Tim Newark is one of the finest military historians of our times, and his brief yet comprehensive narratives of fifty of modern history's greatest battles are right on the money.
From Valmy in 1792, where a French Revolutionary Army stopped the disciplined, well-trained Prussians in their tracks to the Croat rout (with U.S. help) of the Serbs in Krajina in 1995, Newark has spotlighted the men, the commanders, and the material used to turn defeat into victory. The maps are detailed, and to his credit he also uses brief statements by those who fought in those battles, or by other military historians. Waterloo, Gettysburg (a slight disappointment, as Newkirk ignores Lee's decision to go north, or provides much detail about the fierce fighting of the Second Day), San Juan Hill, Gallipoli, Midway, Stalingrad, Inchon, the Six Day War and Desert Storm are all here, as are the colonial battles that either brought decline or doomed the great empires - Isandlwana, the Brusilov Offensive (1916) in which my grandfather participated in, in what should have been a clear-cut Russian victory but only accelerated the collapse of Tsarist Russia, Singapore, and Dienbienphu.
There are some interesting inclusions, including the 1881 battle of Geok Tepe, where the armies of the Tsar crushed Islamic rule and brought nearly 100 years of Russian and Soviet domination to the peoples of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and the battles of Port Stanley (the Falklands War of 1982) and Kabul (1988) - no, not the American liberation of Afghanistan but when the Afghan resistance drove the Soviets out, only to squander the new-born freedom to inter-tribal feuding and the rise of Islamofascism in the form of the Taliban and Bin Laden.
But St. Lo? Or Tarawa?
Missing? Well, there are a few battles that I might have included. Vicksburg, which effectively denied the Mississippi to the Confederacy, Jutland, where the German High Seas Fleet was forced back into its anchorage even after sinking more British ships; to me, Arnhem was also significant due to the gallant stand of those gallant British paras in their Red Berets, though perhaps not exactly a decisive battle. More of a last stand, alongside the Little Big Horn and the Alamo, though with more survivors. Jutland may have been deleted simply for the fact that the Germans chose unrestricted submarine warfare - but that alone would have been decisive in the fact that going that route brought the Americans, angry over the sinking of the "Lusitania" into the conflict.
Also - the book was published in the late 1990s - well before 9/11 or the fight against Islamic terror in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Still, for a rich, comprehensive, nicely illustrated and very reasonable (amazon's affiliate Borders has plenty of copies - stick to the "paperback" one - the cover graphics are much more striking) history of decisive battles by a gifted contemporary historian, this book is a must in the homes of afficianados of military history or in the public library.