Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keegan - The Second World War

Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Viking, 1990.

The Second World War killed a bunch of people all over the world. Keegan explains how.

He concentrates on
  • the Battle of Britain as an air battle,
  • Midway for the clash of large carrier forces,
  • Crete as an essentially airborne assault,
  • Okinawa as a representative amphibious operation, and
  • Berlin as the supreme example of a city siege and battle.
  • Falaise as a tank battle
A few quick key assessments
  • Strategic bombing did not match the hopes it inspired before the war of bringing about a quick victory
  • Espionage did not play a hugely significant role, but signals intelligence was more critical
  • Midway was a close shave that, through good fortune as much as strategy, was certainly the pivotal battle in the Pacific. To the victor belonged control of the seas.
  • Airborne assault was dicey. It only worked in Crete because the British defenders didn't realize how well they had warded off the assault on the first day, and ceded a key airstrip which the Germans exploited on the second day. It worked at Normandy because the allies learned from Crete to drop their forces away from the targeted strongpoint and then move toward it on the ground. It failed at Marketgarden because this wasn't done.
  • The second Atomic bomb was unncessary for ending the war.
  • Stalin was CONSTANTLY thinking in terms of geopolitics, and wanted to gain something from the war from the start.
  • Though they fought bravely, local resistance within Nazi territory, from France to Warsaw, was never more than a nuisance to the Germans.
  • Stalingrad was the turning point in East Europe. Hitler over extended, and then refused to allow his trapped army to fight its way out of the city.
  • Italy served Hitler in that it occupied the Allies without too much extension of German resources.
  • Hitler's main delusion in continuing the war was his Faith in his secret weapons program
  • Churchill was a master of diplomacy and managed to postpone the opening of a Western front until he felt the British army was ready to wage it. US wanted to open the front in 42, and then 43. The allies pursued a strategy of "Germany first, but not yet" after the US entered the war.

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