Review of Professor Peter Stansky's Book
The First Day of the Blitz:
September 7, 1940
Professor Michael Silvestri
March 7, 2018
On September 7, 1940 Adolf Hitler ordered the German Luftwaffe to rain bombs down on the city of London in the hopes that he could forcefully compel Great Britain to surrender or want to negotiate peace. Within a mere twelve hours, the Luftwaffe had killed over 400 people and more than a thousand fires had begun spread, and it was this aerial assault that marked the beginning of an eight-month campaign that would be known worldwide as "the Blitz." Since the time of the Blitz, which ended almost eight decades ago, hundreds of books, journals, articles, and even films have been written with each describing the destruction, methods of survival, and general experience of what it would be like to have lived in Great Britain at that time. With so many other materials already published, from both primary and secondary accounts, one may be left to wonder who would see a need to go back and write another book nearly 65 years later and why. Frances and Charles Field Professor of History at Stanford, Peter Stansky, saw the answer to that question on September 11, 2001. According to him, that first day of the Blitz in London of 1940 had many similarities to the public as the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City that happened on 9/11. It was that event the put Professor Stansky on his mission to write The First Day of the Blitz: September 7, 1940, and probably what made the professor of history write his book to a presumably American audience rather than English.
With his book, Professor Stansky wanted to get three major points across to his audience. "I wanted to examine," he writes, "to what extent the observation by Ritchie Calder was fitting, that September 7 could be compared to Bastille Day as an impetus for changing society." He also wanted to determine whether or not the Air Chief Marshal of British Fighter Command, Hugh Dowding, "was correct in his assertion that 7 September was "the crucial day" in turning the advantage in the war away from the Nazis."1 Finally the professor of history wanted to test the legitimacy of the "myth of the Blitz," and determine if it was based more in fiction or more in fact.
To accomplish this task, Professor Stansky searched through the unpublished collections of the Imperial War Museum in the United Kingdom to read and use an assortment of resources, both primary and secondary, such as unpublished recollections and memoirs from that day. Through these sources, among very few other published works, not only was Professor Stansky able to provide to his audience with a well worded introduction of the historic event, but the professor of history was also capable of expressing the experiences of the Britons during the Blitz. His research depicts the terror and turmoil that the civilians of London were going through at the time, as well as the...