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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Why The Allies Won
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on 13 September 2017
best if coupled with Bevin Alexander's : "How Hitler could have won the war"
Both excellent text
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on 13 April 2017
Arrived on time and as described.
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on 11 April 2012
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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on 26 September 2002
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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on 6 January 2000
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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on 2 June 2008
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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on 31 July 2005
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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on 19 May 2014
This is first class history from one of the greatest historians of the period. Richard Overy is such a reliable academic and rarely puts a foot or thought wrong. This book should be on the shelf of anyone that professes to be interested in WW2 or military history in general. The areas he covers will astound you, in particular the efforts of the warring nations to master the war economy and in particular the differences in the end between the victors and the nations that were brought to their knees in defeat. The story of Japan and Germany are so similar in that their economies, in spite of being geared up for war before the other nations, never really could cope, mainly for the political structure that kept the economies on the back foot, the exception is the Russian war effort that somehow turns itself around to power the Red Army to complete victory. The US economy is just breathtaking in its ability to mass produce quality weapons of war at relatively short notice. I could go on as I have just covered war production and nothing else.
Overy covers all the bases, strategically, politically, logistically etc etc, and covers them all in a coherent and structured format that makes this book essential for any student who want a comprehensive overview of the requirements for victory on the biggest scale. Well done again Mr Overy....
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on 23 November 2013
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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on 11 February 2011
"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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