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Memoirs of the Second World War [Abridged] [Paperback]

Winston Churchill
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Trade); Abridged edition edition (3 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395599687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395599686
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Surveys the war and its politics.

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First Sentence
AFTER THE END of the World War of 1914 there was a deep conviction and almost universal hope that peace would reign in the world. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, as lucid as ever, great war diary. 29 Jun 2000
By A Customer
When this series of books by Churchill on the war was condensed into one affordable volume, my first response was to buy it. I found it to be a highly skilled piece of work by a man who set a new standard in literary excellence. For his work Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it is well deserved.
The book is split into six basic sections covering the various stages of the war. What was added to the abridged version is an account of the years after the end of the war untill 1957. This shows his thoughts on the General Election defeat and of course his 'iron curtain speech' that proved highly unpopular because it proved highly accurate.
The book also leaves us in no doubt as to Churchill's feelings on taking the Premiership, and more interestingly on the period leading up to the war. Not only are the nineteen thirties traced in the run up to his depiction of the war but this book starts in 1919. Historians today would see this as common sense, but at the time this shows Winston Churchill lead a path that others were to follow; in his mistrust of Hitler, his calls for re-armament and his prediction of the Cold War.
A great book by a great man!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential book to understand WWII 10 Feb 2001
It is the first time that I have read a book by Churchill, but it will not be the last. A clear author whose prose is superb, now I do understand perfectly why he was given the nobel prize for literature. It is an excellent account of the WWII written by one of its main characters. It is specially interesting his ability to foresee what the consequences of the invasion of Eastern Europe by the Soviets would be. This work is a must if you want to be knowleadgeable about WWII. However, I do not share Mr. Churchill's opinions about the Spanish Civil War.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest war book by the greatest war hero 15 Mar 2003
By Darren Simons TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want to know how something happened, the best way to find out is to ask someone who was there. Similarly, the 6 volume history of WW2 written by the only Allied leader involved throughout, provides the best insight to the biggest event of the 20th century and a background of the repercussions it had for world peace and political balance for the rest of the century, especially the Cold War.
Despite it being over 1000 pages long I was concerned that as an abridged version I would be missing out on war detail by reading it rather than the complete version. Not true, the main thing missing is operational detail which is not hugely missed as part of the narrative.
As well as describing the highs and lows, victories and defeats during the war, Churchill talks in candid detail of his relationship with other leaders around the world especially FDR who he clearly had such a wonderful relationship with. His confidence and leadership qualities are evident throughout the book and the overall style of writing (what some might describe as stuff) is perfect, really making you feel that you are there.
He is also not afraid to describe his concerns for the future to the 20th century, describing concerns relating to Kashmir, the Cold War and the Middle East making the reader wonder whether this was written in more current times.
On the lighter side the book provides a surprising insight to Churchill the man - his love of painting, classic literature, and apparently leading the country from his bed!
All in all, a great read (and if anyone has school essays to write relating to WW2 there is no greater reference book)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the memoir 25 Jan 2013
As with all memoirs, they have a tendency to be self-serving. Churchill's is no different. Though, as ever, the story of this man is well told. His accounts of his own political feelings and struggles, within his own government as well as with Allies, are very interesting aspect covered in this work. Churchill's contributions and his handling of Stalin and Roosevelt were masterful, and his far-sighted mind was able to see the dire threat posed by both the Nazi-Fascist alliance and the COM intern, long before anyone else seemed to. His relationship with the United States, carefully cultivated, encouraged the Americans to see Britain as a cause worth helping. The Lend-lease and Convoy support were essential before their entry into the war.

However, he is disingenuous over his military commands and decision making abilities. Churchill was the ultimate ameuter strategist. The Royal Navy and British Army paid for his naivety in Norway in 1940, when, ironically, his disastrous campaign and the blame for it was deflected onto Chamberlain - the man Churchill would replace less than a month later.

A masterful manipulator - and opportunist (as Hitler was) Churchill manoeuvred himself into the Premiership 'hot seat'. From there his interference in military affairs was most unwelcome. His campaigns in Crete and Greece in 1941, over which he had considerable influence, were a disaster also. While he understood the political context of military strategy, he was debilitating unable to understand how to execute it.

