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"How the Great Democracies Triumphed...
on 10 April 2013
...and so were able to resume the Follies which had so nearly cost them their life." So said Winston Churchill in the preface to this volume.
This is the last volume of Churchill's six volume history of the Second World War. The first volume covers the approximate 20 year period between the end of WW I until May, 1940. The second volume covers seven months, commencing with the German attack on France until the end of the year. The third volume covers one year: 1941. Britain, and her Empire had fought the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan alone before Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, in June, 1941, led to the USSR joining an alliance with Britain. Six months later, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the third major power into conflict with the Axis. The fourth volume describes how the three greatest allied powers, each in their own way, finally turned the tide, and reversed the relentless advance of the axis powers, and spans from the beginning of '42 to mid-'43. The fifth volume commences in mid-'43, and spans a year, until D-Day, June, 1944. This last volume commences on D-Day, and ends BEFORE V-J Day, the surrender of Japan, since the British people refused to continue his leadership mandate in the election of July, 1945.
As with his other volumes the primary focus is on British and American efforts to defeat Nazi German and fascist Italy. It commences with a workable account of D-Day, and the Allied drive to Paris. Not as crucial to the final victory, but still noteworthy was the Allied invasion of southern France with 86,000 troops. The coverage of the fighting on the Eastern front is limited, and was primarily focused on the Warsaw uprising. Churchill also devotes an entire chapter to the critical naval battle in the Pacific, in Leyte Gulf. As with the other volumes, at least half deals with the diplomatic meetings and maneuvers to maintain a common front. This included conferences in Quebec, Moscow and the epic ones in Yalta and Potsdam. In the second portion of the book, Churchill covers the Allied efforts in Burma, the decisions related to the Polish borders (the country was literally shifted to the West, by approximately one third of its width.) He also covered the decision to use the Atomic bomb, and the manner in which Stalin was informed.
As mentioned in reviews of earlier volumes, Churchill's work might not be the best place for an overall objective view of the war. It is long, with numerous original documents that may be of interest only to the specialist. What is also lacking is the behind the scenes views of the other allies, as well as the planning and motivation of the Axis powers. And the coverage on the fighting on the Eastern Front is scant. Still, Churchill was ideally suited to provide the British perspective, both diplomatically and militarily, and he does he quite well. There are some excellent maps, and numerous appendices with more detailed information on troop and material strengths. The volume also includes some photographs of the key events, and major figures during that year.
Churchill seemed to have grave reservations about the "unconditional surrender" objectives of the Allies. He notes that if the leader of a power that will lose knows that he will be executed by the victors, then he has no incentive but to use all of his people in a fight to the bitter end. As he says on page 539: "The Romans followed the opposite principal, and their conquests were due almost as much to their clemency as their prowess.
He left on a positive note and with the proverbial "stiff upper lip" after his electoral defeat. He concludes: "It only remains for me to express to the British people, for whom I have acted in these perilous years, my profound gratitude for the unflinching, unswerving support which they have given me during my task, and for the many expressions of kindness which they have shown towards their servant." 5-stars.