Skip to main content

tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  December 4, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm EST

6:00 pm
the major developers that brought the war to an end. max hastings talks with u.s. editor of the daily telegraph. .. >> guest: the sunday times of london grew chilling, but quite magnificent. back to the first question, i know there's a different title, but in britain, all hell broke lose, and then inferno, why the difference? >> guest: you have to let the audience decide what they want.
6:01 pm
i chose the title. "all hell broke lose" in britain because it seems about every account you read about people's experience in battles and so forth, they all say, "and then all hell broke lose." because it's a cliche, generations shrug at it, but i think the words capture what being in the second world war meant to hundreds of millions of people because the world that they'd grown up with was completely destroyed around them. they found unimaginable things happening to them. the reason why they got the phrase on this side of the pond, inferno, was because many of them saw sights that recalled pictures of the infer know that human beings torn through fragments of flesch and bone and
6:02 pm
rebel and communities and dispersed humans. these are all things. we take so much for granted in our ordinary lives we take it for granted that we're protected from violence, we drive on the right side road, and we're going to be all right. of course, these were the assumptions of what utterly destroyed for so many people around the globe. that's a long window of explanation why i chose the title, but that's how it came about. >> host: right. you mentioned the book it was hard to do because there's so many books on the second world war, and, indeed, almost impossible to include books that you, yourself, own, so i guess the obvious question is did the world need another book? why this volume now? >> guest: two reasons. first of all, i wanted to sort of complete my personal cycle about the second world war. i look at it from many aspects, and nine books, and i had
6:03 pm
written about the command of the pacific war and the european war and so on and so forth, but i want to do two things. first of all, there were things i wanted to say about the war that i thought was worth saying which i'll come to in a moment. secondly, i wanted to try to answer the question that a great many younger people who generations fortunate enough not to experience the war asked grandpa, what was the war like? the answer, of course, was it was vastly different if you were an american para trooper, a polish jew, or a councilwoman, and they try to explain what it was about for all the people. in my text, for example, no pictures at all with the war lords and generals. we have been there. i wrote a hole book about churchhill and so forth.
6:04 pm
this is the war from the bottom up, and they say there's so many things people don't grasp about the global nature of this. for example, i was staggered by the statistics and the different countries. statistics don't have all the answers, but four months ago, head of the british army said what can you tell us what we don't know already? i said, all right, let's try a few numbers. what proportion of germans would you guess were killed on the eastern front, the russian front? he said, well, maybe 60%. i said the true figure is over 90% of all the german soldiers. the russian front was the defining area, the defining front in the war against naziism, but in the same way casualties that i also said to my british general friend, i said, well, what percentage of
6:05 pm
allies would you guess were british or american. he said, 20% each. i said the true figure is 2% each. the russians took 65%. the chinese took 23%. people don't even know china was in the war. 15 million chinese dead. a million yugaslovs, and it goes on and on. the statistics are not all of it, but it's amazing that you had, for example, if you were a german, a russian soldier, you had a one in four chance of being killed. british, one in twenty, and an american had a one in 32 chance of being killed. something else that's important to quantify this in saying that it's almost insulting to say to people who experienced the war how it was, so it's the privilege of historians, us lucky people in the television
6:06 pm
studio to say here's the truth, but if you were a gi or a british soldier with your mates being blown to bits around you, to have a bastard say, well, actually, it's worse on the russian front, that's insulting. if you're an american or british housewife struggling to cope with rations to say in lenongrad they are eating each other and in east bangor, fathers are selling their daughters? so we always have to maintain a sense of humility and never forget 6 # 6 years -- 66 years on, we can say these things, but we must never lose that sense, forget statistics for a moment, anybody who went through the war went through a manner of things whether you were american or british or chinese or german or whatever.
