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Lucas, James (Sidney) 1923-2002

LUCAS, James (Sidney) 1923-2002

PERSONAL:

Born 1923; died of prostate cancer June 19, 2002; married 1946; wife's name Edeltraude; children: Barbara. Hobbies and other interests: Gourmet cooking.

CAREER:

Author and historian. Imperial War Museum, London, England, deputy head of department of photographs. Military service: Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, First Battalion, North Africa, infantryman, 1942; Queens' Own Royal West Surrey Regiment, Italy, 1943-44; Occupation Army, Austria, 1945; Foreign Office, Germany.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Radetzky Orden der Verdienstklasse Ehrenkreuz (Austria), 1996, in recognition of his work on behalf of Austrian war veterans.

WRITINGS:

Austro-Hungarian Infantry, Almark Publishing (London, England), 1973.

Hitler's Elite: Leibstandarte SS, 1933-45, MacDonald and Jane's (London, England), 1975.

(With Matthew Cooper) Panzer: The Armoured Force of the Third Reich, MacDonald and Jane's (London, England), 1976.

Panzer Army Africa, MacDonald and Jane's (London, England), 1977.

(With Matthew Cooper) Panzer Grenadiers, Presidio Press (San Rafael, CA), 1977.

(With James Barker) Battle of Normandy, The Falaise Gap, Holmes and Meier Publishing (New York, NY), 1978.

Germany's Elite Panzer Force: Grossdeutschland, MacDonald and Jane's (London, England), 1978.

Killing Ground: The Battle of the Falaise Gap, August 1944, Batsford (London, England), 1978.

Alpine Elite: German Mountain Troops of World War II, Jane's (London, England), 1980.

War on the Eastern Front, 1941-1945: The German Soldier in Russia, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1980.

War in the Desert: The Eighth Army at El Alamein, Beaufort Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Kommando: German Special Forces of World War Two, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Last Days of the Third Reich: The Collapse of Nazi Germany, May 1945, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.

World War Two through German Eyes, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1987.

(Editor) Command: From Alexander the Great to Zhukov, The Greatest Commanders of World History, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1988.

Storming Eagles: German Airborne Forces in World War Two, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1988.

The British Soldier, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1989.

Third Reich, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1990.

Reich: The Military Role of 2nd SS Division, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1991.

Hitler's Mountain Troops, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1992.

Battle Group!: German Kampfgruppen Action of World War II, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1993.

Last Year of the German Army, May 1944-May 1945, Arms and Armour (London, England), 1994.

Hitler's Enforcers: Leaders of the Germany War Machine, 1939-45, Cassell (London, England), 1996.

SS-Kampfgruppe Peiper: An Episode in the War in Russia, February 1943, Shelf Books (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England), 1997.

Germany Handbook, Sutton (Gloucestershire, England), 1998.

Rommel's Year of Victory: The Wartime Illustrations of the Afrika Korps by Kurt Caesar, Greenhill Books (London, England), 1998.

Das Reich: The Military Role of the Second S.S. Division, Cassell (London, England), 1999.

Death in Normandy: The Last Battles of Michael Witt-mann, Shelf Books (Halifax, England), 1999.

Hitler's Commanders: German Bravery in the Field, 1939-1945, Cassell (London, England), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS:

Most of James Lucas's professional life was associated with war. First he served in the Queen's Own Royal Army as a British soldier in World War II, stationed in Africa, Italy, and later in Austria. In 1960 he joined the staff of the Imperial War Museum in London, eventually becoming the deputy head of the department of photographs. After retiring from this position, Lucas took up a third career, that of an author and historian. His favorite topic was World War II, a subject about which he became a respected authority—not only among scholars, but, through his work as an adviser on film and television productions about the war, among the general public as well. According to a London Times obituary, Lucas examined "almost every aspect of the Nazi war machine …combining technical information with first-hand testimony and so producing a body of work unequalled in its breadth. Having fought the Third Reich's best troops through North Africa and Italy, he knew their tenacity and resourcefulness."

Lucas's writing style was not considered typical of war histories. "Humour and enthusiasm, combined with rigorous attention to detail, were the hallmarks of his style," reported the Times obituary writer. Lucas was a prolific writer upon his topic of choice; and he covered many different aspects of the war, often concentrating on the German side of the conflicts. His Battle Group! German Kampfgruppen Action of World War Two describes the actions of various specially trained German groups—kampfgruppen—such as the infantry divisions or the so-called assault engineers. These groups, according to Leo J. Daugherty III in the Marine Corps Gazette, "saved or exploited situations during the advance on Moscow." Daugherty found that Lucas's account provides readers "with a gripping narrative that details the actions by individual German platoons and companies forced to hold out against overwhelming odds" in this particular front of the war.

