“Timeline World War 2″ Image courtesy NY Times

The New York Times has reviewed three new apps that explore the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. The apps essentially are interactive digital textbooks with many short chapters covering various topical issues related to each war and are a great way to get an overview of conflicts in which your ancestors and relatives served.

For the Civil War:

Released to commemorate the sesquicentennial of America’s bloodiest conflict, THE CIVIL WAR TODAY app for iPad ($2.99) continues its mission of presenting daily “real time” updates from the war — exactly 150 years to the day after those events occurred. Produced by the History Channel, the app’s first calendar entry appeared on April 12, 2011, to report the shots fired on Fort Sumter — and the start of the war more than a century and a half ago on April 12, 1861.

 

For World War I:

While there are not yet a lot of educational apps on the Great War, WORLD WAR I FOR IPAD ($3.99, or $2.99 for the iPhone edition (http://alphahistory.com/apps.html) is available. The app, from the Australian company Alpha History, is an interactive electronic textbook that explores the war across 36 short chapters. The text for each chapter is enhanced by maps, illustrations and vintage photographs. As for multimedia, an audio recitation of each chapter’s text is also included, although the narration has the flat, robotic intonation of computer text-to-speech software (albeit with a vaguely Aussie accent). YouTube clips of silent film from the war years, as well as historical re-enactments of events like Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, embellish the text.

 

For World War II:

Navigation is much smoother and more intuitive in TIMELINE WORLD WAR 2 ($9.99 http://www.timelineww2.com/). This immersive app for the iPad presents a linear chronicle of the Second World War from Sept. 1, 1939, to Sept. 2, 1945, and manages to pack in 2,000 events between Germany’s invasion of Poland and the formal Japanese surrender aboard the battleship Missouri.

Significant developments, short biographies of major figures, headlines and photographs are arranged in a horizontally scrolling timeline; just tap an item for closer inspection. Details for notable events, like the Warsaw Uprising or the invasion of Okinawa, pop open in a vertical scroll for further reading. A 1940s-style typewriter font is used for the text, which complements the app’s overall design but cannot be easily enlarged. Many events include additional photographs and a link that marks the spot on a dynamic world map to show how widespread the conflict was — and how borders kept changing. In addition to the text and photos, “Timeline World War 2” includes an eight-part video documentary about the Pacific theater and more than 100 film clips from British Pathé and American wartime newsreels. The clips include the original midcentury audio tracks, but a quick screen-tap switches to newly recorded commentary (by the journalist Robert MacNeil), designed to put the events depicted in modern context.