His reputation had slumped by 1942 to such an extent his position was under threat.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Churchill's "Case" 26 May 2002
By James B. Brinton - Published on Amazon.com
He said of this work, "This is not history, this is my case." That is, it's his viewpoint on events, and to some degree, his justification for the actions he took during the war. He was too modest. This is also great history from the pen of a man who was not only a great statesman and war leader, but a gifted writer. To read it is a pleasure--and a bit sad since it underlines the decline in letters since Churchill's generation. Only his speeches are more inspiring. For the few remaining purists among us, I would recommend the full six-volume set, but much is captured in this condensed version. Get it and learn not only history, but the proper use of English.
58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TOO MUCH DETAIL OMITTED 13 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I was disappointed with this abridged history since I had already read the six volume set and loved it for all its rich detail and atmosphere.
This one-volume abridged edition left me a little flat. So much had been taken out to make it concise and easy to read that it lost a lot of voice and it especially is lacking the Churchill flavor of action and detail that makes the six volume set exciting and monumental.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Perspective of WWII 16 July 2000
By J. Mullin - Published on Amazon.com
Oftentimes in recorded history a leader emerges as literally the "right man at the right time", a godsend for a country desperately in need of leadership after being led to the brink of disaster. Churchill was such a leader, and Britain desperately needed him in 1939 as Hitler's armies blitzed into Poland while Chamberlain stood by powerless to stop him.
This abridged memoir of the conflict by Churchill, one of the most dynamic personalities of the last century, is a fascinating profile of leadership, offering a unique glimpse into the problems faced by the Allies as the war destroyed the shaky peace of Versailles.
Here is Churchill in all his bravado, bemoaning Britain's woefull lack of preparation, and discussing in shocking detail the problems faced by the Allies as Britain joined the conflict and tried without success to keep the Nazis out of France. You are there as Churchill finds out, to his amazement, that the French have no reserves after the Maginot Line is pierced and the Germans head, unopposed, toward Paris. You understand the tremendous burden faced by Britain as Churchill explains the efficiency of the german war machine, churning out tanks and u-boats on a daily basis at the outbreak of the war while pacifist Britain's military industry had literally ground to a halt.
This is not a battle by battle narrative of every major conflict, and the Pacific theater is in particular given short attention as Britain played a relatively minor role there. Readers interested in the specifics of troop movements, maps, etc. should look elsewhere. However Churchill provides fascinating glimpses into the leaders of the Allied powers, recounting Stalin's relentless demand that Britain and the U.S. open a second front to divert attention away from Hitler's armies. And every American's heart will swell as Churchill expresses the pride and confidence he felt as the Americans entered the war: "Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force." Churchill's words here, and the exerpts of his speeches to Parliament, are as stirring now as they were 58 years ago when he pumped courage into the British as they endured countless bombing raids.
The book has its lapses. It seems like Churchill at times seems a little too interested in presenting his arguments for or against certain operations, (and of course as the author he is usually right), and the abridgement here seems to devote more attention to relatively minor battles like Tobruk than to the Normandy invasion and the liberation of France. However any history buff will want to consider this book required reading for a fuller understanding of WWII.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of the Second World War - Stalin, Soviet Union, Poland 23 Aug 2005
By Leszek Strzelecki - Published on Amazon.com
I find it indeed difficult to assess this book by Winston Churchill. I have read it with very mixed emotions. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that for any serious student of the history of World War II Winston Churchill's "Memoirs of the Second World War" is a must reading - unless he or she decides to study the full fledged, six volume, "The Second World War" itself.

However, if one is to base his entire knowledge of the war on this writing alone, treating it as the history book per se, one is likely for a big disappointment. The value of this book as a source of historical facts is questionable; its value, in my view, lies in that it is the first hand, direct, presentation of the views and ideas on the war politics by one of its biggest actors. Churchill wrote himself: "This is not history, this is my case." I agree. It is, at the same time, the best source of information one can probably get on the "state of competence" of one of the "Big Three". For in this writing Winston Churchill reveals to a large degree what he himself knew, or did not know, about various aspects of the unfolding events. However, the objectivity of his writing is to a certain degree weakened by his concerns for relations with some of the other big players in World War II. The name of Dwight Eisenhower immediately comes to mind here. At the time of this book's publication Eisenhower was the president of USA. Whatever disagreements Churchill may have had with him in 1944 and 1945, and the many he had indeed, he went long ways to smooth his criticism to not in the smallest way offend his former ally and the sitting president of the country with which he practiced the policy of "Grand Alliance". That this may have distorted the whole picture seems beyond much doubt.

