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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, diverting, 2 Jun 2008
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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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Jun 2008 18:28:11 BDT
Carl says:
"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."

Another example of where the author over simplifies the actual facts, the Soviets produced a wide range of tanks throughout the war- light, medium and heavies along with deliveries of many other models via lend-lease the same situation is true in regards to planes. Again with the German trucks, they didn't produce hundreds of different models, they confiscated whatever they could i.e. French, Italian, Soviet and British etc which is why they were equipped with so many different variants.

Posted on 20 May 2009 21:15:03 BDT
One of the most important reasons for the German defeat in World War Two is most definitely numbers; Germany 80,000,000 versus USA 300,000,000 plus British Empire 400,000,000 plus USSR 300,000,000. Those numbers equate to the German population being outnumbered by more than twelve to one. In the American Civil War the Confereracy was 'only' outnumbered by four to one and could not hold for more than five years.

Posted on 24 May 2011 09:26:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 May 2011 09:27:51 BDT
Donaldo -

you are no doubt correct in underlining the fact that Germany "had an economy only ready to fight small short-term conflicts". This also means, however, that it is ridiculous to believe that Germany wanted to conquer the whole world, as many people claim. The country never even got around to building an operational aircraft carrier - but then perhaps they thought of rowing across the Atlantic, wooden boats are not easily detected by radar, after all.

TD

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Jan 2012 22:10:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Jan 2012 22:12:30 GMT
You`re quite right . Germany never planned on world conquest , the concept of which would of been as ridiculous to them then as it should be to everybody today . Hitler repeatedly told his military that Germany lost the first war because of having to fight on 2 fronts which was to be avoided at all costs . His intentions were to regain German territory ceded to eastern countries after WW1 and expand further into Russia . His airforce possessed no heavy bombers and was designed largely to work in unison with the ground forces . Likewise he saw little need for a Navy on the scale of the u.k`s as he had no interest in Britains empire . When Churchill violated Norwegean neutrality , attacking German ships anchored in her waters and knowing of Churchills planned invasion there he rushed troops into the country . And shortly after had , what was described by those present , as a most undignified breakdown with the realisation he would be obliged to fight in the west .

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2012 14:13:54 BDT
Chris Green says:
USA population was about 130m in 1941-45. much of British empire was so far away, so backward so embroiled in other issues as to make it impossible to leverage the population. the numbers mattered bbut it wasn't as dramatic as you suggest
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