathers’ own units – carried up to four different Browning guns into battle, between his 1911, his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and his “Ma Deuce” Browing M2 .50 caliber machine gun.
And Gorenstein does a phenomenal job of showing the development and importance of each, including Browning designing the gas-piston system of modern automatic and semi-automatic rifles *in a single day*. Gorenstein shows how Browning, of truly humble beginnings, designed his first gun from scraps laying around his dad’s engineering and repair shop – just to hunt small game to help feed the family. Gorenstein shows how these humble beginnings played such a role in Browning not even really beginning to invent until at or beyond the age when others in more academic professions say genius decays – and how this “lost decade” played such a role in Browning’s later drive and inventiveness.
It doesn’t matter what you think of how Browning’s designs and their derivatives over the last 100+ years have been used. You know about Edison, or can. You know about Ford, or can. You deserve to educate yourself about this genius as well, if only to learn the lessons of his genius. And this book is the very first time you really can. Very much recommended.
And here are (most of) the guns in question, just to show how truly prolific this amazing man was.
This review of The Guns Of John Moses Browning by Nathan Gorenstein was originally written on March 27, 2021.