By Charlie Trumpess, 05-Jun-2013 19:05:00
Since the end of the Second World War the conflict has been a rich and continuous source of inspiration for the entertainment industry. Today computer games are just the latest in a long line of entertainment media who’ve made a good living from the facts and fiction of World War Two. Just a few years ago computer games were restricted to expensive consoles that plugged into your TV or ran on your PC if properly equipped with a games card. Nowadays high and low quality games are freely available to download onto any mobile device from an Apple iPhone to an Android tablet and everything in between. Like countless millions I’m not immune to the allure of storming the Normandy beaches and flying a Spitfire while sitting on my sofa or relaxing in the garden. So, seeing as tomorrow is June 6th and the anniversary of D-Day I thought I’d mention some of the WWII games I’m currently playing.
Frontline Commando: D-Day by Glu Mobile is a high quality, console-style game available on Android Play. As the name suggests, the game is set during Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The game is a shoot ‘em up, whereby you have to complete increasingly tricky missions using various bits of military hardware from the trusty M1 Garand rifle to heavy calibre anti-aircraft guns. The game is free to play, but you can choose to pay real money for some extra items. What is really impressive is the quality of the graphics and general attention to detail. The game is also pretty easy and intuitive to handle, which is another bonus. You don’t need a degree in computer science to get the most out of it.
Having assaulted Hitler’s Fortress Europa, stormed the D-Day beaches and successfully liberated Normandy, I usually unwind by taking to the air, and play the part of an air gunner in Medal of Gunner by PICTOSOFT Inc. This is another free Android game, where your mission is to protect your B-17 Flying Fortress from constant attack by enemy fighters. The game has nice graphics and authentic shooting action when you’re behind the twin M2 Browning heavy machine guns giving the Hun hell. You can move around the fuselage, and pick your place to fight from Tail Gunner to Ball Turret Gunner plus you’re awarded medals for your success in defending your bomber. The game can be downloaded from Google Play, so check it out.
Finally, for all those Apple iPhone and iPad users out there, I’ve recently taken to playing Battle Tank Tiger II by By GIGANT Co. Ltd. The game is available free of charge from the App Store. It’s basically a horizontal-scrolling game where you drive your German Tiger II across the battlefield destroying enemy armour, troops, buildings and anything else that gets in your way. The game looks great with simple, bold, effective block colour graphics, and is very easy to play. I particularly like the ability to call in an airstrike, and use the machine gun button to deal with enemy infantry. Nice and simple, Tiger tank heaven.
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By Charlie Trumpess, 28-May-2013 20:16:00
The Soviet built T-34 medium tank was one of World War Two’s truly decisive weapons. The T-34 entered service in 1940 and continued in production until 1958 having been through a number of redesigns and improvements. Over 84,000 T-34s were eventually built, and the tank has seen service in 39 countries outside of the Soviet Union. The original model had a 76mm high-velocity main gun, sloping armour, wide tracks for good weight displacement when operating on mud and snowy ground.
However, the original crew compartments were poorly designed compared with the German Army’s panzers, and the tank lacked technical sophistication and adequate radio communications. The T-34 was also to suffer because of the Red Army’s inability to deploy this war-winning weapon with any real skill in the early days of the conflict. After the Russian winter halted the German advanced at the gates of Moscow in 1941, the Red Army’s commanders gradually started to appreciate how to use their armour to best effect.
You will find a new video on The War Years YouTube channel, where you can see the famous T-34 in action and learn a little more about it. The T-34 chassis was also used by the Soviets as a platform for their tank destroyers and self-propelled guns. Toward the end of the war the T-34-85 was introduced. This new version of an already highly successful design offered Soviet crews a better main armament, improved armour, enhanced suspension, three-man turret design and new radio-communications plus better fire suppression should the tank be hit.
The T-34-85 was still at a disadvantage when faced by a German Panther tank, and completely outgunned by the ferocious Tiger I main battle tank. But the Russians were producing T-34s at an astonishing rate compared with the trickle of German tanks coming off their production lines. The T-34 is a testament to rugged tank design and engineering, and the triumph of mass production, albeit motivated by a mixture of genuine Communist zeal, fear of Nazi terror and Stalinist oppression.
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By Charlie Trumpess, 11-Mar-2013 12:58:00
US ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in 1933 is a job that no one wants. The unlucky candidate appointed by President Roosevelt is a mild-mannered history professor, William E. Dodd. Equipped with little more than his fond memories of a Germany long since gone, Dodd and his family find themselves in the centre of Nazi power and intrigue as Hitler works to consolidate his new regime. Written by acclaimed author Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts, Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, tells the tale of how the Dodd family, and especially William and his wayward daughter Martha adjust to the ever changing sands of the new Nazi state.
William Dodd is hoping for a quiet posting, and an opportunity to work on his book about the American Civil War. Martha is escaping a failed marriage, and seeks adventure. What they find is a country in a profound state of transformation, and upheaval. A regime that is ready to use racial discrimination, protective custody, violence and murder to get its own way, and silence all opposition. Even before the Dodd family arrive, members of the embassy staff are warning the US State Department that the Nazi leadership is insane. However, it seems that the “crazy” label attributed to the Nazis at this early stage only works to their advantage. The Roosevelt administration has plenty of troubles at home without worrying about lunatics abroad. The Nazis are dismissed as an aberration. Surely they cannot last?
The family settle into a house in central Berlin close to a large park known as the Tiergarten - quite literally the Garden of Beasts. Soon they are socialising with an array of diabolical characters, and some surprisingly sympathetic ones. I particularly warmed to Erik Larson’s pen portrait of Rudolf Diels, the young, handsome head of the secret state police or Gestapo. A man forced to slip in and out of the country to evade the deathly power struggles and bitter rivalries between Nazi ministries, and potentates such as Hermann Goring and Heinrich Himmler. Although a sinister character in many respects, Diels is also a man of integrity and even compassion.
One of the most striking aspects of the book is the strong vein of anti-Semitism that runs through many of the US State Department and embassy communiqués. What we would call institutional racism today. In stark contrast to the anti-Jewish cabal inside the State Department, William Dodd shows himself to be a man of quiet conviction, courage and honour. He is also a man clearly out of his depth. A man willing to confront Nazi abuses while determined to keep a tight rein on his household’s budget, and balance the embassy’s books.
What I really liked about the book is how Erik Larson keeps the story anchored to the family. It’s through their different experiences that we gradually feel the growing tensions and electricity of the coming storm. Somewhat slutty and frivolous, Martha initially applauds the Nazi project, and is happy to climb into bed with it. Later, she comes to appreciate the true nature of the beast in the garden. As Hitler moves inexorably towards his Night of the Long Knives, Ambassador Dodd becomes more critical, more vocal and more prophetic about Nazi intensions. A thorn in the flesh of the Nazi regime, and his own government, William E. Dodd would resign from his post in 1937 and die in 1940.
Erik Larson’s book does a wonderful job of presenting the swirling, intoxicating, frightening, seismic world that was the first year of the Nazi state. He also does a terrific job of bringing historic figures, great and small, vividly back to life. But for me the book enthrals because the Dodd family is so very “American” in their outlook and approach to living in an alien, increasingly hostile environment, ruled by monsters.
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