6:07 pm
you went through a matter of things that thank god we have been spared. >> host: one of the fantastic things about the book is that antedotes and how you weave it into a coherent global narrative over six years. i mean, you've done it much more so in this book than previous books. is that something you always wanted to do or developed a sense of over the years? >> guest: i try to put this book above all things -- an opportunity to say in other books that, for example, food. interesting subject. in this book, i have not wrote -- in an earlier one i wrote about it, but i have not gone there again, but food for most people in the war, or the lack of it, was absolutely the defining reality. in many societies which were
6:08 pm
starving that it was absolutely terrifying what people went through. 800,000 people dieded, nearly twice as many than americans or britishs that died in the seize of lenongrad, and 20,000 people were dying of starvation every day, every day. these are ordinary, decent, educated people, and they suddenly find there is nothing to eat. chinese peasants 1942 are eating dried lees that, i mean, you -- dried leaves, that, i mean, there's housewives complaining because they had to eat dried eggs. there's a story which this british boy called derek lambert, and you had rations, but in addition, everybody tried to supplement rations with
6:09 pm
vegetables and fruit, and you tried to make it and derek lambert told a story at breakfast that his father looked at a pot on the table, and he spread some of it on his bread and tried it and turned to his wife saying, what was that? he said carrot jelly. his father picked up the pulp and poured it on to the compost pile. of course, that, if you were a prisoner of the japanese or any prisoner, these are delicacies, but everything is relative. food, the arguments about food and who did what with food. you know, you got more than a million vietnamese dying of starvation because the japanese
6:10 pm
administering vietnam in those days hurt them ruthlessly for the interest of the japanese people, and they said afterwards their experience of 1943 and 1944 famines in vietnam are worse than the wars with the french and the united states later. it was worse with the b-52 bombings and over a million people, million and a half die of starvation in vietnam. food, food, food, they become obsessions, and generally, our parents and grandparents in the united states and britain were lucky because although the food was dreary and there was not enough made and housewives complained about how they couldn't buy steak, think about what was going on elsewhere. there was no significant hunger though in germany in may of 1954, post-hitler.
6:11 pm
systematically starved the rest of europe to feed his own people. the only time the germans got hungry was when the war ended and without hitler to watch after them, they were hungry. >> host: one of the most horrific antedotes is the siege of lono thrks grad and sawing off the leg of her husband to feed the family. it's horror. >> guest: we are now just getting to grips with this. they are not state secrets, but a lot of wonderful material in russia, and i have terrific russian researcher who comes up with wonderful stuff. you are suddenly getting accounts surfacing by russians and what happened to them because after the war, stalin wanted the world to believe that the people had survived their siege through heroism, and, of
6:12 pm
course, it was not really. i mean, there was some, there was a lot of sparism, but, in fact, they had no choice because anybody who tried to run away or surrender was shot. stalin ran lenongrad, and his officer was the one in the siege who deployed troops behind the front line to shoot down anybody who ran away so that the men in the front line knew, but if they hung in there against the germans, they might get killed, but if they tried to turn around, they would get killed. >> host: the russians killed their own. >> guest: 300,000, that's how many of their own people they killed for desertion. that's incredible. it's what the europeans lost to enemy action in the war. all of this stuff is coming out of russia now because all the
6:13 pm
old russian myths are falling to pieces, and we're being told the truth to which degree compulsion decided this. for example, i quoted in the book these extraordinary nkvd, the secret police reports, from the battle of kursk of officers being shot for drunkenness in the front line or being, you know, being found when they were supposed to be leading their battalions into attacked, tucked up with their comfort women, campaign wives. these are extraordinary stories which because of all of those decades of the soviet era, when this was hidden, and we were supposed to believe the russians were just braver than we were, but, it's amazing reading it. i suppose what i complain to my wife and say, well, it's hard work writing books, and she said, oh, but you love it. of course, i do. you've done it. you just wrote a terrific book,
6:14 pm
and it is so thrilling sitting in these archives in the far corners of the world or reading the translated stuff that people produce, and even now, almost 70 years after the war, we're getting stories that for a very long time, people were unwilling to tell just how ghastly it was. >> host: uh-huh. you were gorn in 1942, but after the end of the second world war. your father was a war correspondent, so the way you've lived the post world war ii period, you have been researching and writing about the war for the past 30 years. you have an incredible perspective, and how that's changed from comics and toys as a child to now? >> guest: enormously. i grew up as an awful lot of people in the united states and britain grew up. my father endured the war, found it exciting, loved adventures,
6:15 pm
