A definitive account of World War II by America's preeminent military historian
World War II was the most lethal conflict in human history. Never before had a war been fought on so many diverse landscapes and in so many different ways, from rocket attacks in London to jungle fighting in Burma to armor strikes in Libya.
The Second World Wars examines how combat unfolded in the air, at sea, and on land to show how distinct conflicts among disparate combatants coalesced into one interconnected global war. Drawing on 3,000 years of military history, Victor Davis Hanson argues that despite its novel industrial barbarity, neither the war's origins nor its geography were unusual. Nor was its ultimate outcome surprising. The Axis powers were well prepared to win limited border conflicts, but once they blundered into global war, they had no hope of victory.
An authoritative new history of astonishing breadth, The Second World Wars offers a stunning reinterpretation of history's deadliest conflict.
Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and lives in Selma, California.
List of Maps xiii
Part 1 Ideas 1
1 The War in a Classical Context 3
2 Grievances, Agendas, and Methods 17
3 Old, New, and Strange Alliances 47
Part 2 Air 65
4 The Air Power Revolution 67
5 From Poland to the Pacific 79
6 New Terrors from Above 109
Part 3 Water 133
7 Ships and Strategies 135
8 From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 165
9 A Vast Ocean 183
Part 4 Earth 197
10 The Primacy of Infantry 199
11 Soldiers and Armies 213
12 The Western and Eastern Wars for the Continent 247
13 Armies Abroad 269
14 Sieges 307
Part 5 Fire 351
15 Tanks and Artillery 353
Part 6 People 391
16 Supreme Command 393
17 The Warlords 429
18 The Workers 449
19 The Dead 463
Part 7 Ends 501
20 Why and What Did the Allies Win? 503
Works Cited 595
Photo insert is located between 132 and 133
Photo insert is located between 390 and 391
…I found [The Second World Wars] lively and provocative, full of the kind of novel perceptions that can make a familiar subject interesting again…Hanson is most original and enjoyable when he uses his professional background in ancient history to illuminate 20th-century war.The New York Times Book Review - Thomas E. Ricks
Ancient history specialist Hanson (Hoplites), a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, makes his first foray into WWII history with an examination into why the Allies won and the Axis lost. The book is not a chronological history of the war; rather it consists of six parts that examine 20 diverse themes, including alliances, airpower, infantry, soldiers and armies, and supreme command. Hanson considers the six major belligerents (Italy, Germany, and Japan on the Axis side, and Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union on the Allied side), analyzes their characteristics (for example, why the Germans had the best infantry), and assesses the impact of those characteristics on the outcome of the war (e.g., the consequences of Italy and Germany’s failure to recognize the importance of aircraft carriers to global war). Little in Hanson’s work is new and he largely relies on authoritative secondary sources, but his organizational approach allows him to isolate and highlight observations that may surprise even some well-read WWII enthusiasts. Maps & illus. (Oct.)
A Kirkus Best Book of 2017
"The Second World Wars by Victor Davis Hanson is breathtakingly magisterial: How can Mr. Hanson make so much we thought we knew so fresh and original?"Karl Rov, Wall Street Journal, "What Political Readers Read in 2017"
"Lively and proactive, full of the kind of novel perceptions that can make a familiar subject interesting again."New York Times Book Review
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."Wall Street Journal
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
Second World Wars] is a brilliant and very original and readable work by a great military historian and contemporary commentator."New Criterion
"An ingenious, always provocative analysis of history's most lethal war."Kirkus
"[Hanson's] organizational approach allows him to isolate and highlight observations that may surprise even some well-read WWII enthusiasts."Publishers Weekly
"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
"[Hanson's] unusual approach yields new insights about long-familiar events, making his experiments ingenious and successful."America in WWII magazine
"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
"Let me simply say this: prepare yourself to be astonished. The more you know about WWII, the greater will be your astonishment. The Second World Wars demonstrates once again that VDH is a constantly renewing American national treasure who continues to go from strength to strength."Claremont Review of Books
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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
"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
"I loved this book. Strongly recommended."Tyler Cowen, Marginal RevolutionFrom the Publisher
★ 10/01/2017Library Journal
Esteemed historian Hanson is known for his valuable contributions, such as The Savior Generals, and this newest work is no exception. As a thematic rather than narrative chronicle, this volume approaches World War II in a nonlinear fashion. Chapters are devoted to various aspects of the conflict, such as air power, sieges, and military workers. Overriding themes are that the Axis powers were ill-prepared and blundered into the war, and that their focus on killing enemy soldiers and civilians never destroyed, nor compensated for, the Allied ability to make war. Equal attention is devoted to various theaters as well as different aspects of the conflict. For example, Hanson details missions in Europe, Asia, and Africa, including naval, air, and land operations. The result is a balanced account. Although Hanson often mentions the Axis powers' barbarity, he also notes Russian leader Joseph Stalin's harshness, and that both the United States and Britain often neglected rights to their own people, or people they subjugated—the same rights they fought to secure for victims of the Axis powers. VERDICT Hanson has produced a solid thematic history that should prove a worthwhile companion to firsthand, narrative accounts.—Matthew Wayman, Pennsylvania State Univ. Lib., Schuylkill Haven
★ 2017-07-17Kirkus Reviews
Not just another account of World War II, but a thoughtful overview of the battles that were "emblematic of the larger themes of how the respective belligerents made wise and foolish choices about why, how, and where to fight the war."According to veteran military historian and Hoover Institution senior fellow Hanson (The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars that Were Lost—From Ancient Greece to Iraq, 2013, etc.), the war began during the 1930s as a series of fairly straightforward border conflicts—e.g., Germany versus its neighbors, Japan versus China. Suddenly, in 1941, as the result of poor decisions around the world, it exploded into a global conflict that the so-far-victorious Axis Powers were guaranteed to lose. Beginning with its cause, Hanson dismisses the time-honored denunciation of the Treaty of Versailles, which was softer than the peace Germany imposed on France in 1871 or the Soviet Union in 1918. It was the humiliation that nagged. Neither Germany nor Japan was endangered or impoverished; both believed that their honor had been slighted and that their racially superior citizens deserved better than their decadent neighbors. "The irrational proved just as much a catalyst for war as the desire to gain materially at someone else's expense," writes the author. Four long chapters on weapons deliver a few jolts. Everyone knows that infantry wins wars, but Hanson maintains that strategic bombing probably persuaded Japan to surrender. High-tech weapons—the B-29, proximity fuse, and atomic bomb—unquestionably helped the Allies. Vaunted German technology (rockets, jet planes, guided missiles) merely wasted money. Unique in its 50 million to 80 million deaths—the great majority of which were civilians and included far more Allied than Axis soldiers—and worldwide extent, WWII broke no rules. Hyperaggression and ruthlessness win battles; resources and stubbornness carry the day. An ingenious, always provocative analysis of history's most lethal war.