One battle in which the German Army did not fare well is recounted in Lucas's The Battle of Normandy: The Falaise Gap. Although the details of this significant battle have been covered in many other publications, a reviewer for Choice found that Lucas's account has great value because it takes a unique point of view by drawing "heavily upon German primary sources (many unpublished)." This particular battle was very costly to Germany, which lost twice as many soldiers there than on the Russian front. Lucas's book explains why the Germans suffered so many losses. Had their strategies called for a temporary retreat, they might have "halted the advances of the U.S. 3rd Army toward the Seine," according to the Choice reviewer.

Lucas provides a more personal perspective in his War on the Eastern Front, 1941-1945: The German Soldier in Russia. In this book he conveys the war through the eyes of the German soldiers who had to endure, not only the fighting, but also the bitter cold of the Russian steppes, "an alternately frozen or burning plain stretching into Siberia," wrote Stanley L. Itkin in Library Journal. Lucas, in his research for this book, discovered that many German soldiers were more fearful in Russia than in other locations; not only was the landscape harsh, but the Russian soldier was a stubborn fighter and the Russian army was fierce. This personalized account, wrote Itkin, has no other book to compare with it.

War in the Desert: The Eight Army at El Alamein presents the story of a crucial World War II battle in North Africa. Here the territory also played a major role, with heat and sand plaguing the armies. Lucas again relies on oral accounts to tell the story. As Shelford Bidwell in the Times Literary Supplement related: "Lucas has good chapters on life in the desert, the work of the infantryman, the trooper in a tank, the sapper and the gunner. The one on the infantry is, not surprisingly, the best, as Lucas himself fought as a private in a rifle platoon."

Lucas once commented that, just because he went to war against the Germans, was no reason for him not to make friends with them. He was once taken prisoner during the war but talked his way out using his very basic (at that time) command of the German language. He convinced his captors, according to his obituary, that they were mistaken about the lines of battle and were in fact, themselves in enemy territory. The German soldiers eventually not only let Lucas and his fellow soldiers go, they turned their weapons over to Lucas and surrendered. Lucas eventually married an Austrian woman whose father was a captain in the German army.

Lucas finished his last book just prior to his death. Hitler's Commanders: German Bravery in the Field, 1939-1945 examines the German masterminds of the war, people like Eduard Dietl, Werner Kempf, Kurt Meyer, and Theodor Scherer. As his Times obituarist declared, Lucas "saw himself as an archivist, searching for the ordinary men in the heat of battle, playing their part in the bigger picture." Lucas died on June 19, 2002, at the age of seventy-eight.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 1980, review of Waronthe Eastern Front, 1941-1945: The German Soldier in Russia, p. 441; September 15, 1983, review of War in the Desert: The Eighth Army at El Alamein, p. 131; April 1, 1988, Roland Green, review of World War Two through German Eyes, p. 1308.

Choice, May, 1979, review of The Battle of Normandy: The Falaise Gap, p. 438; January, 1984, review of War in the Desert, p. 746.

Economist, November 20, 1982, review of Warinthe Desert, p. 102.

History: Review of New Books, August, 1979, Robert W. Love, review of The Battle of Normandy, p. 200; spring, 1997, Bruce F. Pauley, review of Hitler's Enforcers: Leaders of the German War Machine, 1933-1945, pp. 121-122.

Kliatt, spring, 1987, review of Kommando: German Special Forces of World War Two, p. 47.

Library Journal, March 1, 1979, Kenneth R. Jones, review of The Battle of Normandy, p. 627; October 15, 1980, Stanley L. Itkin, review of Waronthe Eastern Front 1941-1945: The German Soldier in Russia, p. 2204; April 1, 1992, Dennis L. Noble, review of The Military Role of the Second S.S. Division, p. 133; June 1, 1999, Michael Rogers, review of Kommando, p. 188.

Marine Corps Gazetter, September, 1999, Leo J. Daugherty III, review of Battle Group! German Kamfgruppen Action of World War Two, pp. 106-107.

Military Review, June, 1994, review of Hitler's Mountain Troops, p. 86.

Parameters, autumn, 1994, review of Hitler's Mountain Troops, p. 141; autumn, 1995, Colin F. Baxter, "Did Nazis Fight Better than Democrats? Historical Writing on the Combat Performance of the Allied Soldier in Normandy," pp. 113-114.

Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1985, review of Kommando, p. 42; March 2, 1992, review of Das Reich: The Military Role of the Second S.S. Division,, p. 57.

Queen's Quarterly, autumn, 1987, review of Last Days of the Reich, pp. 704-706.

School Library Journal, October, 1986, Mary Wadsworth Sucher, review of Kommando, p. 195.

Times Literary Supplement, December 31, 1982, Shelford Bidwell, "Back into Battle," review of War in the Desert, p. 1450.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1981, review of War on the Eastern Front, 1941-1945: The German Soldier in Russia, p. 86.

Washington Post Book World, August 27, 2000, review of The Last Days of the Reich: The Collapse of Nazi Germany, May 1945, p. 11.

OBITUARIES:

PERIODICALS

Times (London, England), August 15, 2002.*

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