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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The superiority in men and equipment finally decides everything
Gordon Corrigan looks at the course of the Second World War from a somewhat untraditional angle, viewing it as simultaneous, large-scale conflicts, which had less in common, then we usually tend to think. The book is "a military history", even though the account keeps a thought-stimulating ratio of military and political aspects of the war; the former, certainly, always...
Published on 29 Mar 2011 by Raimonds

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice book. Strange views.
Mr. Corrigan is a military historian with a distinguished career in the Gurkhas Brigade of the British army, from which he retired some years ago. The author of the well-known "Mud, Blood and Poppycock" account of WW I, his subsequent "Blood, Sweat and Arrogance: The Myths of Churchill's War" appears to place him squarely among the WW II historians who are very critical...
Published on 18 Sep 2011 by Charles Poncet


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The superiority in men and equipment finally decides everything, 29 Mar 2011
By 
Raimonds (Riga,Livonia,EU) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
Gordon Corrigan looks at the course of the Second World War from a somewhat untraditional angle, viewing it as simultaneous, large-scale conflicts, which had less in common, then we usually tend to think. The book is "a military history", even though the account keeps a thought-stimulating ratio of military and political aspects of the war; the former, certainly, always being in the foreground. The reader, supposedly, should not be taken aback, noticing that the narrative palpably is written from a British perspective. Hence, for example, the warfare on the Eastern Front receives equivalent, but less expressive analysis than depiction of hostilities whether in Burma or Italy.

The author is good-humored and says that he is a simple infantryman. However, regardless of the military background, Corrigan is a pragmatist and admits that wars are not decided by the courage, leadership, training and loyalty of the troops, but money, population and industrial capacity. He dares to say, that for American industry the war came as an economic bonanza and finally got the US out of the Great Depression. Japan, on the other hand, entering the war took up an enormous gamble, since it had stocks for only eighteen months of military consumption. Germany, even with the best of its efforts, couldn't match Russian industrial production helped by Western aid.

The same happened on operational level. Rommel was finally forced to accept that the supply and manpower situation in Panzer Army Africa precluded any further offensives. Wehrmacht in Russia, despite some of its advanced armoured and motorized divisions, overall, could move no faster than Napoleon's Grande Armée. Corrigan ascertains that after the battle of Moscow the German army did not have any stores to build defenses, to say nothing of winter clothing and troop accommodation. On top of that, mundane matters like food rations, identical for all ranks in Wehrmacht, made understanding between the German army and its allies even less common. Thus, the Spanish Army's Blue Division's officers, whose rations used to be more plentiful, on the Eastern Front had to accept the same amount and quality for everybody, and also would they have to put up with sausages, sauerkraut and German bread, rather than fresh meat and vegetables. Thus supplies had a major impact on the course of the whole war, deciding a lot more than mere outcome of the battle in Stalingrad pocket, where 1500 tons of supplies per day were needed.

The narrative is enticing because of the author's healthy dose of criticism, like when describing the British as a nation old in the art of duplicitous diplomacy. He affords to be vaguely cynical saying that for the British Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a delightful Christmas cake, since the whole Churchill's war policy was based on hanging on until America could come in.

Here we come to the author's attitude towards Churchill and Corrigan here is merciless. He says Churchill wanted finest hours, glorious adventures and swashbuckling offensive action; that he was largely responsible for the shambles of Norway (p.96) and considered the war with Japan a very remote possibility (p.179). Churchill was his doctors' most cantankerous patient (p.306) and considered most RAF officers to be oily mechanics (p.207). The most humorous is a paragraph about a signal, that reportedly in 1939, was sent from the Admiralty to all ships: "Winston is back". According to Corrigan, no trace of this signal has ever been found and nobody but Churchill has ever admitted to seeing it. Even more, some cynics had suggested, if it was ever sent, it was in exasperation rather than jubilation. However, not everything in the book about Churchill is only in a negative light. He praises, for instance, Churchill's line versus Chiang Kai-shek (p.388) and his bearing in not accepting Hitler's peace feelers (p.110).

Corrigan isn't lining up brass hats against frock coats, though clearly sympathizes with intelligent military commanders, like Japanese Major-General Kuribayashi, who was fluent in English and able to quote Shakespeare. Particularly depressing Corrigan finds expression of some politicians - "to hold at all costs", meaning that soldiers are destined to be killed. On the other hand, Corrigan praises military discipline. Whether total abstainer or not, but he contrasts Wehrmacht's artillery lieutenant-colonel shot by firing squad, because found drunk on duty, and the Russian General Vasily Chuikov, who commanded the Sixty-Second Army in Stalingrad and consumed alcohol as if prohibition was just round the corner. Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps, in its turn, he says, had unkindly been referred to as a uniformed drinking club. As Allied troops in Italy were greeted by cheering crowds in the towns and villages, the rate of Allied desertion duly went up, because soldiers couldn't resist temptation sitting out the war surrounded by Italian girls.

