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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How luck, bravery, tenancity and massive economic power won
If you thought Montogomery was a fool or Churchill a master strategist then read this. This book examines the key battlefields (Overy is, as usual, superb in his account of the Eastern front) on land and sea, the leaders and the economic background. He vindicates bombing, Zhukov and Montgomery but makes Churchill look rather out-of-touch. Occassionally too terse - the...
Published on 6 Jan 2000

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
This was quite an interesting book in its way. My only real criticism was the fact that after saying the war was decided on far more than just a few key battles, the author goes on to describe them in detail. There are enough books of this nature, I was looking for something with a heavier emphasis on production figures and less of the battle narrative. Where the book...
Published on 17 Oct 2010 by Stuart Fairney


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How luck, bravery, tenancity and massive economic power won, 6 Jan 2000
By A Customer
If you thought Montogomery was a fool or Churchill a master strategist then read this. This book examines the key battlefields (Overy is, as usual, superb in his account of the Eastern front) on land and sea, the leaders and the economic background. He vindicates bombing, Zhukov and Montgomery but makes Churchill look rather out-of-touch. Occassionally too terse - the key moments of the war in the Pacific are dealt with in a couple of hundred words - at others rather long winded (such as in his admiration of the Soviet planning system). But well worth buying.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the obvoius answer you would expect, 26 Sep 2002
By 
Simon J Parsons (Glasgow United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
When my father lent me this book i was initally dismissive reagrding the contents given the title as the answer appeared obvious. However, this book seeks to dispell many assumptions reagrding the allies victory being inevitable. It is full of facinating strategic military insights as well as containing quite staggering statistics regarding the output of the military powers and their inherent strengths and weaknesses. For instance the German war industry was fastidious to the point of inefficiency, whereas, the United states based on the principles of mass production turned the economy around to military production so quickly that the Ford motor company produced more arnaments than Italy as a whole! Well worth investigating.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great analysis of a wideranging subject, 31 July 2005
By 
Jan Wammen Dam "euro1999" (Greve, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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Richard Overy's book is a very good example of a strong analysis of the Second World War.
A couple of things, I am missing in his account of the allied victory is two things. One is the role of intelligence, which he himself writes that he do not attribute to having a war-winning effect, and therefore do not single out, but instead mentioning it, when it is important, to his account. I don't think that you can underestimate the value of allied intelligence. The Soviet union had througout the war very good direct and indirect sources as regards German military planning. I Overy puts to little emphasis on this.
Another thing is that Overy puts emphasis on the importance of the weather in the context of D-Day, but he doesn't do it in relation to the Eastern front. There is no doubt that "General Mud" and "General Winter" played a very important role in slowing down the German offensive on the Eastern front.
It is also a very sweeping statement that "he (Hitler) did not consider economics as central to the war effort." (p. 206) Hitler put a very strong emphasis on certain aspects of war economics for instance raw materials. He stopped the advance on Moscow in 1941 and didn't repeat in 1942 because he wanted to focus on the natural wealth of the Ukraine and the Caucasus, and in this context said that "His generals didn't understand the economics of war". He even talked about the reconquest of the Rumanian oil wells in the Bunker in 1945. Eventually, neither Hitler nor his generals had a deep understanding of the essentials of the war economy such as mass production etc., which is also mentioned by Overy.
And all in all, a very good book, which also gave me new information for instance of the effect of allied air power.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The single best review of the vast complexities of WW2, 11 April 2012
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This review is from: Why The Allies Won (Paperback)
As a student of history, it is sometimes easy to yearn for the yesteryear of my Foundation Degree, where English Literature was my major. For while historical texts are notoriously boring long-winded and "heavy-going", Overy's brilliant work is both informative and stimulating.

The chapters are clearly categorised enabling the reader, scholar or lay, to dip in and seek the answer to the question he/she might have. His focus on the role economics play in war is both useful and understandable. It is at such points that even the keenest of readers can get lost in a plethora of statistics. Yet Overy draws out the essentials in a digestible way.

