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Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers who Turned the Tide in the Second World War [Hardcover]

Paul Kennedy
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Jan 2013

From Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, one of the most acclaimed history books of recent decades, Engineers of Victory is a new account of how the tide was turned against the Nazis by the Allies in the Second World War.

In January 1943 Churchill and Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff met in Casablanca to review the western Allies' war aims and strategy. They realised that to attain their ultimate aim of 'unconditional surrender' they would have to achieve some formidable objectives - win control of the Atlantic sea-lanes and command of the air over the whole of West-Central Europe, work out how to land on an enemy-held shore so that Continental Europe could be retaken, how to blunt the Nazi blitzkrieg that a successful invasion would undoubtedly provoke, and finally how to 'hop' across the islands of the Pacific to assault the Japanese mainland. Eighteen months later on, as Paul Kennedy writes, 'these operational aims were either accomplished or close to being so.'

The history of the Second World War is often told as a grand narrative. The focus of this book, by contrast, is on the problem-solvers - Major-General Perry Hobart, who invented the 'funny tanks' which flattened the curve on the D-Day beaches; Flight Lieutenant Ronnie Harker 'the man who put the Merlin in the Mustang'; Captain 'Johnny' Walker, the convoy captain who worked out how to sink U-boats with a 'creeping barrage'. The result is a fresh perspective on the greatest, conflict in human history.

PAUL KENNEDY is one of the world's best-selling and most influential historians. He is the author or editor of nineteen books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which has been translated into over twenty languages, Preparing for the Twenty-First Century, The Parliament of Man and the now classic Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 Jan 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846141125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141126
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 14.4 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Consistently original ... An important contribution to our understanding (Michael Beschloss The New York Times Book Review)

His refreshing study ... asks the right questions, disposes of clichés and gives a rich account of neglected topics (David Edgerton Financial Times)

Colourfully and convincingly illustrates the ingenuity and persistence of a few people who made all the difference (Washington Post) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Paul Kennedy is one of the world's best-selling and most influential historians. Born and bought up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he took his doctorate in Oxford and began work shortly afterwards for the first great historian of the Second World War, Sir Basil Liddell Hart. He now teaches at Yale, and is the author or editor of nineteen books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which has been translated into over twenty languages, Preparing for the Twenty-First Century, The Parliament of Man and the now classic Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity 31 July 2013
Format:Hardcover
I was somewhat disappointed with this book. I have the impression that the author does not really know his subject in the detail that is required as there are numerous factual errors such as those mentioned in other reviews (Spitfire night fighters, and four-engined Vickers Vimys being just a couple) but also the author refers to Tom Blakeslee; his name was Don Blakeslee and, as one of the most famous fighter pilots in the 8th Air Force, this does matter. In a short listing of Allied fighter pilots he includes Guy Gibson; Gibson was a bomber pilot - he led 617 Squadron in the Dambusters raid.

I do realise that it is utterly impossible to cover a conflict such as the Second World War in a book of this length but better accuracy with the facts could have made it so much better.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it says on the tin 12 Jun 2013
By Geoff
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author is a historian and the history parts are very good indeed (except one wonders at the need to go back to ancient Greece when discussing seaborne invasions - padding?)
But then when you get to the bits about "the problem solvers who turned the tide" it all gets a little vague. A couple of engineers are named (book title!) but I formed the impression that the technical aspects of their work were a little beyond the comprehension of the author. For instance, I know what a cavity magnetron is and what it does but reading this book it never gets beyong the realm of clever gizmo.
Read the historical backgrounds - they are excellent- but don't expect to get any understanding of the more technical stuff or knowledge of the problem solvers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quickly forgets about the engineers. 18 May 2014
Format:Hardcover
If the title was about the theatres of war between the dates selected, or the logistics of war, then perhaps I could forget his wandering narrative. But "Engineers" is in the title and I'm reading because I want to know more about who did what and what their own history was.

The book covers three main areas. Atlantic Convoys, Russian Front, and Pacific War. As a summary of each of these battles he does a reasonable job, but as he gets deeper in to his narrative he forgets the title of his book. You end with the impression that he'd written a general book and then quickly and hurriedly converted it for "Engineers". This is most evident as he starts with a few mentions to engineers in the Atlantic, states records are not available for Russia, and there was too many to mention in the Pacific!