That's, evidently, the reason why Corrigan comes to conclusion that unlike the war itself, the battles were won by the soldiers, who were led by wise and experienced officers. He even doesn't vacillate to voice his assessment, that in comparison to the Red Army soldiers, the German soldier was a far better in 1942 (p.238), and therefore Wehrmacht reached Volga, despite 3,25 million Germans at the time were facing 6 million Russians. He also admits that the British knew they couldn't beat the Germans in a battle of manoeuvre (p.401); but for the US Marines it took on average 1500 rounds to kill one Japanese!

In a 600 page volume I found some insignificant inaccuracies. It is said the Courland pocket was in Lithuania (p.530), whereas it was in Latvia; the Winter War lasted from 30 October 1939 until 13 March 1940 (p.93), whereas it started at the end of November. The author also is a bit simplistic saying that 9 May is VE Day in Russia and the states of the former USSR (p.563).

Overall, I was impressed by the book. It is an exciting read for WWII buffs and history experts alike. Corrigan doesn't romanticize the war - not even for a second. However, he makes us realize, that one should know more about the epoch, which despite the horrors of war and food rationing provided the healthiest generation of Britons ever.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice book. Strange views., 18 Sep 2011
By 
Charles Poncet (Geneva Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
Mr. Corrigan is a military historian with a distinguished career in the Gurkhas Brigade of the British army, from which he retired some years ago. The author of the well-known "Mud, Blood and Poppycock" account of WW I, his subsequent "Blood, Sweat and Arrogance: The Myths of Churchill's War" appears to place him squarely among the WW II historians who are very critical of Winston Churchill's leadership and strategic ideas, mistakes or blunders, depending on one's views.
WW II history buffs will not learn much from Mr. Corrigan's book but it is an enjoyable read. As a career officer himself, he knows what he is talking about when comparing orders of battles or describing the structures of German, Japanese or allied military units. He writes in crisp and witty prose, which contains some apparently offhand - but probably long pondered - comments that can be quite funny and sometimes outrageously so.
For instance, I had a good laugh at his characterization of Nietzsche as " a vastly overrated German philosopher who was barking mad for most of his life". In some ways though, Mr. Corrigan seems to be tempted to engage in an attempt to rehabilitate the German army. No one will deny that the Landser - the German infantry man of the time - generally trounced any opponents, be they English, French, Russians or Americans, or that the German soldier was beaten only by superior equipment and numbers and displayed the most amazing fighting capabilities to the very end.
But should we really be treated to the fairy tale that, somehow, the Wehrmacht was good and honorable and all the horrors in the east were committed by the SS ? It has been proved again and again to be an inaccurate claim, to say the least, as German Wehrmacht soldiers happily participated in one atrocity after the other, killed civilians, torched villages and starved prisoners to death. Also, British readers might be mildly annoyed by the description of the Wehrmacht's oath of personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler, which Mr. Corrigan characterizes as "frightfully bad form on Hitler's part, but in the British Army we are bound by an oath that says that we shall "..bear true and faithful allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ", so the Germans were only copying us." One can only hope that the author is joking.
Further along, Mr. Corrigan even appears to distinguish between the "good" SS - the Waffen SS, that is the military SS (admittedly of great military valor but a bunch of blood thirsty murderers nonetheless) - and the bad guys in the concentration camps, supposedly quite different from the militarized comrades. Frankly, this is quite disappointing and a really untenable proposition.
The same applies in my view to the following comment about Adolf Hitler : "had he stopped after the absorption of the Sudeten Germans he might well now be regarded as the Greatest German since Charlemagne".
Except for such bizarre allegations, the book is a good read but it leaves the reader wondering whether Mr. Corrigan's views are really that remote from those of David Irving, whom he quotes extensively in an otherwise rather short bibliography. Caveat lector !
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reference Work, 11 May 2011
I downloaded this book for my Kindle initially to provide some background information to J.G. Farrell's The Singapore Grip (which I also have on my Kindle - and can recommend as a wonderful work of fiction). I must admit that the bargain price was the sole reason for downloading this book, but having been impressed by Corrigan's account of the war in the Pacific, I have now started to read it from cover to cover and have no hesitation in awarding it five stars. This book can be read either from cover to cover or individual chapters dipped into as required. The Kindle edition comes complete with full screen maps, but no photos.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The man is a born entertainer., 4 Nov 2010
By 
Bobby Smith (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
What a brilliant book this was; a new WW2 history full of stories, facts and opinion from the ever consistent Gordon Corrigan. As ever, he takes no prisoners and his writing, benefiting as it does from his own military experience, is crisp, fluid and opinionated. I have read so many histories of the war that I was loathe to buy yet another one. However, Mr Corrigan makes this book unique, infusing it, as he does, with his personality and passion throughout - his empathy for the man in the trenches, as well as the higher strategic dilemmas of the top brass, shining through.
It might read as strange but his style is like a hybrid combination of historian Niall Ferguson, mixed with a sliver of comedian Jasper Carrot, before being topped off with a large dash of Victor Meldrew! His many anecdotes about Second World War life, both in the military and on the home front, are both illuminating and revealing, such as the hedging your bets decision of Liberia declaring war on Germany, on 27 January 1945.
Although the book is serious in tone - correct given all the accounts of death and destruction - one gets the feeling that Mr Corrigan often had a smile on his face as he wrote this - especially the frequent footnotes at the bottom of the pages. Don't worry, though, if serious history is your `bag', as the book works as a scholarly work of art, as well as entertainment. In short, a book guaranteed to appeal as much to military buffs as those wishing to be entertained by a true British eccentric, a man whose razor sharp wit matches his impressive moustache.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 23 Oct 2010
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This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
An informative read with some very illuminating observations that I was quite unaware of. A good easy to read style for the layman that is a characteristic of the author's writing. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and now consider myself much better informed about this period of military history.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MONTY THE BAD, 21 Feb 2011
This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
As always Corrigan presents us with a stimulating thought provoking read.Its main flaw is the author's obsessional dislike of Montgomery.In fact,in any overview of WW2,Monty will be regarded as important,but not so important as to be rubbished at every opportunity.In a war that saw Dresden,Stalingrad,the Holocaust etc.,it does not seem very important that Monty wore a cap badge to which he was not strictly entitled.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mis-titled, 14 April 2013
This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
Firstly, let me start by saying that I enjoyed this book and might recommend it to anyone who wants a (longish!) introduction to World War II (but see my last comment).