I commend this book to you, whatever level you feel you're at. I guarantee you'll learn something knew about this exciting epoch in world history. His closing chapter has rekindled my passion for the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book well worth reading., 11 Feb 2011
By 
S. P. Kelson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why The Allies Won (Paperback)
"Why the Allies Won" Richard Overy's book is first class. Particularly the second half when he goes into the conduct of the war. I have read many books on WW2, but never one that explains how the Axis powers were almost bound to loose when the Allies got there act together...it wasn't simply the actual fighting, although without massive endeavour by the 'front line' things could have been very different.
I commend anyone with an interest in the 'why' to read this book...I am just sorry that I took so long to get round to it. SPK 11/02/11
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, diverting, 2 Jun 2008
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This review is from: Why The Allies Won (Paperback)
Firstly, this is a far from comprehensive view of the war, as some reviewers have pointed out. Then again, with a conflict as big and sprawling (and as heavily reasearched and written about) as WW2, we can hardly be surprised by this. What the author does do is bring together some very interesting analysis to parts of the war often overlooked, and comes to some quite interesting conclusions.

The analysis that bears the most fruit is that of the economies of WW2, and the contrast between the Axis and Allied powers in how they understood what Total War meant. For the Axis powers, they didn't get it. Germany is a good example - lauded for the technical sophistication of its blitzkrieg forces, it failed decisively to understand that quantity mattered as much as quality. As a demonstration of this lack of understanding, the author points out the inefficiencies in German production. One example cites the Germans using something ridiculous like 0ver 100 different types of trucks - all of course, needing different parts and made in different factories, making the job of a panzer division's mechanic a nightmare. Soviets and Americans however had 1 type of truck, produced on a very few locations. The Soviets took it to almost minimalist levels - for much of the war producing 2 types of rifle, 1 type of tank, 2 types of planes. To say they out produced Germany puts it mildly. Germany may have created blitzkrieg, but they had an economy only ready to fight small short-term conflicts. They didn't step up production under Albert Speer's production until it was much too late in the war to make any difference. What is more, the allies really did embrace blitzkrieg, by the end of the war having completely mechanised and motorized divisions. Germany never had more than a small percentage if its army in panzers divisions - the overwhelming bulk of the wermacht still used horses, walked on foot, dragged artillery.

Another interesting insight is into the air war of Germany. It is of course widely considered that this war was a waste of resources - in material, planes, aircrew and needless civilian deaths for little outcome. The author does however draw attention to the fact that until the Sicily landings, this was pretty much the only way Britain could hit back at Germany, and that the decision to do so was probably as much to keep Stalin happy Britain was doing something as it was based on overly-optimistic ideas of what a bombing war could achieve. The air war was largely a waste of resources for the allies until the Americans built a long-range fighter that could escort the bombers safely from Luftwaffe interceptors. Up to that point, the best that could be said of the air war was that it kept precious aircraft away from the Eastern front. Afterwards, it was truly decisive, withering the Luftwaffe away to almost nothing, and giving almost complete air superiority to the allies. Though as the author points out, this did not create a pre-condition for the allies to win, but did give them the luxury of choosing where to strike.

The naval war is also touched on, especially the Battle of the Atlantic, though unusually the role of ULTRA intercepts in aiding the allies is oddly underwritten. I don't think any mention is made in the book of how the British used ULTRA to guide their convoys around u-boat wolfpacks, or how they used it to trap them. So many British decisions only make sense once you understand how they used ULTRA - it is one of the reasons Britain was able to stay in the war, along with radar.

But the point the author wants to make is that none of this made the allies victory inevitable. The decision Hitler made to keep the 6th army in Stalingrad and to fight at Kursk were probably as every bit important as the economic mistakes. There are plenty of examples in history of a smaller power overcoming bigger ones. Had D-Day been a failure, who knows how much longer the war would have lasted?

Thoughts on Japan are also shared, though only really in relation to the navy and air force. Little is made, for example, on the war in Malaya, Singapore, Burma. Much of the insights are logistical with regards the Japanese; once cut off from regular imports of raw materials, they were left highly vulnerable. Tactics towards the end of the war because more aggressive and simply suicidal against the enormous, overpowering might of the US. Largely speaking I have heard this all before - there are few new insights here.

Overall it's worth a read, and thought provoking. I almost get the feeling with it that the author is being too ambitious, but that doesn't distract from the fact that there are many genuine insights in this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Account, 7 Feb 2014
By 
A. Brooke (UK) - See all my reviews
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I have read many books about the Second World War but this must rank as one of the best. Overy, as you would expect of a good historian, goes beyond the mere descriptive and offers an excellent critical analysis of events and individuals. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not as obvious as it seems., 23 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Why The Allies Won (Paperback)
This book proves that even where the answers have long looked "obvious", there is always plenty of room for a fresh look by an original mind and diligent scholar. The short answer offered might be summarized: after their conquest of France, the Germans had the ball at their feet, but their threw the chance away through a surprising degree of incompetence, inefficiency and structural deficiency, and not just strategic blunders. And it was not just some fanatical resistance that saved the Soviet Union (although that also comes over as quite extraordinary) but a structural resilience that could out-produce the Germans from a seriously diminished industrial base.