and he had a lot of adventures. when i was a kid in the 1950s, i used to read books about the second second world war, and i grew up thinking it was glorious rub, and my father brought me up to believe i really ought to be sorry, you should be able to be a par shooter and ride the crystal rum, but unfortunately, the germans are not available temporarily anyway, so when i grew up with this ridiculous boy's own vision of the war, and it's only gradually that once grown up and over the enduing 40-50 years, one learned to understand the reality, and i'll tell you one moment when it really got to me. that was when i was writing one of my first books about the second world war, about the command, in the late 70 #s, when
6:16 pm
there was a lot of old air crews still around, and one evening, i was zitting in a little -- sitting in a little suburban home, talking with his navigator, who then, was only in his 50s, who being in the crew of a pilot who was awarded the victoria cross for staying with the aircraft when it was badly damaged so the others could jump, and this navigator, sitting in his home saying to me, you know, i'll always remember the night before that last trip. we were all in the pub in lincoln, and he said, we were teasing, jimmy, the pilot, because he was 19 years old, and he had never kissed a girl in his life. i thought what good does is do a young man to get a victoria cross if he's dead at the age of 19, never having kissed a girl in his life. that's a first moment you feel a sense of the overwhelming tragedy that, yes, for some
6:17 pm
fortunate young men, men who flew mustangs or spit jr. fire -- spit fires or others who found it exciting, but for most people, it was a terrible experience. at the least, you were separated from your loved ones for years, three years on the other side of the world worrying like hell whether your wife at home was being faithful to you and worrying if you'll see your kids again and all the rest of it, and it's taken my 30 or 40 years to understand that. it's been a long journey from the kid's comic view to growing up a bit. >> host: yeah. so much military history concentrates on the battlefield. >> guest: i went through, and i finished the script, and i went through it, and i cut out every single reference to divisional numbers or army numbers that i could possibly
6:18 pm
identify without making the story incoherent, and although, i tell the story of the war, that people nowadays, they don't care whether the division went right or left, but they are interested in what it meant to human beings, and that's what i tried to do. i made the maps simple so we don't fill in the numbers of armies and so on, and this is just -- it's trying to tell what it was like. what it was like for the little people. they knew so little, for instance, and that only the great generals and the war lords really knew much about anything beyond much of what they were seeing, and most people, even britain and the united states, lived in a fog of propaganda and uncertainty, and if you're on the front line, let's say, you could get something about who was winning and how things were going whether your side was
6:19 pm
moving forward or back ward and the level of casualties, but even that was not a reliable indicator. i looked at the memoir of an american private soldier named eric, and he described how his unit was cut off from the main american army in the lady campaign in the philippines for 17 days, but he didn't really understand the predicament of his unit until the commander explained it to him after the war was over. roy jenkins, an old friend of mine, a british politician, who worked deciphering german codes, a terrific job, and now in the sensational movies about ultra, all of these people who were doing the decrypting, they understand what they are doing, but i remember roy saying to me, he said, yes, we knew what we were doing was important and
6:20 pm
urgent, but nobody told us anything how it impacted the battle or ships sank or it didn't. that's just the movies afterwards who present it that way, so this terrible uncertainty, who can you trust? who is telling the truth? so much propaganda and so much bull frankly and that was worse if you lived in japan or in germany, but it was bad even in the united states of britain that you only have the luxury of telling the truth when the war is over. >> host: yeah, yeah. there's been a sense in britain and the united states that this is the good war, morally, and you, yourself, in the end say, well, the bottom line is the alternative -- >> guest: the key point, what i tried to explain is it's been very important to all of us, our parents, grandparents, and our own generation, the vision of the war is a good war, but first of all, one thing i emphasize
6:21 pm
that i think is important is that we're sometimes reluctant to recognize how enormous amount of compromises we made. the united states and britain, by allowing themselves with the soviet union in order to defeat hitler, letting stalin's tyranny do most of the dirty work of beating the nazis, this was a huge moral compromise, and it seems to me other than the single enormous of the holocaust, stalin is immoral from hitler. they are both horrible, horrible people, and it's a bloody tyranny that did terrible things. the result of it was the end of the war in 1945, stalin demanded his price for having played the share of defeating naziism, and
6:22 pm
the price was the empire in the east, 90 million deeply unhappy people and found they ended the war, and we were celebrating and everybody was dancing in times square and so on and so forth, and these poor, poor people in poland for whom the british and french went to war, and they have just exchanged the nazi tyranny for the soviet tyranny, and what i said at the end of the book is that we just have to recognize that victory did not produce universal justice, fairness, freedom, decency. it produced some of those things, portions of those things. for the oppressed and occupied peoples of the world, we can't say that victory bought a new and glorious era, and what it
6:23 pm
