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The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won Hardcover – Illustrated, 28 November 2017
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The Second World Wars is a monumental, riveting, and illuminating reappraisal of the first - and hopefully the last - truly global conflict, full of exceptional insights from one of America's greatest living historians. Victor Davis Hanson's account provides an exceptional retrospective on the wars in which a staggering 60 million people perished before the Allies prevailed.--General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), former commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and coalition forces in Afghanistan and former Director of the CIA
The Second World Wars is an outstanding work of historical interpretation. It is impossible to do justice to such a magnificent book in a short review. Given the vast quantities of ink expended on accounts of this great conflict, one would think that there was not much more left to say. Hanson proves that this belief is wrong. His fresh examination of World War II cements his reputation as a military historian of the first order.--National Review
The Second World Wars offers an incisive tale for our age of globalization. Yet it is rooted in timeless truths. That is no surprise because Victor Davis Hanson is our greatest historian of western warfare from its origins in ancient Greece. Nobody writes military history like Hanson.--Barry Strauss, author of The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Greatest Assassination
[The Second World Wars] is a brilliant and very original and readable work by a great military historian and contemporary commentator.--New Criterion
[The Second World Wars] is written in an energetic and engaging style. Mr. Hanson provides more than enough interesting and original points to make this book essential reading. One thing becomes increasingly clear: The complex of conflicts between 1937 and 1945, because of their unprecedented reach and their death blow to colonialism, brought world history together for the first time.--Wall Street Journal
[Hanson's] insights into the international reach of the conflict are very much worth reading, and in this book as in all his others, the reading momentum never flags.--Open Letters Monthly
[Hanson's] organizational approach allows him to isolate and highlight observations that may surprise even some well-read WWII enthusiasts.--Publishers Weekly
[Hanson's] unusual approach yields new insights about long-familiar events, making his experiments ingenious and successful.--America in WWII Magazine
An extraordinary array of facts and statistics, [The Second World Wars] offers an account of the fatalism of war.--New Yorker
An ingenious, always provocative analysis of history's most lethal war.--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
As I struggle in my office to capture Hanson's analytical tour de force in review, I can see the shelf full of books on World War II that I've read over the decades. After reading Wars, I believe I have a firmer grasp of the big picture--very big picture indeed--of how this conflict began, the various tortuous paths it took, and how it resolved the way it did than after digesting all of these other volumes. Reviewers are sometimes over-quick to label a book essential. For readers who wish to fully understand World War II, this book is.--American Spectator
Dr. Hanson has written another well-researched and fascinating book. [He] does an excellent job of placing World War II in the historical context of global conflict.--New York Journal of Books
Even if you feel like you've read everything and then some about World War II, you will find a huge amount in [The Second World Wars] that is new, fascinating, and enlightening. And more than that, you'll find a way of thinking about how the lowliest practicalities and logistical challenges of war are connected to the highest reaches of geopolitics that will change how you think about both. This is what a great, enduring work of military history looks like.--Yuval Levin, National Review
Hansen provides a concise, readable and well-researched volume on World War II. It is an excellent starting point for those who know nothing about World War II, and a fresh look at the war for those knowledgeable about it.--Galveston County's The Daily News
Hanson is a writer who crunches not only numbers but the text itself. He has a gift for brevity, exactness, and clarity. Invariably he brings the wisdom of a lifetime of scholarship, plus his natural intelligence, to bear on judgments about strategy, causes, leadership, and results. [The Second World Wars] is a fine book, rich in both facts and ideas. It is a triumph for an author/historian with a clear vision, the necessary imagination, and the intellect to explain the past to us on a vast canvas, with clarity, a sense of values, and common sense.--Omaha Dispatch
Hopefully, [The Second World Wars] will become required reading for students at professional military schools as an introduction to war in the industrial age as well as to students studying how the 20th century shaped who we are today.--Washington Times
I couldn't put it down. It is rare to encounter a view of the war from the multiple perspectives of the six powers, three on each side, who were the prime combatants, in the elemental theaters of sea and air and land. The analysis is excellent. The Second World Wars is a major work of historical narrative and deserves to meet readers receptive to its riches.--David Lehman, author of Sinatra's Century
I loved this book. Strongly recommended.--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
If you think there is nothing more to be said about World War II, then you haven't read Victor Davis Hanson's The Second World Wars. Hanson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of every aspect of the conflict, ranging from land to sea to air, and from grand strategy to infantry tactics, to analyze what happened and why. Page after page, he produces dazzling insights informed by his deep knowledge of military history going all the way back to ancient Greece. The Second World Wars is compulsively readable.--Max Boot, author of Invisible Armies, War Made New and The Savage Wars of Peace
