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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Backroom Boys
Paul Kennedy is a very fine historian. He is highly regarded at Yale. While this book does not enhance his reputation it is still worth reading.

Kennedy lets us know about a host of characters such as Joe Randall and Harry Boot who very few will have heard of. He has clearly misled some readers by his unusual use of the word 'engineers'. Kennedy uses the word...
Published 19 months ago by Dr Barry Clayton

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quickly forgets about the engineers.
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...
Published 4 months ago by Dr John Sim


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quickly forgets about the engineers., 18 May 2014
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. We are left with the impression that using a portable harbour was common! It should have been better explained why it was so important, and indeed the engineers behind such an important invention. That Kennedy only covers the whole operating of the harbour on one page, with other aspects, is a serious oversight.

In the Russian front he simply ignores the Russian engineers completely. He does make reference to an American who suggested improvements to the T-34 tank, but nothing else. For the Germans he states how they have to move their forces from Africa to Italy and the Russian fronts. It's logistics rather than engineering.

For the Pacific only that the SeaBees followed invading forces taking over Japanese held islands to construct runways. Although important, you're left with the impression that it's more about logistics of warfare rather than the engineering to enable a victory. In fact, it's where he talks about Boeing and their Superfortress that he dismissively concludes there was too many engineers to mention! Surely someone at Boeing deserves some credit with such a wonderful aircraft?

Overall the lasting impression is of a rather self indulgent story being told in front of an eager university class. Tainted by the authors own interpretation of events that he couldn't possibly understand the implications of, nor during a time of limited resources and great threats the pressures those decision makers faced. For every good engineering idea I'm sure there was another ten rejected. Being critical of decisions made many decades later is easy, having to make those decisions and get them right at the time is frighteningly difficult!

As an overview of these theatres of war I'd give the book 3/5, but since this is a book supposedly about engineers and it only pays a token reference to them it's 1/5 only because Amazon doesn't allow 0/5! Book does not stay on topic.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 31 July 2013
By 
G. K. Bain "Gordon Bain" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it says on the tin, 12 Jun 2013
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed, 1 Jun 2013
By 
PW (Southampton) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment, 17 July 2014
By 
Brunel (Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
I was looking forward to this book, reading the reviews and its status as a NYT best seller; I was disappointed. Like many of the prospective readers I have a reasonable knowledge of the second world war and was expecting some deep insight into how technical solutions were found to turn the tide towards victory (I'm also an engineer so the title doubly tempted me) My impression is of an historian who is not a technical expert or even a great expert of ww2 running off something to keep up the mortgage payments. The only sections I felt delivered any fresh 'problem solving' insight was the narrative on the fight to have the merlin powered P51 Mustang accepted and the story of the cavity magnetron (which gets it 2 stars rather than one) Other areas like: the mulberry harbours, long range fuel tanks, the Leigh light, Hobart's funnies are dispatched in a few sentences. Some say: the British development of the 17Ib anti-tank gun combined in a Sherman tank, increased accuracy of aerial bombing, proximity fuses, even the competing developments of the jet engine receive not a mention.
Without this it becomes a mediocre overview of the turning point of ww2, with - as other reviewers have pointed out - too many basic inaccuracies and lazy conclusions: "a B29 probably had as much wiring as a squadron of bf109s" - well did it or didn't it? On top of which the writing hardly stirs the blood the death of a German air ace is described as "he was blown into the sky" - forgive my levity - but what was it a big gust of wind?
In summary if you are looking for fresh analysis or even if you've been on the moon for the last 70 years and never seen or read anything of ww2 - spend your money on something else. Richard Overy's "Why the Allies won" would be my recommendation.
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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
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overviews but not much engineering, 12 Jan 2014
By 
T. Rossiter (UK) - See all my reviews
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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 the huge operational complexity and breadth of developments needed rather than much detail on the actual contribution of engineers. As a number of essays on aspects of WW2 I found it interesting and readable, but it said little about the actual engineering contributions or the engineers themselves.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost there..., 18 Dec 2013
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As for my expectations regarding the possibility of getting further insight into wartime engineering the book misses out a bit.
Too much general war history and too little engineering I think.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been a good primer, 5 Mar 2013
By 
M. Steedman (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This book is about one of the "forgotten aspects" of the second world war, that is where the weapons used came from, how they were developed and why. It is let down, badly, by some stupid mistakes that I would have thought a proof reader would have picked up, such as Spitfire nightfighters, and the US construction battalions biulding Mulberry harbours in Milford Haven.

This is a great pity as the subject matter deserves better coverage.

If you can pick your way through these errors an interesting set of stories develop, although I also thought the book was directed at the US market as it tends to downplay or ignore British involvment. One example is it praises the US CB's biulding the Mulberry Harbours (Note the plural!) ignoring the fact that one of the two biult on the Normandy beaches was biullt by the British Royal Engineers.

The book struggled to live up to its billing, and I thought that a great dissapointment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Use of language, 28 Oct 2013
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. This is a pity as the topic is highly relevant and an important insight in understanding the issues that influenced the outcome of the second world war.
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Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
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