did do and if the other side won, it would have been far, far worse for the rest of the world. there's never the complete satisfaction saying we were the guys in white coats and allenedded gloriously -- all ended gloriously, but we should be read up enough now 70 years later to recognize that. i in no sense debunc my admiration for the past generations who went through the war and what they did. it's unbounded. we have to look at it in a bit more different way than we used to. >> host: you don't shrink from the uncomfortable truths in there. there's the incidence of the u.s. marines taking japanese heads, sticking them on poles, and upsetting men by machine
6:24 pm
gunning survivors. >> guest: just to see the perspective. what i mentioned is some of the people who did these things, if they were on the other side, they would have been on the docket at nuremberg, and it was partial justice because more or less to be on the winning side whether russian or british or american meant that nobody ended up in the dark, and, you know, american gi's nobody mentioned them. >> host: you mentioned the case of austria. >> guest: we treated them after the war as if it was a victim power occupied by the result, and the result was the austrians nazis who did dispicketble things got off scott free. we have to recognize after all 6 these years limitations.
6:25 pm
we have to -- things just are not quite as convenient or quite as black and white as we want them to be, but they never are in history. history's not there's there's a wonderful phrase, one of the great diaries of the war written by a german woman whose name nobody still knows about the april and may 1945 period, and she wrote this is the stuff of history. i realize we're living through history. the story of tales untold and songs unsung, but she said history close up is an uncomfortable burdensome business. she said tomorrow i have to go out and try to find nettles to eat and find some coal to avoid freezing to death. you know, that's -- >> host: that's how it was. all history is personal. >> guest: it's what it means to you.
6:26 pm
it's -- talking about what's happening to other people on the other side of the world, but all you know is if you're, let's say, a housewife in ohio whose husband is in the pacific for two years, and you don't know if you're going to see him again, you don't want to hear about the terrible times in china. you just know this is hellish for you. all one tries to do is try to explain what all these different views to try to explain how different it was for all of these people, and there are, and everybody should write an awe to biography, but for the chirp and the grandchildren, especially the supplies to those who went through this period, the second world war. it's not surprising. sometimes some say, oh, we're all too obsessed with the second world war, but that was the greatest event in human history,
6:27 pm
and it was -- it was a terrible event in human history, and it's scarcely surprising that we want to see what can we learn from it and understand from it. i don't think it's anything in the least sinister about the way in which we all continued to read about and micah is right about the second world war. we're just trying to learn more about it. the only thing that's sinister is there's an indecent obsession of minority cult of the nazis. you do sometimes get feelings about the way people obsess with the nazis and secondly, there's those who glamourize it. there are writers who glamourize it. i suppose the only bad review i had about my book is i made is sound too gloomy. the reviewer said, he said, my dad was a submarine commander,
6:28 pm
and he loved it. of course, in my father's case, a war correspondent, you had a lovely time. >> host: you mentioned your father and having, myself, reported from afghanistan, written a book about that and been in iraq extensively, maybe it's an in the moment thing, but soldiers, this is what i'm trained to do, i love it. it's like all our life it's there and their professional lives are there for this moment. you highlight that as a lieutenant who writes back, can't believe he's on the ship and the admiral's paying attention to what he's saying, and it's a great thing. >> guest: again, if you were an adventurer, and every nation had their share, some were officers and others ended up in the first airborne and others on the bridge of royal navy ships.
6:29 pm
if you were an adventurer, it was great. a lot of young men like adventures, but, for instance, another story i quoted, we've always, in britain, made a big thing about soes, special operation executives, special agents working behind enemy lines preventing guerrilla war, equivalent of the american oss. there's a good quote from an soe officer in albania called peter kemp, and he wrote about how after he and his mates had had a wonderful morning staging an attack on a german convoy down the road, and they tried to get shelter in the village, and their interpreter said in the end after he begged and pleaded with the local villagers that they slammed the door in their face, told them to go away, and he realized we were young men, british, had no stake there, and it was a great run, but for these people, they knew what we
6:30 pm
had done, that the german or italian punishment for punitive columns were going to be long, within days or probably hours, and they were going to burn the village. they were going to -- it was quite likely that they would kill the adults. they might well kill the children. they would destroy their crops. they would -- so those local people, they had a stake in what was happening, and in the adventures of the soe people that peter kemp wrote, he said we british have this rather selfish idea that other nations that refuse to help with our wars just don't understand properly, and they don't, but if you're an al albaniaen peasant, you see no stake in anything other than protecting your family, livelihood, and the hut you live in. all these huge issues that british, and the american are busy fighting for the cause of freedom, well, the same way for an indian peasant.
