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Local Author on WWII

History buff Jack Radey never intended to write a book about WWII, but that’s exactly what he ended up doing. On Jan. 27, Radey and coauthor Charles Sharp will present their book The Defense of Moscow 1941 at Tsunami Books, where they will discuss their new historical discoveries regarding a pivotal battle between the Germans and the Soviets. 

Radey, who has lived in Eugene for 14 years, says he grew up with a deep fascination for all things WWII. “We didn’t have a television growing up,” Radey says. “My mother didn’t believe in them, to her credit. So I read books, and at that time the libraries were chock full of WWII memoirs. I read every book I could lay my hands on.”

After attending college in California and getting arrested for his involvement in the Free Speech Movement, Radey worked as a machinist but found the work unsatisfying. He then decided to create a WWII strategy game, which plunged him into the community of WWII gamers and enthusiasts. 

What started out as research for a new strategy game soon became the makings of a professional journal article. Little did Radey know, the article would turn into a published book when the finished product came to 180 pages.

Detailing the mid-October battle in and around Kalinin, Russia, between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Army, The Defense of Moscow 1941 reveals newly exposed strategies and motivations from both sides of the war, thanks to the discovery of Soviet archival documents recently posted online by Russian archivists. These documents allowed Radey and Sharp to accurately portray the actions of both Nazi Germany and the Red Army, clarifying many points that had previously been patchy or nonexistent.

“The Red Army fought back,” Radey says. “It’s something that has not been acknowledged by previous authors. We wanted to find out what the hell happened, and few histories bother to look at both sides of the battlefront. They take one side’s view of what happened and that’s their starting place, but I don’t understand how you can hope to get accurate reports from that approach.”

The book centers on the few weeks in October when Nazi Germany had a fighting chance to win the war on the Eastern front. According to German records, mud and adverse weather conditions stopped the Germans from advancing, but the newly revealed Russian documents show that the Germans underplayed the damage inflicted by the Soviet Army.

With the attention to detail that only a WWII aficionado can give, Radey sketches out every event of the battle with meticulous fervor. History addicts will luxuriate in the heady specificity, while the average reader may balk at the overwhelming barrage of unfamiliar proper names and landmarks. Maps sprinkled throughout the pages are a welcome addition to the blur of Russian and German terms, and a collection of glossy, black-and-white photos from the era in question nicely put faces to the people mentioned in the book.

Those interested can visit Tsunami Books on Sunday, Jan. 27, where Radey and coauthor Sharp plan to talk about their research and historical discoveries, starting at 4 pm. There will be a book signing and a discussion of the battle, including controversies surrounding this time period.

The Defense of Moscow 1941 is available now from Pen & Sword Books Ltd.