Below is an animated map of the progress of WWII day by day from 1 September, 1939 to October, 1945 when the last major units of the Japanese military surrendered. It provides a fascinating view of the way in which the fortunes of the went back and forth.
Last Spring I did a presentation to my local Military History group about the Crete Campaign of 1941 and figured that since I now have the time I would put something up here about it as well because I find the whole campaign to be a comedy of errors by both sides in this misguided, ill-conceived, and poorly executed excuse for a battle. First, we should examine the strategic situation in May of 1941.
In May 1941 England had been run out of Greece with its tail between its legs and was using Crete as both a staging ground for evacuation and they were hoping like hell they could hold it and stop the Mediterranean, or at least the eastern part from turning into a German Lake. For their part, Germany did not know what to do. They were in the last stages of planning the attack on Stalin’s Russia set to commence in June but in the meantime they had all these troops hanging out in Greece with nothing to do. The possession of Crete would have conferred no strategic or even operational advantage to the Germans as the British still controlled Malta and the British navy still controlled the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading
[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]
World War Two: Cause and Effect by Bill Brady is not so much a narrative history as a topical anthology of the war. It is a collection of papers Mr Brady has presented over the years collected and published in one volume. According to the jacket Mr. Brady is a lifelong history buff and is a member and President of the South African Military History Society of Kwa Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa.
The book itself is 341 pages in length. The text is divided into twenty-nine topical chapters with each chapter being one of the papers presented. Unfortunately, the book as neither a bibliography nor an index. While disappointing, that lack does not seriously harm the book.
There is really nothing new or innovative about the topics covered in the book. No new theoretical ground is broken and no new facts or data about the war are presented that would tend to change the way the war is viewed. That being said, the text is clear and the writing style is quite good making this a very enjoyable read. All the topics are well covered and there are descriptions of some of the less covered events of the war. The three chapters I found most interesting covered the Battle of the River Plate, the Fall of SIngapore, and the Slapton Sands accident before D-Day.
While this book does not present any ground-shaking new information about World War II, it is a good introduction to some of the wars most famous and also some not so famous events. The analysis of strategy and tactics within follows the widespread conventional wisdom and judgement of historians. The lack of a bibliography and index is distressing but then, this is not an academic work nor does it aspire to be one. This is a book about World War II that the average person who knows little about the war can both read and understand.
I recommend this book for people who only know the allies won World War II. It provides a good, topical, chronology of the war and provides just enough information to cover it’s topics while sparking an interest to learn more. A good introduction to the war that shows both the complexity and extent of the world’s most devastating war to date.
Here is a link to an excellent review of Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon a new book about British strategic planning prior to WWI. It sounds like an excellent read and a book that has to go on my wish list.
Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army`s Art of Attack, 1916-18 by Paddy Griffith is a very interesting book. The premise is that despite what many historians have said about the inertia of the British Army in WWI and it’s resistance to tactical change, that is not true and the British were committed to innovation throughout the war in an effort to break the deadlock of the trenches.
The book itself is not long, 219 pages of text including appendices. There are extensive endnotes and the bibliography is fairly extensive as well. The book is organized topically and though it purports to only deal with the developments of the last two years of the war that is not strictly true. It is divided into 4 parts and with 11 chapters and 3 appendices.
The 4 parts cover an extended introduction, infantry, heavy weapons, and the conclusion. Of particular note to me was his appendix decrying the lack of battle history in recent scholarship in preference for social military histories. That is a topic that speaks volumes to me.
His analysis of the evolution of infantry tactics during the war is incisive and he is wholly correct in saying that the infantry and their commanders were not the static cannon fodder often portrayed in the history books. I particularly found his discussion of the actual impact that machine guns, artillery, and tanks had on battlefield success interesting. He correctly stresses that despite the claimed effects of these wonder weapons, particularly the tank, they were not the war winning weapons that most histories paint them to be. While the tank is dramatic, it played a decidedly secondary role in WWI. Any good history of the methods that won the war should instead focus on the role of artillery and infantry because it is that combination that developed and executed the ground warfare tactics that led to victory and the breaking of the trench stalemate.
This is an interesting study and while it is by no means the final word on WWI tactics, it is a breath of fresh air into a topic that many historians have considered closed for many years. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is dissatisfied with current WWI tactical historical interpretations.