6:31 pm
i mean, an awful lot of people in india, yes, the india army was loyal to britain to a remarkable degree, but i indians could not see the point of the allies defeating the axis of the war. if they, the indians, were going to remain the empire, were going to be denied freedom and independence, and i quoted in the book, the first and greatest prime minister of independent india in 1947, and he wrote from the prison cell where the british put him. he said after pearl harbor, he said if i'm asked where are my sympathies with the war, i'm hesitating to be with america, britain, russia, or china, and then asked if i fight for their cause, why fight for freedom
6:32 pm
which is denied to me as an indian because here i am sitting in a british prison cell. it's extraordinary. the britains are narrow minded about this, and roosevelt passionately pleaded with churchill to promise india independence immediately, and churchill had nothing to do with it. there were huge practical problems if india got independence in the middle of the war, god knows what miche happened, but churchill was my optic and expected the indians just to be loyal, loyal subs, and most wanted the british to go. they didn't want the japanese there or us there either, and we were pretty stupid in reluctance to see that. >> host: although you don't focus on the war clearly as strong presence in the book, and
6:33 pm
indeed in your other books, and i talked about you not shrinking from truths. with churchill, you admire him, and you say it's hard to see how britain could have continued after june 1940 # if not for churchill, and you talked about the bangor famine, which i guess many young people would not know happened in the second world war. >> guest: that's probably the single greatest blot that this is 1943 and 1944 that, as you say, many people have not heard about it. at least 1 million and some other say as many as 3 million people died while they were dying in hundreds on the streets of calcutta while in the british clubs, white siebs could still get eggs and bacon. this is not a pretty story. now, what happened is bangor got
6:34 pm
rice from burma, and the chinese occupied burma, and then there was a cyclone, to which east bangor is prone, and suddenly a famine. they appeal to the british government in london to divert shipping to send relief supplies to east bangor, and churchill did not do it. he pleads they have the war, need every ship we've got for the landings in italy for other operations we're carrying out. we can't afford to send ships to relieve starvation in india. it was a shocking story. churchill did behave brutally, and the british general who was in charge of india wrote later when the starvation in holland
6:35 pm
and hundreds of british bombers were diverted to drop food supplies to home land, and he wrote bitterly different priorities prevailed in the british government when it's europeans threatened with starving to death because some dutch people did starve to death, and so it was a very ugly story, and it was -- this is what i mean, about moral compromises and so on that it would be quite untruthful to say it would have been easy to relieve father and famine in bangor. it would have been difficult in the middle of a world war, but the fact churchill refused to try shipping allocations to india and the rest of it were actually cut because of the demands of operations in other places. i mean, it was not as bad, and there was famine other places which was also british
6:36 pm
possession, and several father and -- famines in east africa, they didn't quite starve to death, but these are ugly stories in which 20-30 years ago, nobody wanted to go there. of course, the big picture of the war is the big battles and d-day and all the great battles and so on and so forth. these are the big events. we have to be aware of all the other things going on in which more people were dying, that one absolutely fundamental fact, simple fact, but still fundmental. you had a far better chance of coming out of the war in one piece if you were wearing uniform. if you were a serviceman than a civilian. most of the casualties in the war were civilians, innocent people, so-called, victims who never carried a firearm, never shot anybody or anything else
6:37 pm
who simply starved or died of disease whether it was in china, east bangor, russia. i mean, it was, you know, you had a k457bs of being a he -- you had a chance of being a hero if you wore a gi uniform, russian uniform, or british uniform, but a lot of the housewives and children, i mean, russian soldiers, and i quote a lot of them in the book, what really grounds you down is when you saw tiny children who could do nothing. you could play no part but suffering this terrible fate. the old, god, it was tough being old in the war because in russia, for example, stalin took the brutal view. they can't work, they can't do anything, so they got minimal rations, so 23 you were young or old, you were likely or not to starve to death. if you were a fit young man, you might make it, but if you were 80-something years old, your chances of making it through the
6:38 pm
