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Second World War [Hardcover]

John Keegan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 21 1989
By the author of "The Price of Admiralty", this book approaches the war from a thematic and periodic standpoint. The course of the war is divided into six passages and attached to each is an analytical narrative of a battle, which exemplifies a mode of warfare special to this war, such as city sieges, an air battle, an airborne operation, an aircraft carrier battle, a tank battle and an amphibious landing. The author takes as his starting point the outcome of the First World War, and what it meant in particular for the defeated nations, and how the developed world reacted to its first experience of mass warfare. He surveys the strategic positioning of all the major combatants to summarize the strategic progress of the war. In addition all the major ancillary activities to which the war gave rise are discussed: war supply, war production, strategic bombing, occupation and repression, espionage and resistance, and the secret weapons programmes.

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From Amazon

The best one-volume treatment available, The Second World War by John Keegan is an outstanding synthesis of an enormous amount of material on "the largest single event in human history." The book proceeds chronologically through the war, but chapters appearing at appropriate moments focus on particular themes, such as war production, occupation, bombing, resistance, and espionage. Keegan's ability to translate the war's grand strategies is impressive, and the battle descriptions are superb. Generals obviously play a key role in this narrative, but ordinary soldiers also receive proper credit, as do the often-overlooked merchant marines whose heroic efforts to supply Great Britain made the Allied victory possible. Keegan, author of the landmark book The Face of Battle, is without doubt one of our greatest military historians, and here his analytical powers and skilled writing are on full display. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"This account of WW II, though controversial, is rich in fresh perception, interpretation and opinion. In addition to penning a fast-paced campaign chronicle, Keegan makes a convincing case for the prime motivations of Allied and Axis leaders, pinpoints the practical results of Allied summit conferences and defines the war's geopolitical dimensions," reported PW. Photos.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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"'The First [World] War explains the second and, in fact, caused it, in so far as one event causes another,' wrote A.J.P. Taylor in his Origins of the Second World War." Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Conflict of All Time Feb. 27 2004
John Keegan's, "The Second World War," is a detailed overview of the greatest conflict in history. The author gives his readers a behind the scenes view of deliberations conducted at the highest levels leading up to the major battles in each theatre. He then analyzes the combatant's preparations and schemes of maneuver and provides sound analyses of both the outcomes and the long-term implications of each campaign. The result is one of the most thorough reviews of World War II ever written.
Keegan begins with an overview of the factors that led to the outbreak of a second world war only 21 years after the, "war to end all wars," ended. The economic devastation caused by harsh surrender terms gave rise to crime, unemployment and rampant inflation. Paramilitary groups, composed of frustrated young men desperately looking for leadership and a means of avenging their national honor, sprang up and flourished in the post war chaos. Also, promises made to nations to entice their participation in World War I went unfulfilled leaving some former allies, disillusioned and bitter. These factors combined to open the way for despots such as Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. The world would pay a heavy price for these mistakes beginning in the 1930's.
Keegan then narrates the major conflicts in each theatre. He reviews the grand strategies and tactical actions of the commanders involved and dispenses praise or condemnation solely on the results achieved. Allied and Axis commanders are glorified or condemned based on their generalship alone in one of the most completely objective accounts ever.
Professor Keegan recounts most world leaders agreed, at the end of the First World War, the lethality of 1918 vintage weapons had made war invalid as an instrument of foreign policy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What Mattered and What Did Not Jan. 4 2004
By Buce
John Keegan has carved himself a distinctive place in the literature of warfare. He's serious and well-informed, without having fallen play to the kind of celebratory cheerleading that you get from so much battle reporting. At the same time he conveys compassion for the suffering that warfare inflicts, without letting himself become shrill. The combination allows him to claim a kind of relevancy for his subject that either of those rejected extremes might forbid him. Wars happen, and they matter, and they are fought well or badly. And - this is perhaps a point of special urgency - they could have happened differently.
For surely it is easy to forget just how chance a business war can be - as the Second World War surely was. Keegan gives you a hundred ways to play the game of what might have been. If the Americans had been more alert to the possibility of attack at Pearl Harbor; if Hitler had not shown such sentimental foolishness as to throw in his hand with his Japanese allies; if Stalin had not liquidated all his own best generals - and this is only the beginning.
