No Simple Victory World War II in Europe 1939 1945 PDF

One of the world’s leading historians re examines World War II and its outcome If history really belongs to the victor what happens when there’s than one side declaring victory? That’s the conundrum Norman Davies unravels in his absorbing new book No Simple Victory Far from being a revisionist history this is instead a clear eyed reappraisal offering new insight by reevaluating well established facts as well as pointing out lesser known ones Davies asks readers to reconsider what they know about World War II and how the received wisdom might be biased or incorrect He poses simple questions that have complicated and unexpected answers For instance Can you name the five biggest battles of the war in Europe? Or What were the main political ideologies that were contending for supremacy? The answers to these and other questions—and the implications of those answers—will surprise even those who feel that they are experts on the subject Norman Davies has established himself as one of the preeminent scholars of World War II history in the tradition of John Keegan and Antony Beevor No Simple Victory is an invaluable contribution to twentieth century history and an illuminating portrait of a conflict which continues to raise questions and provoke debate today


10 thoughts on “No Simple Victory World War II in Europe 1939 1945

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    I think I have had my fill of WWII revisionist history Okay already the Soviets suffered and fought than all the other Allies put together Davies “No Simple Victory” is all over that and I found I learned a lot of stuff And yet a day or two after reading it I started getting cranky about it Well first the good stuff Davies is an Eastern European expert and a pretty good marshaller of facts and figures He uses a lot of easy to apprehend charts to keep the numbers mostly dead people in proportion These numbers are appalling but exactly how they are appalling is a good thing to know Davies starts out asking basic questions about WWII EuropeanMediterranean theatre only that he thinks most USUK readers will get wrong even the WWII buffs I must admit I was a bit surprisedWhich country suffered the most overall casualites? Which country suffered the most casualties as a proportion of its population? Ukraine and Belarus respectively Here are European land battles arranged by deaths1 Operation Barbarossa2 Stalingrad3 Siege of Leningrad4 Kiev5 Operation Bagration6 Kursk7 Berlin8 French Campaign 19409 Operation Overlord D Day10 Budapest11 Polish Campaign 193912 Battle of the Bulge13 Warsaw Rising14 Operation Market Garden15 Battle of El Alamein IIThis rather surprised me I thought everybody surrendered in the French Campaign of 1940 I knew the Battle of Berlin was awful but worse than D Day? I thought the Nazis were exhausted at that point Of course in the top 10 only D Day makes the list from the Western Front This is a pretty useful list The book is full of useful things like this My complaint comes from the comparisons Davies makes and the conclusions he draws There is no doubt that the Soviets were key in defeating the Nazis but these claims that they did most of the work just does not quite ring true to me In this case it is because Davies considers only the European half of WWII and half of anything is bound to be lopsided Although he anticipates most of the arguments I will make below he is not always convince me1 One of the luckiest things to happen to the Soviets was to have Marshal Zhukov in Siberia when the Japanese attacked from Manchuria in 1941 or thereabouts Zhukov beat them soundly thus ending any chance the Soviets would face a 2 front war Zhukov was moved west along with 30 or so divisions and this made a pretty big difference 2 Because of item 1 I think it safe to say the USSR was the only Allied or Axis force that did NOT fight a two front war even the Nationalist Chinese spent half the time fighting Chinese communists The Japanese fought in China Burma India and the Pacific and Alaska The Germans were in Italy France Africa and the Eastern Front The USA was everywhere as was the UK Hell even the Italians and French were in Africa That the Soviets were on one land front only – a big front to be sure – meant that they had one victory to focus on and this is a huge logistical advantage if nothing else3 Allied air power is mostly dismissed by Davies This is part of the revisionist dismissal of the strategic bombing campaign as having been a failure It did fail to some extent about everything does and yes I know about the rising German production figures after the bombing started But German industry did not go on “total war” mode until very late in the game c 1943 and Albert Speer’s terrible but effective organization skills and the use of a vast slave labor pool offset the 8th Air Force But what the US UK air forces did was destroy the Luftwaffe Although doing so later than they should of they shut down German oil production These are two huge contributions to the Soviet war efforts Soviet air power confuses me – along with everything else they built way planes than the Germans and yet the Germans seemed to dominate the skies of the Eastern Front until very late in the war and only after the US UK had pretty much wiped them out Germans flew obsolete planes successfully on the Eastern Front Stukas ME 110s years after they withdrew them from the West Nazi aces ran up incredible kill scores 100s I don’t think without the US UK the Soviets would have been able to gain air superiority and without that the Eastern Front may have come out somewhat different Also despite vague claims I have read I don’t think Soviet planes were very good even at the end of the war 4 The Soviet Navy was inconsequential They didn’t really need a Navy and so the vast resources needed to maintain one went to ground and air forces Davies largely ignores this but the fact is the Soviets couldn’t have done D Day – at least not the way the UK US did No naval superiority massed gunfire from the sea I am not saying the Soviets couldn’t have done it – they just never had to A Soviet D Day would have been three times bigger than the real one moving on mostly wooden boats and would have sustained 10 times the number of casualties 5 I still don’t understand to what extent the American Arsenal of Democracy contributed to the war Davies dismisses it in regards to the Soviets since US materiel didn’t flow into the USSR until after Kursk and therefore didn’t have much to do with tides being turned I am indulging in armchair generalship rather than a review here sorry But Davies’ book although very up front and clear about it deals with only about half arguably about a third of what was a global war And with the rest of the world out of the picture the Soviet victory as tremendous and significant as it was is given too much credit Also the book has moments of sketchiness Nothing major but occasionally my confidence was shaken In describing small arms of the combatants Davies p 233 makes it sound as if the average Fritz and Ivan was armed with automatic assault rifles Not so especially for the Germans – the bolt action rifle of 1890s technology was the main weapon of virtually all forces in World War II except for the USA The GI’s had the M 1 Garand the finest weapon of the war this according to General Patton but Davies doesn’t mention it at all Still I learned a lot from this book and it covers a lot of statistical ground adroitly This statistical information is nicely integrated into the text and horrible to read – something trivial like the number of soldiers in the German and Soviet armies killed by their own side is staggering – killed by their own side Executions for desertion Soviet “punishment brigades” etc Davies also does a fine job pointing out that the ideological differences between fascism on the political right and Stalinist communism on the left is nil just raw ruthless power The appallingly cynical and brutal treatment of Poland by virtually everybody in the war haunts everything This muddies the good guys vs bad guys certainties to a useful extent