Andrew Roberts The Storm of War is without question the best and most complete overview of World War II that I have read. Extraordinary research, crammed with detail and revelations that even well read students of the war will find enlightening.
Roberts, Britain’s premiere military historian, writes with clarity and transforms this enormous subject into an understandable read that links nearly every facet of the war to a logical conclusion. His penchant for detail and numbers easily falls into place making the narrative more exciting, eye-opening and impactful. He clearly demonstrates that this two theater war, based upon what he terms “false ideologies,” is what led to the ultimate downfall of both Germany and Japan. Beginning with the rationale for Hitler’s failure to seize a victory at Dunkirk, the fall of France ( more French fought on the side of the Axis than the Allies,) an explanation as to why Operation Sealion ( the invasion of Britain) was never carried out , the catastrophic blunder of Germany declaring War on the United States giving Roosevelt the green light to enter the war in Europe, Roberts courses each twist and turn and his story is often explosive and emotionally disturbing.
Aficionados of military statistics are led through details of comparison of weapons, tanks, airplanes, submarines, troop strength. In 1943, just over a year after Pearl Harbor the United States was building 98,000 war planes per year compared to Germany’s 40,000. The Russians suffered 2-million casualties at Stalingrad and replaced the loses in a month. Germany lost 238,000 but had exhausted its reserves. His use of facts, rather than confuse, come together to strengthen the forcefulness of the book.
All of the major players are front and center, Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler, Hirohito, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Nimitz, Rommel, and the Nazi cast of Field Marshalls, SS Officers plus Goebbels, Goring, and Rundstedt. The author’s denunciation of the murder of millions of Jews is carefully calibrated and leaves absolutely no avenue for anyone involved to escape responsibility.
Roberts brings insight into the Eastern front and Russia’s stalwart defence of Moscow, the battle of Stalingrad and the siege of Leningrad. The author outlines the impact of the failure of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa ( the conquest of Russia based upon his ideological hatred of Bolshevism.) To highlight the fallacy of Hitler’s fanatical focus on Russia, the German’s lost 2.4 million men killed in Operation Barbarossa as compared to 202,000 fighting the Allies on the Western front. Despite these losses on the Eastern front, Hitler maintained a “stand and die policy” nearly to the end. Ideology again!
The war in Pacific receives equal attention. From Pearl Harbor through the dropping of the atomic bombs the reader learns why the great battles in the Pacific were won and lost in many cases because the ideological leaders in Japan, like Germany, refused to listen to the generals on the ground. “The awakening of the sleeping giant.” ” The miracle at Midway.”
If I were asked to recommend just one volume as an overview of the Second World War my choice would be The Storm of War. However, this work will be appreciated even more by those who have read extensively individual works by other renowned World War Two Historians such as Max Hastings , who is referenced throughout the volume by Roberts.
I met Andrew Roberts at a lecture in New York City. It became immediately clear that The Storm of War would require reading every page, packed with facts and few wasted words. No quick read here and definitely not a historical novel. However, despite the immersion in detail, this epic story is profound and the conclusions logical because in the end Andrew Roberts seems to have missed nothing.
For W Roberts history on the World War II Western front, read Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won The War in the West ( 1941-1945)