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THE SECOND WORLD WAR by John Keegan Kirkus Star


by John Keegan

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1989
ISBN: 0143035738
Publisher: Viking

The 50th anniversary of WW II's onset has triggered a spate of books from British and American authors. Few if any will be superior to Keegan's lengthy (592-page)but concise overview. The former Sandhurst lecturer (The Price of Admiralty, The Mask of Command, Soldiers, Six Armies in Normandy, et al.) begins his panoramic narrative deep in the past, i.e., with a coherent account of the socioeconomic advances that permitted global conflicts in the 20th century. Having provided stage-setting perspectives, he delivers insightful appreciations of the crucial battles and turning-point campaigns that--at no small cost in blood and treasure--enabled the allies to defeat the Axis powers. Covered as well are the strategic dilemmas that confronted Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo as they deployed arms and men throughout the European and Pacific theaters, from the fall of 1939 through the late summer of 1945. Along the way, Keegan offers acute commentary on the major combatants' industrial capabilities, home-front morale, and espionage efforts, plus resistance movements in occupied countries. A graceful writer as well as a knowledgeable student of martial history, he enlivens his chronicle with wry wit, e.g., "(Semyon) Budenny had a fine mustache but no military brain." An informed and informative accounting of a horrific war that, the author suggests in an affecting epilogue, might just have saved the world from wider-ranging hostilities. The text is profusely illustrated, with dramatic photographs and helpful maps throughout.