A lively study of the first part of World War II that moves along operational and tactical lines.
Concentrating on the beginning salvos of war in the West, British historian and novelist Holland (Dam Busters: The True Story of the Inventors and Airmen Who Led the Devastating Raid to Smash the German Dams in 1943, 2012, etc.) sticks close to the nuts-and-bolts angle of the various flare-ups, beginning with complacent American isolationism in mid-1939 and the rise of extremism in Germany and Italy in reaction to struggling economies. The author returns throughout this engaging narrative to several key players for an intimate look: Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Galeazzo Ciano, who caught the rise of Benito Mussolini, married his daughter, and stood at the heart of discussions with the new Axis partner, Germany, intent on regaining the Danzig Corridor; Capitaine André Baufre, the French staff officer chosen for work in diplomacy, who had grave doubts about the French army’s preparedness; and Edward Spears, member of the British Parliament and Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s personal representative, who would observe the horrific fall of France. (Holland provides a terrific “cast list” as well as comprehensive maps throughout.) The author follows the earnest work for diplomacy, the U-boat danger in the North Sea, the Battle of Britain and vacillation over Norway, the justification for the widening war in the Mediterranean, and—most importantly—just how all those ships, tanks, and artillery were fabricated and delivered. Germany faced huge obstacles, including a fuel shortage and the superior manpower numbers of France and Britain. Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, was the only way to remedy the chronic shortage of resources, but it was incredibly risky—and, as Holland notes, “nothing less than total victory would suffice.”
A sturdy, readable resource that regards the Blitzkrieg as no magical matter.