war were pretty slim. >> host: fascinated in the book about your discussion of the different armies. you know, i mean, in terms of efficiency, the fair act, i mean, it seems was fearless. the red army, incredibly brutal. what question is -- is it easy to produce a better army if you're a toal tearian re-- toll regime in >> guest: the thing to do was put your hands up and go into a prison war camp. the notion that's so against our culture of moderation and respect for human life to go for futile sacrifices, but the germans didn't shoot their own people as the russians did, but they shot plenty, especially in the last year of the war. if you tried to run away and were caught, you got shot, but
6:39 pm
i'm very interested in one of my themes that i think is very interesting or fascinatings me and e hope it fascinates the readers is there was a contradiction that on the one hand the german army fought battles brilliantly well, german soldiers to the end killed more russians or british-americans than we took casualties themselves, but this was completely said of nothing. it was completely by the fantastic stupidity with which the germans, other jap news ran the war. in the americans and the british ran their war machines better than the germans. for example, we mobilized civilians better. that they never ran the
6:40 pm
rationing system or, for example, the intelligence operations that we did, so we mobilized the forces brilliantly. i must say i think the united states navy was america's outstanding force, and i think the royal navy was britain's outstanding force. the more i learn about the united states navy, and, god, they were good. u.s. air was also pretty good, but the u.s. navy, with those who -- many had never seen the sea, they did political lantly, in the -- brilliantly, in the pacific especially, that was remarkable. if you have a division here, they will fight a battle
6:41 pm
brilliantly, but there's hitler working that the nazis were so incompetent. you find these gangsters, no more, no less. people are like side kicks. these are just gangsters given enormous authority, given fantastic control latitude, which, of course, they were very unfit to exercise. all they knew how to do was to kill people, and thank god we had democracies coming to the floor in the way that we mobilized our countries to organize the war so there was a fantastic job, american industry, and the american economy providing the means for all the allied nations, including the russians. the russians marched to berlin on boots to america. why? because most of the cattle have been killed in all this terrible fighting, so american boots, and
6:42 pm
the radios, most were made in the united states. they ate american canned meat. it was what kept them going, so the american and british achievement was absolutely fantastic, and when one looks at how incredible incompetent -- first of all, the how the japanese thought they could make a successful war against the united states with ten times their economic power, god only knows, but then to launch a war knowing japan was completely dependent on imports, everything, most of the raw materials, everything was imported, and they did nothing. they created wonderful aircraft carriers, and battleships, and god knows what, but they did nothing to create a commendable force that their sub submarine
6:43 pm
techniques were miles behind their allies. they had no radar, maritime air patrols, and when american submarines really got to work, that -- they almost had a free run, that in the later part of the war, american submarines operated in the surface in daylight because they signaled out, and more thans give enormous praise about the band of brothers and and that's all just they deserve all this attention and so on and so forth, but actually there was one group of people that did more than anything else for the united states. the united states navy submarine service, there were 16,000 men just a tiny force that manned the subs. what they did is they made thee
6:44 pm
decisive contribution for the defeat of japan. what they did was fantastic, heavy losses, loss a lot of people, but, god, they were good, and what they did was terrific. >> host: you talk about when americans didn't want to go to war. roosevelt was ahead of his people and we discussed the casualties of the american forces, and, of course, the american mainland was not attacked, and there was not suffering you had in other parts of the world, and i was struck by a quotation, and you said with no sense of victimhood, and i was struck by the quotation about americans i think the last time having a belief in their own virtue and confidence in their dominance, but how did that set the experience and inform the united states and
6:45 pm
conflicts after wards and vietnam, and maybe now because that quotation to me rings somewhat true today. >> guest: every other country that survived the war had a strong sense of victimhood. boy, they sufferedded, and they knew it. the british knew it. they were impoverished and being bombed and rocketed and god knows what. there was the united states, which emerged from the war victorious, richer than ever in history. it's economy having expanded dramatically in the course of the war, and americans came out of the war feeling they had not only been virtuous, which, indeed, they had, but they had not only been right, but they had also hugely increased the power in the world, and they felt good about themselves, and
6:46 pm
