Historical books with bad gaffes in them?

Currently reading Giles Milton’s “How the Allies Won on D-Day” and came upon this part:

"Lieutenant Colonel Washburn did not mince words when detailing the dangers. The pilots would face German flak, anti-aircraft fire and possibly dense sea fog.‘Watch your airspeed,’ he told them, a warning that carried a nasty sting in its tail. The planes were to be so heavily laden that their engines would fatally stall if they fell below 100 mph. Once stalled, they could not be restarted.

Later in the chapter during the paratroopers drop, this bit:

“Seconds later, he flicked on the green jump light. They were travelling at 118 mph - terrifyingly close to the speed at which the engines would fatally stall…”

Hmmm. Just a bit mind boggling that the author seems absolutely clueless about how airplanes work when it comes to stalls.

IIRC, Shakespeare left his Starbucks cup on the balcony of Romeo and Juliet. :wink:

I don’t get it. Would the airplanes NOT stall at 100 mph? Could they still be restarted even if they stalled?

Not sure what the aerodynamic stalling speed of a C-47 is but he’s saying the engines would stall and couldn’t be restarted. The engines wouldn’t quit from going into a aerodynamic stall.

An airplane “stall” has nothing to do with the engines. A stall is when the airflow over the wings is disrupted or insufficient, and the wings no longer generate enough lift to stay aloft. So an airplane does stall under a certain speed, it’s just incorrect to say the engines stall.

Still, seems to be a minor technical error unless the book was specifically about aviation history.

In any event, the error (if any) was Washburn’s, not Milton’s.

In Ian Kershaw’s biography of Adolf Hitler, he translates the code name of the German operation to seize the Citadel in Budapest, Panzerfaust, as “Bazooka.”

First of all, the Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon was not exactly a bazooka. Second, the correct translation of Panzerfaust is “armored fist.”

This may not be a bad gaffe, but it is surprising to me, since Kershaw obviously knows German quite well.

And to forestall any argument that *Panzerfaust *means “tank fist,” it does not; that’s also a bad translation. The primary meaning of Panzer is “armor,” and it also applies to a turtle’s shell. *Panzer *in the sense of “tank” is a shortening of Panzerkampfwagen, “armored combat vehicle.”

The training manual for the Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon was illustrated with a drawing of an armored fist smashing a tank.

Maybe, but I don’t think so. The only direct quote we have from Washburn is “Watch your airspeed,” which is good advice. Everything that comes after that appears to be Milton’s erroneous explanation of why Washburn would say that.

Yes, one I read recently by someone who purports to be an actual historian, not a novelist or something; If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley. A book that has a lot of interesting stuff about domestic life in the past, but, amongst other irritations, she states that the Battle of Agincourt was won by Britain, and that the Battle of Culloden was won by England.

Well… aircraft *turbine *engines can stall (compressor stall), but I’m pretty sure the author was talking about an airplane stall, as aircraft piston engines will happily run sitting still on the ground, and during D-Day it was all piston engines.

That’s what I find so strange is the author doesn’t seem to think about the fact that to get airborne requires some time below 100 mph as of course does the landing. I don’t know how he could have missed that? Makes me wonder what other mistakes he might have made. My first time reading his work and I checked out reviews on this and other books by him and for the most part they seem pretty favorable so I decided I’m not going to let it bother me too much. Not like I haven’t seen mistakes in books before or had them pointed out by others but this one seemed pretty ridiculous.

He also thought Ancient Romans had mechanical clocks.

I can’t remember the title but it was a BBC radio series about history (I had it on CD). And in an episode about the American Civil War, they mentioned how Grant had defeated Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Hate it how the earliest Moby Dick edition erroneously started off with:

Call me Billy Mays.

Re the latter battle – was she perhaps mixing it up with the slightly similar-sounding Flodden, something over two centuries earlier; when England and Scotland were still two separate nations (and England did win):stuck_out_tongue: ?

I’m not too well-up on the ACW: admit that I needed Google to tell me what’s wrong with the above – i.e. though Lee was involved, Grant wasn’t.

“Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base” is a fairly recent history book all about the legit history of Area 51, from nuclear test site to it’s usage as the testing area for the legendary A-12 Oxcart and later the SR-71 Blackbirds.

However what really sours the book is the authors assertion about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast caused widespread panic in the United States, which even 20 years ago we knew was greatly exaggerated. The author takes the entire United States supposedly going into a panic as evidence that the Roswell UFO crash was really just a Soviet airplane crash that was covered up to prevent widespread War of the Worlds style panic which is the only thing in the book which veers into random conspiracy land.

There is also a possible error in the line,

“The pilots would face German flak, anti-aircraft fire and possibly dense sea fog.”

This reads like a list of three threats but flak is anti-aircraft fire. unless he is defining flak but then the punctuation in the sentence sucks.

one of the historical novels that my wife, Pepper Mill, read talked about “Cornwall, up near the border with Scotland.” This has become a running joke with us. She can’t recall which book, though, or which author.

Or if he meant that “flak” means anti-aircraft fire and also possibly could mean dense sea fog.

Not to be too much of an ass here, but you do realize that the book in question is, to quote from the Amazon description:

I’d bet it wasn’t the author’s mistake, but the original pilot or paratrooper who said that, and he just took it as-is and repeated it. You get a lot of that when you have books written in the “Band of Brothers” style blend of eyewitness accounts and authorial narration.

I guess the way I look at it, is that particular style of history book has by default, a somewhat unreliable narrator, due to the source material. It has a fundamentanlly different goal and style than say… Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” or "