Saturday, January 15, 2011

WWI authority to speak at the Book Fair

Graydon Tunstall, author of Blood in the Snow
Graydon Tunstall tells a great war story.

The University of South Florida professor is an authority on modern wars, particularly World War I. He will be the featured speaker at the 30th Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in March.

The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair runs March 11-13 at The Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg.

Tunstall wrote the definitive book on a war the leaders of Austria-Hungary, Poland and Russia wanted everyone to forget because it was such an utter disaster.

Volumes have been written about the war on the Western Front, much of it fought in France. It was a conflict that introduced trench warfare, barbed wire and poison gas, and left nine million people dead. It resulted in a great body of literature and non-fiction works, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, C.S. Forester’s The African Queen, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and, of course, many more.

Lesser known until Tunstall’s book was the war on the Eastern Front, a conflict that was less about the clash of troops than it was about each army’s struggle with the terrain, the weather and the lack of supplies.

Tunstall’s book Blood on the Snow is subtitled The Carpathian Winter War 1915. It is a chapter in European warfare history that the leaders of Austria-Hungary, Poland and Russia wanted people to forget about, fraught as it was with such ill-considered policy, strategy and execution.

In the winter of 1915, huge Russian and Austrian-Hungarian armies engaged in fierce campaigns that resulted in their near-annihilation. The mission: to rescue 130,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers who were trapped by the Russians in Fortress Przemysl, which sits about 160 miles east of Kraków near the Polish border with the Ukraine.

Tunstall’s research showed that troops on both sides were ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-informed for their missions. Furthermore, official policy hid the results of the war from the citizens of all countries involved. It was a chapter in each of their histories that leaders simply wanted to go away. A million soldiers on each side died in the conflict. Many were the victims of the fierce winter and the lack of proper equipment and supplies.

One of the results of Tunstall’s research is that descendants of soldiers who fought and died in these campaigns have now learned the truth about what happened. Only the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these soldiers remain, and family stories lacked any satisfactory details of the soldiers' fortunes. Tunstall encountered family members in Vienna who sought him out to learn more about their ancestors.

In the end, troop casualties from the rescue mission far outnumbered those requiring rescue. The trapped forces ultimately surrendered to the Russians and were shipped off to Siberia. And, until Tunstall’s book, there was little understanding of how important that conflict was to be to the futures of Russia, Germany, Austria and Hungary.

Since his book came out last May, Tunstall has been in demand as a speaker, appearing at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School an Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine, and regionally at the Western Front Association’s Florida Gulf Coast Chapter in Gainesville.

He speaks of the great toll of frivolous warfare. Indeed, Graydon Tunstall tells a great Great War story.

1 comment:

  1. should be: "...descendents of soldiers who fought and died...."