Customer Review

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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