We’re pleased to announce that Behind the Lines: A Critical Survey of Special Operations in World War II is now available from Casemate!
In this book, Michael Dilley discusses the operations of special purpose and special mission organizations during World War II, cover theaters including Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and the United States.
To learn more about Michael Dilley and his research into special operations in World War II below:
Have you always been interested in history?
History was my major in college. I was influenced by teachers who pushed me to ask “Why?” What fascinates me most about history is the viewpoint of participants in the action. Whenever possible I write from that perspective. My wife helped me to see my work from that angle and she was correct. I have always believed that history is not just dates and events – it is people – what they think and feel, and why and how they react to circumstances.
Why did you decide to write this book?
When I began reading books on special purpose, special mission units I made a list of operations I would like to write about. After my first two books were published I took out the list. I had already written about some of them. I began to collect data on the operations on that list that I had neglected and to write articles about them. They were pretty well received, which made me think about putting them together along with some others that I had already written. In 1997, I prepared an outline for this book, adding and deleting articles as time went on. I shopped the proposal around, all the while looking critically at the content. One of the early rejection letters influenced me to change the focus of the book and I reworked it. Other writers who looked at the material liked it and encouraged me to continue to work on it.
How much research did you do for this book?
A great deal of research was necessary. I used to have a large personal library (almost 2,000) books dealing with special purpose, special mission units and this formed the basis for my research. I also conducted interviews of participants in some of the operations, either in person or by mail, and, later, had them review drafts of my articles for accuracy. Then I assembled all I could find on the subject, became familiar with it, began extracting information, and built an outline of how I wanted to present it. Sometimes this outline was mental, not written down. I continually looked for more information on my subject. I became friends with librarians in my area and all over the country, including on many military posts. I borrowed books and other material from them that I did not own. Librarians and archivists love to help with research and will be very helpful if you have an idea of what you want or just think you do. Keep track of their names and tell them how much you appreciate their efforts – you may use them again on another project. Thank them in print when you get published. Also, interview participants if you can find them – you may be surprised what you will find out from them.
I like the criteria I have assembled to evaluate the operations or units. I have not come across such a system as I propose before, except, as I explain in the Introduction to the book, in one book that established some criteria for successful operations and one other that had some criteria for unsuccessful operations. To these I added criteria of my own to come up with the overall system I propose in my book. I also like several of the units I have written about because I have met, in person or by mail, many of the soldiers and sailors in those units. Of course, I also like the operations. You should read it because it is like nothing else available and you will learn things about military history in World War II you did not know, I guarantee it. It may even give you a different perspective on the people who took part, some of whom you may know.
You can learn more about Michael Dilley on his website.