He makes great statements about the Cavity Magnetron, but doesn't seem to understand if it's a means to find distant objects or cook food. Then boast how the hedgehog mines on the atlantic escort ships turned the war, but little on why or who was behind their invention. Dismisses Ultra and Bletchley Park as not being significant! (They were - everything played it's part).

I think what really frustrated me the most was the D-Day landings. There was a wonderful opportunity to really explain Hobart's Funnies and how they made the British landings possible. And by contrast that the Americans, who without any protection at all, lost many lives. The Americans really only getting a foothold because the Germans ran out of ammunition! (Those Americans were, with respect, amazingly brave). And the worst omission was the Mulberry harbour. Scant coverage of something which was so important to getting men and goods ashore.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed 1 Jun 2013
By PW
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Kennedy sets out to cover a very broad scope and does a satisfactory job. His definition of engineers is pretty wide, there are some interesting tales and insights but for me the book doesn't quite work. I felt a sense of the final chapters being hurried, there are some statements about weapons and equipment I would disagree with, and I did get the impression of some technical research being shallower than it should have been. The book does restore balance to the Ultra story, which is long overdue. A final point - although written by a Geordie, it uses American spelling and lexicon, which got on my nerves after a while.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Problems and Solutions? 1 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Engineers of Victory is a most absorbing book. The material is presented in a clear, coherent and structured manner which makes exceptionally engaging reading. Paul Kennedy has most certainly selected a most interesting subject and although his subject areas have been covered in specialised publications he has certainly brought many of the issues to life from an interesting perspective supported by his personal analysis. For the military analyst, his take on the operational level of war is far from doctrinally pure but he does focus upon the Movers & Shakers, both individuals and teams, that delivered the operational level capability.

I have though, three observations. First, the consistent, irritating and inappropriate use of the words horrible, terrible, dreadful, awful, actually, himself and itself, detract from the otherwise lively flow of the manuscript, whilst also injecting a sloppy journalese that is not worthy of his efforts. Secondly, there are several significant errors of fact, which whilst not interrupting the thrust of his arguments make one wonder whether there might be others that do. This point lucidly illustrates that with a work of this size and scope, a competent multi-disciplinary team is essential in ensuring accuracy. Thirdly, whilst there are supporting Notes, the author has relied solely on secondary sources, which of course, devalues the rigour of the study.

These observations aside, Paul Kennedy is to be commended for bringing to life a series of crucial campaigns of the Second World War in a engaging manner. That it scores 3* rather than 5* is a product of its limitations but this should not detract from its style and format.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment
I was looking forward to this book, reading the reviews and its status as a NYT best seller; I was disappointed. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Brunel
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, derivative contains little that is new and has ...
Disappointing,derivative contains little that is new and has technical errors,eg Ju 52 was never a bomber.
Published 11 days ago by richard wyatt
2.0 out of 5 stars A SLOW READ.
very long winded and repetative
Published 13 days ago by Pi
4.0 out of 5 stars War
This book outlines all the weapons etc., that were made to shorten the period of war in a time when money was short
Published 1 month ago by Brian
3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable attempt to explain the turn of the tide of war from the...
I don't know of any other author who has attempted so wide a task and covering so many different areas. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Andy_atGC
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a book that I would recommend
In this book, Paul Kennedy reveals himself to be often ill-informed, as when, for example, he describes Goering 'ordering the Bf109s to stay close to the Bf110 bombers'! Read more
Published 3 months ago by pedro
5.0 out of 5 stars Engineers of Victory
One of my great interests is the History of the Second World War. In my youth I was interested in the chronicle of battles, in more mature years I am more interested in the how and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by C Castleton
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overviews but not much engineering
The author provides good overviews of a number of the theatres of war and the techniques developed for them - but the emphasis is more on the historical narrative and emphasising... Read more
Published 6 months ago by T. Rossiter
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost there...
As for my expectations regarding the possibility of getting further insight into wartime engineering the book misses out a bit. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Odd Ragnar Evensen
3.0 out of 5 stars Use of language
This book appears to be written in US English. To an English reader the prose does not flow easily and the use of American words and spellings make it generally hard going. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Taya77
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