Monday, July 12, 2010

Winston's War Churchill 1940-1945 by Max Hastings

"And never was heard, a discouraging word". This WWII bio/history gathers up all the discouraging words passed around during the war and prints them. It's all there, British ruling class appeasement, military defeats, labor unrest, anti Churchill members of parliament, and military adventures that either didn't pan out or never got out of committee. The author is a Brit, and he is out to reinterpret the hell out of WWII history.
Despite the load of dirt, the book is unsatisfying. It does not get to the meat of the great wartime controversies. For instance the great Anglo American debate over "2nd Front Now" versus the North African landings is glossed over. It's mentioned, but the author glosses over the issues, assumes the reader is familiar with them which is a little much really. WWII buffs like me know the story but at this remove in time, it is unreasonable to expect the general reader to remember this level of detail. And he omits key details, such how the British view point (do North Africa) carried the day.
The author trashes the British Army for loosing repeatedly, but he never really gets to the root of the matter. Len Deighton did a much better job in his "Blood, Tears, and Folly". Deighton blames a British school system that allowed the bulk of children to drop out in middle school, whereas the German school system prided itself on getting its students high school diplomas. According to Deighton German troops were nearly all high school graduates whereas the British troops were largely high school dropouts.
The book is interesting, but it isn't going to become a favorite due to its downer material.

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