Statistics can be a bore, but in this book I found them illuminating and kept going back to them, from the structure and volume of industrial production to the extraordinary number of attempts on Hitler's life. Beyond the statistics the human factor is well considered. The mental limitations not just of Hitler but particularly of Goring and Udet (in military terms) were perhaps in themselves fatal to the Nazi cause. How a visceral detestation of everything the Nazis stood for kept quite disparate Allies together is well accounted for. And interestingly but on reflection not surprisingly, the outbreak of war was greeted in Germany with dismay. (An eyewitness told me that the folk cheering the troop trains off to Poland were a rent-a-crowd. The euphoria that greeted the conquest of France was short-lived. The Stalingrad dismay was not just the prospect pf possible failure, but the fear of retribution for "all the bad things we have done" that soldiers on leave had talked about. Despite all the press and newsreel razzamatazz of Nazi enthusiasm, when it came to another war, actually their heart was not in it).

The consequences of the Germans not overrunning Britain in 1940 are spelt out: the failure to control the sea, to get vital imports and Middle Eastern oil: the survival of an offshore base from which the RAF and USAF and then the Western Allies' land forces opened fronts that tied up a huge German defensive capacity and fatally drew the bulk of the Luftwaffe away from the Soviet front. Whether the Germans had the military capacity if skillfully handled to make a successful leap across the Channel in 1940 we will never really know. Did they have the mental resources in terms of organization and strategic thinking? On the showing of this book, no, and that's why they didn't try it, and that's why the Allies won.

An absorbing book, and not a hair of triumphalist hogwash. The terrible destruction the RAF and USAF visited on German civilians in order to limit the war production they worked in was part and parcel of Hitler’s undoing, but the moral question of bombing cities is also raised. Overy could easily have quoted Harris's arresting and indeed arguable statement about sowing winds and reaping whirlwinds, but he he doesn't, and leaves a menacing question hovering. That is also part of the quality of this book.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 17 Oct 2010
By 
Stuart Fairney (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This was quite an interesting book in its way. My only real criticism was the fact that after saying the war was decided on far more than just a few key battles, the author goes on to describe them in detail. There are enough books of this nature, I was looking for something with a heavier emphasis on production figures and less of the battle narrative. Where the book is more impressive however is the author's systematic crticism of the Nazi style of government. At times he is in real danger of being partisan, but this aspect of the book is good.
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23 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't say I'd recommend it, 28 Feb 2008
By 
T. Kunikov (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why The Allies Won (Paperback)
Overy asks the question of "Why the allies won?" His first task is to explain away the idea that the allies, namely the US, England and Soviet Union were successful due to their numbers when compared to that of the axis. Drawing on the First World War, Overy shows that numbers, in terms of troops, does not necessarily define who the victor will be. When WWI began the entente had a great advantage in terms of divisions compared to that of Germany and Austria, for some reason Overy excludes the Ottoman empire in his calculations and also ignores the fact that the number of men in one country's division will not necessarily equal that of another.

The next area of interest is the production figures of both sides. While Germany had a tremendous lead, as did Japan, in their conquests up until 1942 they could not take adequate advantage of them for a variety of reasons. Overy seems to think that if they were perfect dictatorships they could have presented more of a problem for the allies. The motorization of the German army is mentioned, or rather a lack thereof which did play a large role in the war on the Eastern Front.

Overy's concentration in the first part of the book is on the war at sea, the land struggle on the eastern front, the offensive from the air, and the reconquest of Europe. Each of these events, in Overy's opinion, played a significant role in how the war progressed and was eventually won. The war at sea was the only link the Americans had to the British and the only way that Lend Lease could be given to the USSR. It is what kept Britain going and what substituted for a second front to the Soviets, more importantly for the Americans it decided the war in the pacific theater of operations. The struggle on the Eastern Front signified the largest and most gruesome offensive the world had ever seen. Tens of millions would perish on the steppes, in the forests, and in the mountainous terrain covered during the German invasion and subsequent offensives throughout 1942. The offensive from the air took away vital resources from the Eastern Front and stranded them in the West to face the daily and nightly allied bombardment campaign. Lastly, the reconquest of Europe made democracy safe for the Western half of the continent and brought the war to a quicker conclusion. The second part of the book deals with technology, the economy, the alliance system, morality, etc.