I am in no position to evaluate Churchill's ideas and beliefs and confront them with the facts, in their entirety. Whether, for instance, his explanation of the fall of Singapore is correct or not is beyond my expertise. But on two subjects: Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union and the so-called "Polish Question" I do have opinions of my own.

We now know quite well who Joseph Stalin really was and what was the true nature of the Soviet regime in those years. From that perspective Winston Churchill's assertions about Stalin himself seem rather disconcerting. Especially so, since Churchill seem to have been reasonably well versed in matters relating to the Soviet Union and its foreign policies. Unlike many left-leaning politicians both in USA and Western Europe at the time he apparently had no illusions about the character of communist experiment in Soviet Russia. This was particularly true with regard to Stalin's foreign policies. Churchill realized Stalin was "de-facto" ally of Nazi Germany all the way until the day Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

But with the Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 21, 1941, virtually overnight, this hideous man becomes Great Britain's ally in the fight against Germany. And now that Stalin was on the same side of the barricade he became more than an ally. He, in the eyes of Churchill, seemed to have transformed into a better man. Politically and morally. Churchill spares no effort to present Stalin as an extremely intelligent man, not without sense of humor, a man with whom one can reason, negotiate and settle. On several occasions Churchill underlines importance of maintaining friendly relationship with the Soviet leader as if attempting to convince the reader, and possibly himself, that personal relationship could significantly alter the outcome of negotiations. Did he believe this or was he merely trying to justify his own conduct vis-à-vis Stalin? At any rate, I do not subscribe to a notion that just because someone finds himself on the right side of a political cause - and in the case of Stalin this was not his own choice, Hitler put him there - it makes him automatically a better being. Whoever Stalin was before German invasion he retained that character afterwards. And that simple fact demanded appropriate conclusions be drawn and remembered.

Poland, and "Polish Question", receives mixed treatment by Winston Churchill. It might even be more instructive to recognize what Churchill does not write about in the case of Poland than what subjects he dwells upon. The name of the general Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister and Commander in Chief of the Polish Government in Exile right from the Polish defeat in September 1939 until his death in the airplane accident in 1943 is not mentioned even once, not even in passing. And it is worth remembering that Poland was Great Britain's first, and for some time practically the only, ally in the war against Hitler right from the beginning till the very end. Not a single word is dedicated to the role of Polish airmen who fought with such distinction during the famous Battle of England. They were the heroes of the day then and Churchill knew perfectly well they were the best "scoring" fighters whose contribution to the victory was substantial if not decisive. More disturbing still is his complete silence on the subject of Katyn massacre. In April 1943 the Germans discovered mass graves in the forest of Katyn near Smolensk in then occupied Russian territory. Poles were inquiring with the Soviets since June 1941 about the faith of about 15,000 officers listed as Soviet prisoners of war only to be told they must have had "escaped to Manchuria". The German discovery of some 4,000 murdered and Sikorski's subsequent request for independent investigation by the International Red Cross was the pretexts for Stalin to break relations with the Poles and that was the beginning of all the subsequent troubles around the Polish Question. The truth of the Katyn massacre got swept under the carpet for years.

It is not until the summer of 1944 when the Soviets advanced to the territories of the pre-war Poland that this subject starts looming high on the agenda. Churchill apparently then realized that Stalin had his own plans concerning Poland where creation of a subservient government toped the list. To be fair Winston Churchill deserves credit for writing (and acting at the time) extensively about the Warsaw Rising of 1944. For two months the 50,000 Home Army soldiers armed with ammunition to last for just a few days fought valiantly inflicting great casualties on the Germans while the Red Army stood on the east bank of Vistula River doing practically nothing. Churchill was sincerely horrified at Stalin's refusal not only to come to military assistance himself but even to allow the Allies' planes attempting to drop supplies to land on the Soviet airfields. Churchill desperately tried to help. But Stalin had a much different agenda and for this purpose he didn't mind to allow almost a quarter million of Varsovians to perish. Roosevelt meanwhile apparently did not care. Churchill's exasperation over this issue is clearly visible and the pages dedicated to Warsaw Rising are some of the most emotionally charged in the entire book.

