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26 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kershaw never found the plot., 11 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
The subject is fascinating, and Ian Kershaw's reputation promises much. How could Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese warlords make such crass mistakes? But in 483 pages citing 420 authors Kershaw provides no explanation because he ignores three pivotal factors.

First he is silent about the battle of Kalkin Gol in which Zhukov destroyed Japanese military pretensions in 1939 with pivotal consequences.
Secondly, Kershaw fails to mention Roosevelt's nightmare of the combined fleets of Germany, Britain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Poland sailing up the Chesapeake and driving him from the White House in 1941 or 1942.
Thirdly, Kershaw never examines the USA's isolationist movement in any detail.

These omissions are extraordinary, and make his book valueless.

For the record, Kalkin Gol led to Zhukov's appointment as destroyer of the Wehrmacht. It also traumatised Japan which chose the southern option and refused to help Hitler fight Russia. Worse for Hitler, it allowed Zhukov to redeploy his Eastern army to the gates of Moscow where it defeated the Wehrmacht.
For the record, FDR's nightmare about the combined fleets in the Chesapeake drove him to commit his warships to the Atlantic in an attempt to fight Hitler to the last Englishman. This exposed him to the Japanese.
And for the record, the isolationist sentiment in the USA made it impossible for FDR to declare war on Hitler even after Pearl Harbour.

Kershaw therefore never asks why Hitler was ignorant of the proven abilities of Zhukov and the Red Army, and why he committed hara kiri by declaring war on a paralysed USA.

If Hitler had ignored FDR's provocations, there could have been no invasion of North Africa, of Sicily or of Normandy because there would have been no landing craft and no US armed forces in Europe. The Luftwaffe would have avoided defeat by the USAAF and in their turn defeated Bomber Command. There would have been no atomic weapons, and the war would have dragged on interminably. How it would have ended is anyone's guess, but Kershaw does not even get to ask it.

He just doesn't get the plot.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Aug 2008 17:32:09 BDT
UBIQUE says:
You talk about all the things wrong with this book yet what you are doing is exactly the same. You are making assumptions on things that have already happened.
"E.g. If Luftwaffe was not destroyed by the USAAF it would have destoyed Bomber Command".... where is your source for this infomation? There are also lots of other facts stated in your list that either make little sense and have no generally accepted basis in fact. (e.g. The overall effect of the isolationists's power over FDR).

Posted on 21 Feb 2009 11:45:03 GMT
Marcus Laver says:
Some good comments in this review, but I think it's naive to think that America would have stayed out of the European conflict. Roosevelt was doing is best to provoke war with Germany and sooner or later, they would have taken the bait. And I believe the British would have landed in Europe by themselves, without American troops. All they needed was American ships and landing craft, which Roosevelt would have provided, and planes, to provide aerial support, which Roosevelt also supplied. Germany would have lost anyway, but the Russians would have got further West.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jan 2010 15:54:58 GMT
Tomfrom66 says:
Churchill was at best lukewarm about D-Day believing it would lead to a re-run of the Somme. I think it vanishingly unlikely that he would have invaded France. His record shows him to be side-show man: Italy, for example, and the Dardenelles in WWI.

Posted on 11 Nov 2012 16:48:26 GMT
Ultima Thule says:
Actually Kershaw does mention the Khalkin Gol incident but refers to it by the name Nomonhan. He mentions it as a reason why some of the Japanese Army commanders were reluctant to 'go north' i.e. attack the Soviet Union.

As for the other criticisms; the author does allude to Roosevelt's fear of the British navy becoming neutralised or worse. The need to take account of public opinion in the USA before making decisions is a key feature of Kershaw's chapters on the USA and the power of the isolationist lobby is frequently mentioned particularly in regards to Congress.
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