In his exposition of this thesis, displaying a depth of knowledge of the period that is often simply astounding, Hanson has written what I consider to be the most important single-volume explanation of World War II since Richard Overy's Why the Allies Won (1996)-that is, for a generation.--Andrew Roberts, Claremont Review of Books
In his latest work, noted military historian Victor Davis Hanson provides an utterly original account of what he terms the 'first true global conflict.'--History Net
Lively and proactive, full of the kind of novel perceptions that can make a familiar subject interesting again.--New York Times Book Review
Perceptive and provocative.--American Greatness
Victor Davis Hanson has delivered another masterpiece-this time a monumental history of World War II, surpassing all prior attempts at a comprehensive accounting of that cataclysm. Ranging from the deserts of North Africa to the islands of the Pacific, Hanson brings to bear a massive arsenal of insights to illuminate how strategy, culture, industry, and leadership shaped battlefield events and doomed the Axis empires.--Mark Moyar, author of Oppose Any Foe: The Rise of America's Special Operations Forces
Victor Davis Hanson's history is thematic. The war is dissected into its constituent parts, allowing the historian to examine at length aspects of the conflict that would be given short shrift in a narrative account. What is remarkable is that despite the absence of a traditional storyline the reader's attention never flags. Indeed, I have learned more in a few days with this dog-eared [book] than I have in a lifetime of interest in World War II.--Washington Free Beacon
Victor Hanson's comprehensive account of World War II is a wonder. Where others have supplied a narrative, he provides analysis. He explores the war's origins; the role played in its conduct by airpower, sea power, infantry, tanks, artillery, industry, and generalship; and the reasons why the Allies won and the Axis lost. This is an eye-opener and a page-turner.--Paul A. Rahe, Hillsdale College, author of The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge
- Publisher : Basic Books; 1st edition (28 November 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 752 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0465066984
- ISBN-13 : 978-0465066988
- Dimensions : 16.19 x 3.81 x 24.45 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 154,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This book provides the reader with new descriptions and strong ideas about that war that continues to intrigue.
WWII is one of the few major wars where the losing side killed more soldiers than the winners, and where far more civilians perished than soldiers. It sparked a powder keg of warped values where society, politics and militarism became conveniently and confusingly mixed, “National Socialism was to be a force multiplier of Prussian militarism.” Fascism was to return Italy to the glory of the Roman Empire and Japan’s Bushido was to prove superiority over other nations and races in every sense of the word.
These ideologies marked a stark change from the old boys’ school of deliberate diplomacy. The psychology and motivations of new leaders along with modes of action and industrial might signaled this would not be a static or contained war. It was less about pride and flag and more about resource starved and seemingly threatened Axis powers lashing out. This was a sea-change to the status quo. Consider what the English ambassador to France confessed in 1930, “We English, after the war (First World War), made two mistakes: we believed the French, because they had been victorious, had become Germans, and we believed the Germans, through some mysterious transmutation, had become the Englishmen.”
This was a war of manufacturing, supply, communication and logistics. Men and materiel could be moved like never before. Technology gave man new ways to fight and to arm ever larger militaries, “A Jeep or tank in 1945 looked more like its counterpart in 2016 than in 1918.” Hitler was said to remark that he would never have invaded the Soviet Union had he known of Stalin’s tank production capabilities.
The Nazis created ever more models or tank and airplane while the Allied powers accepted deficiencies in design and, instead, opted for massive standardized output. The Sherman and the T34 flooded battlefields. Hanson writes a beautiful and insightful line, “We often forget that the Third Reich was postmodern in creative genius but premodern in actual implementation and operations.” In other words, the Axis powers should have won in theory.
In reality, the Allied nations economic output created larger, better equipped militaries. It was dramatically lopsided. I remember reading elsewhere that for every Japanese soldier there was one man behind supporting him. For every American soldier in the Pacific theater, there were 12-14 men. Those men being in logistics, motor pool, communications, mess tent, etc.
Hanson makes this point time again. That is, how numbers of men and materiel overwhelmed. The book gets granular, right down to rate of fire of various machine guns. This is where his style of research, analysis, and writing differ from a Ryan or Beevor who lean more to narrative and individualized stories. Hanson’s work is more academic but not dry. It substantiates by offering more substance. That makes it a more involved read.
One cool bit comes in the form of an alternative history musing. Could the Axis have hunkered down mid-war, held the won territory and mobilize conquered assets to wage a different war? I will not share the conclusion as this is a fascinating sub-topic.
Hanson succinctly summarizes, “The Allies learned to fight like the Axis; the Axis never learned to produce like the Allies.” This devastatingly cruel conflict could have been avoided, claims the author, if not for “British appeasement, American isolationism, and Russian collaboration.” I enthusiastically recommend this work.
Top reviews from other countries
I do not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a different slant in writing about the 2nd World War.