But it is Churchill's position on the question of new Poland's frontiers that causes most of my dismay. He openly agreed that the Soviet Union deserved additional territory at their Western frontier to boost their external security against any future threat from Germany. This was agreed in principle right from the start. It is true that in those territories ethnic Poles never constituted a majority. But that's a very poor argument. Neither Russians were a majority there. These were Belo-Russians, Ukrainians, Ormians, Jews, in short a multitude of ethnic groups who for centuries lived under the Polish-Lithuanian rule. The Russian rule they knew only since the partitions of Poland at the end of XVIII century. If anything, there would be a legitimate "border dispute", if you will, between Poland and Ukraine or Poland and Belarus. But there was not even a hypothetical question of national independence for these two nations. As it turned out, therefore, a double standard was employed: Poland was to be a one-nation, one ethnic group state while it was all right for (Soviet) Russia to be a multinational "federation". In the end Winston Churchill agreed to legalize Soviet annexation of Polish territories invaded on September 17, 1939 the basis of which was (now infamous) Molotov- Ribbentrop Secret Protocol of August 23, 1939.

With everything in the book read and digested the final impression of this, no doubt very remarkable, statesman I get, is one of a man visionary at times, perseverant, man often times of principle and yet also of a man who for the purpose of "higher good" would bend or re-interpret the facts falling victim to illusions. The same man who so forcefully condemned policies of appeasement towards Germany up until Munich agreements of 1938 would practice his own appeasement policies towards Stalin later on, clearly as a result of his own fallacies about the character of Joseph Stalin and the nature of the Soviet system. But this very same man retained the ability to disillusion himself and change own stands thus proving quite remarkable degree of intellectual and political flexibility. Unfortunately for him, as well as for the world, it is rarely sufficient to change ones mind. For if the circumstances have also changed it is usually too late. It was another matter to exact certain commitments from Stalin when the outcome of the struggle with Hitler's Germany was up in the air, quite another when Stalin's armies were approaching Vistula river. There clearly was a chance to block aggressiveness of the Soviet Union and prevent Iron Curtain from descending upon Central Europe and spare the Europe and the world Cold War - if both Churchill and Roosevelt acted firmly early on. But the many illusions about the man and the system they dealt with and lack of sufficient foresight, prevented them from achieving desirable political arrangements, namely independence of Poland and other Central European countries, something that soon afterwards became to haunt the Western Democracies for nearly half the century.

While Churchill as a politician remains controversial, Churchill as a writer, and his book, fall very close to being a masterpiece. Rich, eloquent language, clarity of point, all-in-all good balance between detail and generality and, above all, passion with which he writes about subjects he was so intimately involved with - make for terrific reading experience. If not for the certain obstructions in his "pursuit of truth", the want not to offend then still living former allies and the apparent want to justify own conduct, that all resulted in certain distortion of the picture, I would give the book highest score of 5 stars.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful personal history of the Second World War 18 May 1997
By Michael Sebastian - Published on Amazon.com
Readers seeking an objective, bullet-by-bullet history of the Second World War will find Churchill's seminal work wanting. For in his six-volume masterwork, nicely abridged here for the more faint of heart, Mr Churchill recounts the major political and military currents of the war from the perspective of this century's most unabashed imperialist, one often at odds with allies and opponents alike. The author is not at all reticent about emphasizing his central role in the conduct of the war, even as the rising tide of American power came to dominate the Atlantic alliance.
But no matter. Using copies of his official wartime correspondence and papers as the skeleton of the work, Mr. Churchill fleshes out the carcass with an insider's account of events and personalities, tying the whole opus together into a seamless chronology of the conflict that ended forever American isolationism and European colonialism.
Highly recommended for anyone wanting to know more about the Second World War or about one of the most fascinating statesmen of this or any century.
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