When Overy talks about the warnings Stalin was receiving he leaves out the fact that most of them were general, ambiguous and contradictory. Overy contradicts himself when, first, he claims on page 137 that the allies would be facing a "...large army in waiting, seasoned with men battle-hardened from the fearful contest in Russia." Then on page 153 he mentions that the German forces in France were a shell of their former selves, many Eastern Europeans and Central Asian being included into the forces now guarding the coastal lines and waiting out for the imminent invasion. Overy does a good job putting the allied deception campaign into context and how much help it gave the allies when the invasion finally did take place.

A good description is offered of what Soviet workers had to endure throughout the war. As well as pointing out that few other populations, if any, were capable of such deeds. On page 200, Overy talks about the Germans when they attacked the Soviet Union commenting that if they had a larger number of tanks then things might have turned out differently for them. He creates this hypothesis in a vacuum since he is obviously leaving out the Soviet reaction to an increasing number of German tanks, and all that comes with them, on their border before the invasion. Overy gives a good overall account of the various industries but I'd say he ignores the strategic significance of Blitzkrieg. Nowhere does he mention that since the German military had adopted the strategy of Blitzkrieg they would need to plan accordingly for that concept to work, this specifically means allocations for small, limited wars. What Overy is discussing, rather, is a total war footing which is what the USSR and US went to when it came to their wars. Thus it was only after the initial Blitzkrieg had failed that Hitler began to do something about the lack of German production in the armaments industry. Throughout the whole chapter Overy dwells on the same issues but not once will bring up how Blitzkrieg strategy affected the wartime economy, which makes this entire chapter lacking.

On pg. 211 Overy trivialized the odds the German tank arm faced against their Soviet counterpart. Also quotes the general number of 15,000 tanks for the Soviets without putting them into context. The fact of the matter is that thousands of those tanks were rusted through and in need of major repairs and overhaul thus eliminating their use from the battlefield. On page 210 Overy comments on the fact that Panzer divisions started the war with 328 tanks and by the summer of 1943 averaged only 73. What he leaves out and only comments on later is that the number of panzer divisions more than doubled for the invasion of the Soviet Union and the number of tanks in them was cut in half. Overy makes many blanket statements such as on pg. 216 where he comments that "The incompetence of Soviet forces in 1941 allowed the Panzer armies to penetrate far and fast but by the autumn the toll was very great." No real qualifier is given for what he means when he says `incompetence' and no other reasons are forthcoming, although a plethora of them existed which explain why the Germans had such success in 1941. The entire chapter can be summed up by the idea that the Soviets and US learned from their defeats while both Germany and Japan relied on their proven victorious ways which only lasted so long. And when Germany did try to adopt new technology like the "Tiger" and "Panther" tanks it proved too complicated for the field of battle. The only interesting analysis that I found was when Overy mentions that the Germans began to concentrate on defensive weapons which goes a long way to explain why in the latter part of the war they held out for so long against such overwhelming odds. Even worse the lack of oil for the Germans proved to be the Achilles heel in most of their endeavors, and when it came to the future `wonder weapons' their ideas were ahead of their time, but due to limited funding, resources, and constant political interference nothing could be accomplished which would change the fate of the war, rather, a loss in money and time was the result.

In the chapter on morality was interesting but I don't think it played too much of a role in why either side won or lost. Both the Germans and Soviets, for instance, believed in what they were fighting for. The norm was high morale for the troops, more so in 1941 and 1942 for the Germans than the Soviets, which switched in the last 2-3 years of the war. While high morale and the essence of right and wrong might play a large role in war, it is most certainly not vital. This can be seen with the Japanese in the pacific theater. These soldiers held out in their beliefs in their emperor and their convictions until the end of the war fighting against the allies. A rather large part of the German Wehrmacht also stood their ground until the end, even after Hitler had committed suicide. Thus while morale and a justifiable cause is a large part of what makes an army win wars, it is not a decisive or even vital factor. Overall I can't say I recommend this book, too many mistakes, misconceptions, contradictions, ambiguous statements, and out of context analysis.
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Why The Allies Won
Why The Allies Won by Dr Richard Overy (Paperback - 7 Sep 2006)
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