A comprehensive, insightful one-volume study of World War II that relentlessly pursues the question: Why didn’t the Axis win?
British historian Roberts (Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941–1945, 2009, etc.) captures the vigorous momentum undertaken by Hitler when it seemed to the world that the Nazi engine could not be stopped. Hitler was a devout student of military history, and the use of tactical surprise was carried out with repeated stunning success. Yet—and here Roberts returns frequently—there were crucial mistakes: Hitler’s halt order given at Dunkirk on May 24, 1940, allowed the British Army to flee by sea; his inability to “grasp the fundamental principles of air warfare” over the English Channel led to the defeat in the Battle of Britain; he departed from the strategic principle of “concentration” by embarking on a two-front war; he resolved to invade Russia, despite the historical evidence of this folly and the reservations of his own general, in order to fulfill the Nazi worldview; and the subsequent harsh treatment of the captured ethnic groups in Russia sealed resistance to the Nazis. In the excellent chapter titled “The Everlasting Shame of Mankind,” Roberts cogently analyzes the Nazi policy and system of extermination. Other important chapters treat the “Tokyo Typhoon,” and battles at Midway, El Alamein, Stalingrad and Sicily; the cracking of the Enigma code; and the controversial uses by the Allies of carpet bombing and the atomic bomb. The author masterly shows how the Allied victory was never assured, while the Nazi defeat was the result, first and foremost, of its pernicious ideology.
An energetic, elegant synthesis of enormous research—with lots of maps!—that will prove a valuable resource for students of European history.