The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
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Andrew Roberts (born on 13 January 1963) is a British historian and journalist.
Roberts indicates how often Hitler would have done better, and even won the war, if he had made different choices. This is not an original thought, nor is it claimed as such. No one in 1940 needed to tell Churchill that the Germans stood a good chance of crushing the United Kingdom. In the long summer of 1941, as the German armies streamed as fast as their tanks could carry them towards the outskirts of Moscow and Leningrad, it was the belief of nearly every Soviet citizen that the USSR was on the brink of complete defeat. Such was Roosevelt's feeling that the Third Reich was about to gain definitive victory in Europe that he twisted arms in the Washington political establishment to send food and armaments to the United Kingdom even before America's entry into the war.
The central character in the book's drama, inevitably, is Hitler. Roberts's suggestion seems to be that he could only have won the war if he had not allowed it to spiral into a global struggle. Hitler missed his chance to knock out the USSR early on and provoked the US into entering the ring on the side of the opposition. He may have won the war if he had kept it as "the First European War"; the gamble that did not pay off was to make it global.
Ferocious measures were used to compel soldiers to go on fighting in hellish battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk. Stalin shot 135,000 of his own troops — the equivalent of 12 divisions — to encourage the others; before execution they were made to undress so that their uniforms could be reissued. To quote General Zhukov, who also wanted to kill the families of soldiers who surrendered: “In the Red Army it takes a very brave man to be a coward.” Yet Hitler was proportionately even more murderous towards his own forces. It was a tribute to the outstanding qualities of the German soldier, Roberts observes, that the Wehrmacht, retreating on two fronts and battered from the air, remained disciplined and efficient almost to the end.
The Storm of War is, in fact, a seductively easy read. You could open it at any page and it would not fail to draw you in. Stylistically, Roberts has always been very strong, and this book is happily no exception. He segues effortlessly between theatres and events, weaving a complex yet admirably comprehensible tapestry of the conflict. He also has an excellent eye for the ironies and peculiarities that serve to bring his story most vividly to life.