there was just this tear risk contrast between the british who wanted to feel good about themselves, and they felt the british generation, gosh, we did well, but they find they are broke, no money, and they are dependent on american loans to pay the bills, and there they are living through the collapse and so on, but the united states, it did enter a golden era. no doubt that the post-war era, 245 the returning heros, one of the few cases in history where americans returning heros came back to a land of milk and honey, and america prospered mightily after, that it was sort of, it was bound to be that way, but it meant the shock later, when america found they could not always get their way in the world, as you mentioned in vietnam was correspondingly great that america had
6:47 pm
everything go its way. sure, there was the soviet union out there, there was the cold war, but i came to the country in 1967, and i came from a prosperous middle class background, but one was awed by the wealth and power of the united states and the confidence of the united states, and that was still before the sense of the defeat of vietnam came through, and it was before, really, i arrived about the time of the whole movement was going and things started going sour, but i just caught this last look at what had felt like to be americans of that wartime generation, which was terrific. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: they -- >> host: a combination almost of innocence and confidence and american can-do, and that
6:48 pm
explains a lot about the post-war period as you say. >> guest: well, it was extraordinary. one never ceases to be -- i suppose, if you believe, as i certainly do there is such a thing as the american genius, that americans felt, i think, more conscious of it in the post-war era than they've ever been able to sense because obviously in a way they had a reality check because for most of us, most of the time, things not going our way because we don't expect them to, but for that post-war period after world war two, americans expected things to go their way, and they did. >> host: you talked about adventures, and it's fair to say you're an adventurer yourself, you've been in 11 war zones, most famously, the forklands. you won't, you know, i don't need to retell the story of fort
6:49 pm
stanley, but how's your own experience of war close up and living with truth? i mean, in a way, -- how's that formed your view of history? >> guest: the first thing one has to say is that everything that i've experienced, myself also as a correspondent, is nothing compared to what people of the second world war went through. i remember after the war, there was a battle everybody's forgotten about, certainly outside britain, called goose green, and there were 17 killed. i heard a british prime minister, serving in the first world war, and i remember listening to him some talking about goose green at the lunch i was at, and very old man says, this is my war. there was a battalion that lost 17, and wonted recognize they had been in a battle. this, of course, is true. we have to keep a sense of
6:50 pm
perspective what we've seen in our generation is small potatoes, but i learned a lot in personal experience about the ways of soldiers. for example, soldiers talk about women, but actually my experience on the battlefield, when you live -- actually what you really care about is you would give absolutely anything for a bath and a hot meal and to be able to sleep in a bed, preferably alone. don't believe all the stuff it's the thing with soldiers, you have to talk about women, but how much there's other priorities. i quoted that. an american marine in the pacific who said the real thing he was waiting to get back home, apart from wanting to sleep in pa jam mas, but he was going to keep flushing the toilet for hours just to hear the water run. >> host: didn't have to dig a hole anymore. >> guest: what you learn from battlefields, you learn, first of all, you learn how terrifying it is to be under fire and how
6:51 pm
difficult it is to make your limbs move from one place to another when you're really scared, so you learn plenty about that. you just learn about what it's like to spend, i've spent nothing like the periods of people of the second world war went through, utterly exhausted, dirty, cold, and wanting a drink, so you learn about that and learn how they talk and think and learn about weapons, and you've seen aircraft shot down, and that helps, but the main thing you learn is just to be grateful one survived and unbelievably be grateful to those of what they have did and those of our parents generation. >> host: you were a newspaper editor for ten years and you
6:52 pm
were terrific with 6,000 words on a good day. now you churn out, i hope you don't mind that term, columns for newspapers, and you also do this. i mean, how do you manage it? >> guest: i love to write. it's what i do. there was a colleague of mine years ago when we were both young men, i said, i don't know why we do this business. we were going to be bankers and make pots of money and so on. my friend said to me then, he said it's the only thing we know how to do. >> host: yeah. >> guest: i can only say the thrill -- my father, when i was a teenager, i used to talk to me about the challenge of a blank sheet of paper, and i didn't understand what he meant as a bold teenager, but i do now. every day when i sit down to a blank screen, and you feel that excitement, and i love to write. i feel so fortunate and privileged that people are willing to read some of the things one writes.
