Friday, May 20, 2011

The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts

The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World WarThe Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts

4.5 Stars

First of all, this is not a book to be read one or two days, although it is possible. There is so much information in the book, it could easily be used as a text for WWII.

Although the book is about WWII, the angle is a tactical one. What tactical errors did Germany and the Axis make to lose the war? When seen from decades hindsight, statistical data has been gathered. The cost in dollars, human lives tallied and the number of days counted.

Beginning in 1939 when Germany officially annexed Poland then continued westward, Roberts describes pivotal tactical errors. Some of the highlights have definite roots to the simple fact that Hitler was an ego-maniacal psychopath. Lest you think I am completely naive, Hitler did provide a land-locked, Versailles Treaty weary nation with hope of a better tomorrow. The Germans, at this time, were starving to death, freezing to death, and incapacitated by the strict dictates of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler, being Hitler, believed himself to be above all others in ability, intellect, strategist, and somehow fooled himself to thinking that the funny little mustache added to his sex appeal.

It did not.

The real issue was that Germany was beaten. Taking land from other countries would have been a good strategy to simply add capital and land to grow food. Declaring war and marching into these countries, taking them over and declaring yourself king might sound like a great strategy except that Hitler chose to also include a clause for his war that murdering potential soldiers and their families was necessary. Yes, I am referring to the Holocaust. Although he was sadly somewhat successful, by declaring war on the Jewish race, he summarily killed at least a couple million potential soldiers for his own side. Big duh.

Another tactical mistake was the lack of unity for the Axis nations. While the Allies rallied together, planned together, sat and broke bread, even though they didn't particularly care for one another (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin), Hitler et. al. barely knew who the others were. On top of that, Hitler was going for world domination. It's like playing an intense game of "Survivor" and forming alliances but knowing that eventually you will be double crossed.

December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States, although crippled somewhat due to a severe lack of military ships, still had a vast number of artillery, airplanes, and willing citizens who lined up to enlist without a gun pointed at their heads. Japan attacks and Hitler declares war on the United States. The segue is not clear to me, either.

Meanwhile, Hitler and Stalin did a quick wink and nod. A gentleman's handshake guaranteed that Germany would not attack Russia, therefore, Russia wouldn't engage. In retrospect, there were no gentlemen included in that agreement. Stalin was also a raging psychopath and in the midst of killing his own countrymen, as well. In fact, without even declaring war, Stalin's Russia accumulated a staggering body count. And then Hitler attacked Russia.

Just to clarify, the U.S. were fighting two front - Japan and Germany. This was not a personal choice but a declaration of war by Germany and a non-declaration of war by Japan. They did not declare war, they simply attacked, which is very unsportsman-like, by the way. Meanwhile, teeny, tiny Germany which HAD spent the past decade greasing the war machine and pumping up the arsenal, took on The World. On one side they were fighting to take over Western Europe and on the other side, they decided to double cross Stalin, a known psychopath, and take over Eastern Europe.

Back to Hitler, who I called an egomaniac - rather than relying on skilled military strategists who had experience and training in the art of war, he relied on his old habit of reciting his mantra - He who doesn't agree with me, dies. So he killed some good consultants and placed some bad consultants that liked to please Hitler in their stead.

This is not to say that Hitler only made poor tactical decisions because clearly, he made some very good ones. It was a long, horrible, and costly war. However, there were pivotal errors that proved to be unforgiving and difficult to overcome.

This reads like a history book but more personal and interesting. I admit that I did not read the entire book like I would a novel. It contains information that I don't understand and I had to skim parts of it before I got muddled. Roberts is a compelling writer and well versed in the many facets of WWII.

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