Email this review


A straightforward survey detailing how the land, sea, and air forces of seven great nations have evolved during the 20th century. In evenhanded fashion, Carver traces the military development of China, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, US, and USSR during peace as well as war. In addition to recounting most of the great battles of the past 90 years, he outlines the strategic priorities that produced different kinds of armies and navies at varying times. During the early stages of America's involvement in WW I, for example, the General Staff was preoccupied with mobilization and conscription; as one consequence, Carver reports, American troops did not get the full advantage of their country's industrial prowess or its leadership in automotive technology. Subsequently, of course, US military doctrine has stressed firepower rather than manpower. By contrast, the author observes, China's post-Korea legions, though poorly equipped and incapable of sustained offensive campaigns, are up to the job of defending the country's vast frontiers. At least as intriguing as the chronological briefings on national armed forces are the author's judgments about the military's typically overrated influence on policy and geopolitical events. The German military, he concludes, cannot be accused of favoring war in 1939. Nor, since the Boer War, can the British forces be charged with war-mongering. Less clear, though, is the situation in the Soviet Union, where the military is ostensibly subservient to the Communist Party. In many cases, moreover, Carver shows how unprepared major military machines have been for the conflicts in which they found themselves engaged. A wide-ranging and accessible appreciation for history as well as military buffs. The fast-paced text includes six helpful maps.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1988
Publisher: Weidenfield & Nicolson