THE CRUCIAL YEARS: 1939-1941 by Hanson W. Baldwin


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The highlights of the first 27 months of WW II rendered by the former military editor of the New York Times. Baldwin combines military detail with the diplomatic and political framework of events, along with the premise that ""man and his unbridled passions caused"" the war. The book maintains that the US should have let ""both dictators"" (Stalin and Hitler) bleed each other to death so that the US could gain a freer hand in the postwar world. Baldwin is generally well-disposed toward the British, and also to the autocrat of Finland, Baron von Mannerheim, though he records that Mannerheim received ""a fistful"" of Nazi Iron Crosses for fighting the Soviets. The pro-Germans on the French General Staff are described as disabled by ""past glories."" No apologies are made for Stalin's pact with Hitler, and while Stalin is scolded for refusing to act on Nazi invasion plans, Chamberlain's Munich appeasement is condoned because it ""meant gained time, the one element for which there is no substitute."" Unlike Liddell Hart, Baldwin raises no questions concerning the British failure to halt the Nazi invasion of Norway. Indeed, the approach is conventional in every important respect, including an insistence that Pearl Harbor represented the ""lethargy of peacetime and delays,"" and, contrary to recently revived appraisals, was not used by Roosevelt to effect US entry into the war. Baldwin provides casualty statistics but shows little interest in the mobilization potential and other logistical matters so important at this stage of the war. The book--Baldwin's fourteenth--is compact and readable, but authoritative only in the sense of being a ""standard"" interpretation.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row