6:53 pm
>> host: yeah. another quotation from neil collins, a friend of yours, he said you were complaining about something in the old telegraph building. he said, well, it beats working for a living. is that the sense? >> guest: so many people are unlucky enough they have to do jobs to pay the rent and don't enjoy it. we are terribly privileged people. we do something we enjoy doing. it's certainly a part of it, i can say nothing has given me greater pleasure, and i felt a great sense of privilege traveling around the world including up and down, god knows how many, about 35 american states sitting listening to old men talk about the extraordinary things that happened to them as -- ing young men, and i never cease to be absolutely fascinated to listening to the tales and having a chance to translate the stories of men, women, and
6:54 pm
children from so many nations and all the rest of it. it's -- as neil said, he said it beats working. it's fascinating. if you, as we all are, one's fascinated by human beings and how they behave and especially how they behave, what you find in wars, but especially in world world war i, world war ii, some people scaled heights of courage in their ability, and others plum death death depths of evil in a way that commands the ore of humanity, and definitely myself. >> host: uh-huh. tell me -- i mean, tell me about your day. i think we are always fascinated bout how writers get through the day, and you're doing -- >> guest: i usually start -- take my dog for a walk in the summer at six o'clock in the morning, and whenever it's light
6:55 pm
in the winter, and then i sit down at the screen, and you just start writing, and i think one -- people have different techniques. for example, roy jenkins, a close friend of mine, he writes 500 words a day, and then he was reluctant to change them. i work differently. i write an awful lot of words and change them and change them so that i might write in the space of morning 6,000 words for a book like that, but very few of the 6,000 words emerge in the final draft of what i do, but one is constantly refashioning. it's a refashioning. the miracle of working with a computer and i wrote my early books ntle pre-computer age, is it's easy to slop things in and out, and all the time you're -- but the other skill, i think the other thing is indispensable,
6:56 pm
and i'm writing a book in 1914 and the beginnings of and before the first world war and the campaigns. i have research of this men working for -- of this many working for me in belgrade, and i had one working in austria and germany, and, you know, i have french stuff myself, so you end up at the moment, i've got about 500 pages of typewritten notes, and i'll spend the next two years refashioning that stuff, the 500 pages into a cohearnt narrative, but you get a thrill. i mean, i just found e-mails this morning, that my russian researchers sent me wonderful stuff from a russian memoir, unpublished russian meme roy jenkins of what happened to him
6:57 pm
in -- memoir of what happened to him in 1914. there's a thrill. i know i find this fascinating to read, and you know somebody else will find a fascinating and exciting to read, but i suppose the hardest part is getting started. writing the first 50,000 words of a book, especially a book like that, is tough because even if you write -- i wrote about 23 books now all total, and when you get started, you never really quite believe how often you've done it that you're going to get to the end, and after you've done the first -- my wife says i'm terrible to live with through the first 50,000 words, and then after that, you think, well, maybe this is going to work. >> host: you talk about the 1914 book, is that the next book? >> guest: that's the next. >> host: have you finished with the second world war or have more to say? >> guest: i think the important thing is i've never wrote a book just for the
6:58 pm
money. i write them because i feel i have something to say. at the moment, i feel that book constitutes the last big thing i want to say, and it's a turn of another generation for the story. it's time for them to pick up and take over. you never know. one may find something. who is to say in a few years you will come across something. sometimes just something pops out of the wood work that will excite you and provoke you, and you'll feel there's a story here i might want to say, but for the moment, i'm loving 1914 and thrilled that the receptionist has been so terrific, and i feel from now on, i say it's your turn, up to you to get the next one. >> host: this is a very exciting, very provoking book. i mean, it's an incredible achievement, and i thank you for
6:59 pm
writing it. i thank you for being here today to talk about it. >> guest: thank you for having me today. >> a discussion now with arizona republican governor, jan brewer discussioning her tenure in office and discusses her thoughts on illegal immigration. >> i'm john hiebush, and for those i have not met, there's a couple people here, i'm the executive director of the ronald reagan presidential foundation, and it's my pleasure to welcome all of you here this evening, and in honor of our men and


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on