A War to be Won : Fighting the Second World War, Paperback Book

A War to be Won : Fighting the Second World War Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In the course of the 20th century, no war looms as profoundly transformative or as destructive as World War II.

Its global scope and human toil reveal the true face of modern, industrialised warfare.

Now, for the first time, we have a comprehensive, single-volume account of how and why this global conflict evolved as it did.

This book is a history of the Second World War that tells the full story of battle on land, on sea, and in the air.

The authors analyse the operations and tactics that defined the conduct of the war in both the European and Pacific theatres.

Moving between the war room and the battlefield, we see how strategies were crafted and revised, and how the multitudes of combat troops struggled to discharge their orders.

The authors present incisive portraits of the military leaders, on both sibs of the struggle, demonstrating the ambiguities they faced, the opportunities they took, and those they missed.

Throughout, we see the relationship between the actual operations of the war and their political and moral implications.

This book is the result of decades of research by two of America's premier military historians. It avoids a celebratory view of the war but preserves a profound respect for the problems the allies faced and overcame as well as a realistic assessment of the axis accomplishments and failures.

This history of World War II - from the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to the surrender of Japan in 1945, should be of interest to students, scholars, and general readers alike.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 736 pages, 126 halftones, 23 maps, 2 tables
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General & world history
  • ISBN: 9780674006805



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Review by

This is a full historical review of what we call world War II. The political, economic, human and military aspects are described in enough detail to tie them together. Certainly each area could have volumes written about them and still not have exhausted all the information available. This volume does not exhaustively review every subject, but presents enough of each concept to give the reader an understanding of the complexities of the events. The military events are covered in the greatest detail with the underlying economic and political causes/results of the military events described.This is a readable and interesting history of a great time in history which still impacts our lives today. Because of the wealth of detail this is not a "fast read" - rather it took time to put all the information together. I did find it enjoyable and informative to understand the roles played by all involved. I was surprised about some assessments of leaders I had always considered heroes. The one difficult problem I had was with the paucity of maps and when they were present, the narrative described events at places not on the map. Made for tough going trying place events in places. A book worth reading to give an overall look at WWII. I give this one 4 stars.

Review by

This is a one-volume operational military history of the Second World War, which is to say it focuses on the resources available to the Axis and the Allies, the strategic challenges faced by theater commanders and generals, and the choices they made. There's virtually no social history here, and relatively little political history. When political considerations drove operational choices, that is mentioned, but not explored. The book charts this arc: the war is Germany's and Japan's to win or lose until 1942; and the Allies' to win quickly or slowly after that point because of their deep resources (the Soviet Union's geographic depth and population; the United States' manufacturing capacity). The authors write from a distinct worldview. Hitler and Stalin are portrayed as dangerous fools; Churchill and Roosevelt as heroes but flawed as military leaders because of their intense political instincts. Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall receive high praise; the authors also admire British general William Slim and, at least for his sense of strategy if not his humanity, Soviet general Georgi Zhukov. A few German and Japanese generals win praise for their skills, but are presented as tough adversaries, not sympathetic figures. One exception is Japanese general Yamashita Tomoyuki; his depiction as a warrior who cared about his subordinates serves to make his main opponent, Douglas MacArthur, look worse. The authors loathe MacArthur, and they don't think much of U.S. Admiral Ernest King, either. They present George Patton as the most underrated general of the war. In a epilogue, the authors defend their particular rhetorical approach: "As the past recedes from memory and takes form on the printed page, historians and other commentators have begun to depict victory in that terrible conflict in soft words. A number have suggested ... that the Allied cause was as morally bankrupt as the Axis cause.... These advocates for moral equivalence are wrong." That's surely overstating the case; I've never come across a mainstream historian arguing the Allies were like the Axis in goals or methods. An historian can try to step inside the mind of a German or Japanese general without endorsing what he or she finds there; indeed, it's hard to see how one could really comprehend the war without doing that. But, at any rate, the authors' defense provides a good indication of where they're coming from. For the kind of account they've written, that's okay.

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