So why only 3 stars then? After having recently read Antony Beevor's "The second world war" I wasn't sure I wanted to read Corrigan's version of events but the sub-title of "A military history" to Corrigan's work persuaded me.

I expected a book that concentrated more on lower level description of military forces and events than Beevor's work - but Corrigan's sub-title is misleading. For example, the first 100 pages or so give a good history of the inter-war period and the lead up to the invasion of Poland - but the conflict in Poland itself is described in less than a page, and the Soviet involvement in the actual invasion of Poland lacks mention of commanders, formations and numbers of the Soviet forces. Even the relevant map (which identifies German armies) doesn't show any Polish forces at all and the Soviets are represented only by some unlabelled arrows. To be fair Beevor's book is only a little better in a couple of these areas.

Corrigan's personal opinions can be both entertaining and enlightening (he was a serving officer) but often seem to reflect stereotypes about nations, or even possibly racism in some cases. For example, he describes two Croatians as "typical of their race: mercurial, murderous, treacherous ...". Really? These are typical traits of an entire people? Hardly.

By concentrating on the U.K. view, as this book does, quite a lot of the war's history is actually left out. For example, Japanese operations in China are barely touched upon.

This Anglo-centric book suffers from what many Anglo-centric histories do, namely "let's leave out the bits embarrassing or possibly uninteresting to a U.K. audience". Adding to that Corrigan's attitudes towards those whom he perceives to be gentlemen and those he does not, this book should be titled "The nice British boy's jolly spiffing history of WWII, don't you know?".

So, the book is interesting and entertaining, but not comprehensive or an entirely accurate history of the whole war. I'll be keeping my copy until I start to run out of book shelf space, then I'll be keeping Beevor's book and sending Corrigan's to the charity shop.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book, 28 Oct 2010
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This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
Gordon Corrigan has a very refreshing non-politically-corresct attitude and his books are always a pleasure.
He writes narrative history with a wealth of detail and I strongly recommend this one for all amateur military historians.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly researched, dated analysis..., 21 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Second World War: A Military History (Hardcover)
Glaring inaccuracies and poor analysis plague this book. Information is dated as are the writers opinions. An example from the chapter dealing with the invasion of Poland:

1. Polish casualty figures (1939) are wildly inaccurate. Author states 120,000 KIA which he then splits into 70,000 suffered against the Wehrmacht and 50,000 againts the Red Army post 17th September. These numbers are complete nonsense. Total casualty figures were about 66,000 KIA, 100,000 WIA. No mention of German casualties in Poland and equipment losses, particularly of armour and air assets which were very high for a campaign lasting only six weeks.

2. Analysis of Hitler's demands being 'mild' are wide of the mark and frankly insulting, considering had Poland witnessed the results of Hitler's initial 'mild' demands on Czechoslovakia and the country eventually being sold down the river by the failed appeasement policies of the French and British governments. As Beck stated before the outbreak of war 'peace at any price is not a concept Poland is prepared to consider if the result is a total loss of its honour and independence'.

If the rest of the book is based on similar research and opinion then frankly it belongs with the outdated works of the 1960's and 70's. With the fall of the Iron Curtain there is no longer any excuse for lack of information regarding particular subjects. Mistakes should be attributed to the laziness of the author.
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The Second World War: A Military History
The Second World War: A Military History by Gordon Corrigan (Hardcover - 1 Sep 2010)
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