A thick, sturdy history of World War II, beginning in 1941, the second in the author’s War in the West trilogy.
There is no shortage of multivolume general histories of WWII, but this is an illuminating read from a skilled historian. In 2015, Holland delivered 500 pages of The Rise of Germany, 1939-1941: The War in the West. In this even heftier second volume, the author begins at the traditional nadir of Allied (really British) fortunes just before Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941. Holland reminds readers that in the first volume, he argued that Germany was doomed from the beginning, and he has not changed his mind. Few scholars deny that Germany’s economy could not support a long war. Its vaunted technology was only a veneer because it lacked mass production capacity to make use of it. Even 6,000 superior tanks were no match for 50,000 Shermans. Furthermore, the potency of its mechanized army was greatly exaggerated. Not even 20 of the 135 divisions were mechanized in 1940, and soldiers remained dependent on horse transport to the end. Stripped of resources in 1940-1941, conquered nations provided little help afterward, while Britain’s empire and America poured out supplies. Having set the scene, Holland delivers a detailed, opinionated account of fighting in North Africa, the Atlantic submarine campaign, and the air war while acknowledging (and often describing) the far larger war in Russia. This second volume, once again helpfully illustrated with plenty of maps, ends two years after it begins, in May 1943, with the Axis surrender in Tunisia, its disastrous loss of a few dozen U-boats, and the first massive bomber missions. “Germany was running out of steam,” writes Holland. “Food, fuel, manpower—those three most important requirements for sustained modern warfare: there was not enough of any.”
Although it fills no great need, this is an expert, anecdote-filled, thoroughly entertaining if heavily British-oriented history of the war’s middle years.