Keegan is also enlightening - or at least thought-provoking - in his assessment of relative roles. Partisan warfare was full of heroes and martyrs, but it didn't amount to much - think of the butchery at Warsaw, or in the high planes outside Grenoble. "Dirty tricks" - OSS spy games and suchlike - provide the stuff of good movie plots, but they counted perhaps even less. Code-breaking, by contrast, counted for a great deal, perhaps most in the run-up to Midway, itself surely the most important naval battle of the war.
In the end, why did the Allies win? A thousand reasons, perhaps, but in the end the good ones are dull and obvious.
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The Second World War was the largest, bloodiest conflict in history. It was fought on three of the seven continents and involved every major power of the time. Some of the combatant nations (most notably France and Italy) changed sides at least once between 1939 and 1945, and by the time Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 over 50 million men, women, and children were dead, millions more were wounded and/or uprooted, homeless, and bewildered by the war's effects. Indeed, those of us now living in the early 21st century are still living with the aftermath of World War II; many of the crises we now face can be traced to decisions made during or shortly after the war.
John Keegan's The Second World War is a one-volume general history of the 1939-45 conflict, and it should be read more as an introductory text rather than a comprehensive "this-is-the-book-that-explains-the-whole-darned-thing" opus. It's too short (595 pages, not counting the bibliography or index) for that. Instead, it is structured in six parts, starting with Hitler's early campaigns in Poland and the West in 1939-40 and culminating with Japan's surrender in midsummer of 1945. Each part is divided into a few chapters that focus on themes and strategies...with attention given to a particular type of warfare in form of an example. For instance, for "Air Battle," Keegan cites the Battle of Britain. For "Airborne Battle," he uses Crete as his centerpiece.
The book is strongest when Keegan goes into detail about such things as the evolution of armies from the 19th century until the war starts in September 1939; he is particularly adept when explaining the revolutionary changes in European military organizations, particularly after the integration of the railroad and mass-production techniques from 1860 on.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It's hard to go wrong with Keegan
Once again Keegan makes history interesting. I always love reading his books; I find them very easy to digest while still able to convey a wealth of information. Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by mr sachmo
5.0 out of 5 stars Keegan's masterpiece
Prof. Keegan's masterpiece is an excellent addition to any library. It is well-written and covers both theaters of the war. Read more
Published on June 15 2003 by Anthony Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book about WWII
(by E.M. Singer, author of "Mother Flies Hurricanes") I love this book! John Keegan, besides being a terrific writer, is a master of organization as well (which appeals to... Read more
Published on May 3 2003 by E.M. Singer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic summary of WW II
Keegan, a great military writer, has produced another masterpiece. This comprehensive summary of the Second World War is ideal for military history courses.
Published on March 9 2003 by Edward Bonekemper
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting View Of World War II
Although this is not a real chronologically ordered summery of World War II Mr. Keegan manages to capture many different aspects in a way that is understandable and informative. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2003 by Kristi Ahlers
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful snapshots of the people, places and times!
John Keegan's "The Second World War" is a masterfully written dissertation of WWII. While Keegan certainly doesn't cover every aspect of the war - he in fact explains that he will... Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002 by Mannie Liscum
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Chronology
This is a fine chronological overview of the war. It unfolds form the causes through the early years of Axis victory through the turning point and into final defeat. Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2002 by David Stapleton
2.0 out of 5 stars Vastly overrated
Keegan is a vastly overrated historian and so is this book. Unlike books such as Martin Gilbert's book on WW II Keegan jumps from topic to topic and its only marginally organized... Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2002 by Christopher J. Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Best single-volume account
Keegan has put together the best single-volume account of World War II. Keegan covers the war from its inception in the Japanese expansion in the early 30s to V-J day in August... Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2002 by Glenn McDorman
5.0 out of 5 stars John Keegan is a truly brillant man
He tells it like no one else could.
His perspective on Lend-Lease and the American economy is fascinating. Read more
Published on May 23 2002 by Martin Ridgeway
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