Cover image for Days of infamy : military blunders of the 20th century
Days of infamy : military blunders of the 20th century
Coffey, Michael, 1954-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 288 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D431 .C57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
D431 .C57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D431 .C57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D431 .C57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A fascinating look behind more than fifty of the most historic military blunders of our century. Lively and engaging, in-depth and informative, this companion to an upcoming series on the History Channel goes beyond mere footage to delve into the facts of some well-remembered but little understood incidents and accidents of modern military history.

Author Notes

Mike Wallace, May 9, 1918 - Mike Wallace was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 9, 1918. He attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1939 with a Bachelor of Arts. After graduating college, Wallace became a newscaster announcer and continuity writer for the local radio station, Wood Wash, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from 1939 to 1940. In 1940, he joined WXYZ Radio in Detroit Michigan for a year as a newscaster, narrator and announcer on such shows as The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet.

He then became a freelance radio worker in Chicago, Illinois, as an announcer for the soap opera Road of Life, from 1941 to 1942, as well as Ma Perkins, and The Guiding Light. He acted in The Crime Files of Flamon, was a news radio announcer for the Chicago Sun's Air Edition from 1941 to 1943. In 1943, Wallace joined the U.S. Navy for three years until 1946. From 1946 till 48 he announced radio programs such as Curtain Time, Fact or Fiction, and Sky King. He was the host of Mike and Buff with his wife, in New York City, from 1950 to 1953, and the host of various television and radio shows as well as narrator of various documentaries from 1951 to 1959

Wallace starred in the Broadway comedy Reclining Figure, in 1954. He joined the organized news department for DuMont's WABD-TV in 1955, became an anchor in newscasts and a host for various interview shows from 1956 to 1963. Wallace has been a CBS News staff correspondent since 1963 and the co-editor and co-host of 60 Minutes since 1968.

He is a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, of which he was the executive vice-president from 1960 to 1961. He has received 18 Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards in both 1963 and 1971, the DuPont Columbia Journalism Award in 1971 and 1983.

Wallace has written books about his experiences in interviewing some of the most famous people in the world as well as his own life experiences, such as, "Mike Wallace Asks: Highlights from 46 Controversial Interviews, "A Mike Wallace Interview with William O. Douglas, "Close Encounters," with Gary Paul Gates, "60 Minutes Into the 21st Century!" and "5 Badfellas: In a Lifetime of Interviewing, It's Not the Heads of State You Remember But the Guys Named 'Lunchy.'"

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A collection of snafus that range from the trivial to the strategic, Coffey's work fleshes out scripts for a History Channel series debuting this month. The incidents covered by the series roam among the century's well-known military-related screwups, from a driver's poor knowledge of Sarajevo's streets in 1914, giving us World War I, to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Thus constrained by the choices of the TV producers, which were presumably made pursuant to available film footage, Coffey relates incidents that have no thematic direction and no overarching interpretation. A cherry-picking impression results, which at least underscores the unexpected ways things go technically wrong on the battlefield, either from the design of a weapon (British battle cruisers at Jutland), friendly fire (Coffey chooses a U.S. bombing of U.S. troops in Normandy), or complacency (the sinking of the USS Indianapolis). Tossing in tactical mistakes like the German Blitz against British cities, Coffey retells stories that entertain the military history audience but which are superficial as history. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

From the chauffeur's wrong turn that helped start WWI to the (unexploded) nuclear bomb that the United States Air Force once dropped over Spain, this engaging set of brief cautionary essaysÄa companion volume to a History Channel seriesÄpresents some important and some amusing errors of wartime (and Cold War-time) judgment and execution. Coffey (The Irish in America), managing editor of PW, covers about two score blunders, in chronological order. The earliest concerns that swerving chauffeur (who accidentally brought Archduke Ferdinand face-to-face with his assassin); the latest is Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. About half the others concern WWII. Lost Luftwaffe pilots in 1940, though instructed to hit only military targets, panicked and let bombs go over London: thus did the blitz unintentionally begin. Later, in the Pacific theater, British "naval commanders blundered by underestimating air power's threat to major warships," and hence lost the Malaya peninsula, Singapore and two important battleships. Coffey's set of snafus and misjudgments extends, quite deliberately, from the nearly comic to the truly awful: some killed a few people and embarrassed top brass, while others (such as the Japanese loss at Midway) arguably changed the course of world events. A few of the errors (e.g., the Battle of Stalingrad) are staples of most textbooks. Others are less familiar, and less horrific than ironic: when the Allies decided to bomb the 1500-year-old Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, they created precisely the shelter for German troops they intended to destroy. (The devout local German commander would not install his troops in an intact monastery, but had no qualms about occupying its ruins.) Like the best general history volumes, Coffey's book, in clean, muscular prose, expertly informs as it artfully entertains. (Aug.) FYI: The History Channel's Great Military Blunders of the Twentieth Century begins its 26-week run in August. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As the literary companion to the History Channel documentary series, this book is a superficial, erroneous, and somewhat revisionist view of a haphazard collection of nearly 50 historical events in the 20th century. Although the selections are characterized as military blunders, many are purely political miscalculations, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (1914), the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the Yalta Conference (1945), and the abortive Gorbachev coup (1989). Several other events mentioned in the book, while military in nature, had no military significance and therefore cannot be considered "great." The two world wars receive the most coverage, with short chapters on the battles of Gallipoli, Jutland, Stalingrad, and Midway, while the entire Korean War gets just four pages, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam is virtually dismissed with one page. Most glaring, however, is the absence of truly significant military blunders that are not mentioned at all, such as the disastrous Battle of the Somme, the fall of Singapore, and the chaotic Suez Operation in 1956. The book offers no conclusions and no narrative to compare or analyze the nature and dynamics of military (or political) blunders in an overall historical perspective. With little depth and no new scholarship, this is not an essential purchase.ÄCol. William D. Bushnell, USMC (ret.), Brunswick, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.