The Battle for the Survival of the Free World
World War II was one of the largest human struggles that humanity has ever faced. Spanning a global war, super powers formed alliances and fought a war that took a high toll on humanity. It’s effect shook the traditional values and took humanity on an entirely new journey with its new technology, spread of ideas, being more open to other races, and being less conservative. With the rise of extreme ideologies such as Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, countries like United States and Britain became the last beacon of hope for democracy.
The introduction questions if the war was started by the ambitions of Hitler, unfair conditions of Versailles treaty, or the challenge of the new order against the old. “The Paris Peace treaties blamed Germany for World War I, burdened it with financial reparations, and stripped it of territory and colonies.” (2) Why did the Tripartite Pact come to happen and why did the Germans become allies with the supposedly inferior Japanese? It also analyzed the beginnings of the war, which basically began after a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops at Marco Polo Bridge. Chapter one discusses how the world order was year 1937. It explains the superpowers of the time China, Britain, and Russia. The author overviewed Japan and America as rising powers that remained isolated by much of the world. Lastly the Continental giants Germany, France, and Italy too were discussed. It also discusses the weaknesses of the League of Nations against Germans rearmament and aggression, Japanese encroachment on China, and Italian aggression of Ethiopia. The most important aspect the author focuses on the rise of radical ideologies, one’s like Fascism headed by Benito Mussolini, Nazism headed by Adolf Hitler and Communism under the iron fist of Stalin. Chapter two begins postulated about the beginnings of World War II, focusing mainly on the Asian theater in China. China was quickly destroyed by the modern and organized Japanese army which routs much of the Nationalist Army led by General Chiang Kai Shek. “The Japanese attempted to achieve rapid and decisive victory by pushing on to Nanjing.” (61) During this time as well, Communist and Nationalist forces also begin to collaborate against the Japanese invaders. Chapter three discusses how Hitler’s forces tear up the boundaries and limitations set up by the treaty of Versailles. It also enforced the idea of how the Germans secretly began to rearm in 1939 under Hitler regime. The rearmament mainly came to the armor forces of the German empire along with the Luftwaffe, otherwise known as the German air force which terrorized many nations in the beginning of the war. Italy began to rearm during this time as well, and made the Pact of Steel with Hitler in May of 1939. Mussolini boasted a force of 8 million bayonets that he thought would be able to scare many of the larger powers that opposed him. “Italy did represent a considerable military factor.” (85) As Hitler was able to make the League of Nations bend to his every whim, he began planning for the unavoidable invasion of Poland. First he made the Nazi-Soviet Pact and began devising Operation White, which had begun early September 1, 1939. German battleships began to bomb the port city of Danzig where the Germans effectively used Blitzkrieg strategy for the first time. The Germans were able to completely overrun and surround the Polish army. In two days the Germans were able to take down the fourth largest army in all of Europe. During this time as well, the Russians too invaded Poland’s eastern region quickly capitulating the country as well.
Chapter 4 delineates the many victories Hitler is able to accomplish in the beginning of his campaign. USSR, hungry for power began to search for more land and invaded Finland. It initiated the Soviet-Finnish War that cost USSR many casualties, but in the end Finland was devoured by the mighty Russians. While the Russians fought Finland, Germany began its invasion of Norway called Operation WESER. The Nazi’s were able to achieve ultimate surprise and with coordinated attacks with the navy, air force, panzer divisions, Germany quickly wiped out much resistance in Norway. Lastly Hitler began his main attack to take down France along with some Low Countries on the way. The Germans were able to bypass the French defenses, (Maginot Line) and swoop from the back taking France in a matter of 6 weeks along with 1.8 million prisoners of war. With much of the mainland under German occupation, Britain begins preparations to fight till the end against the Nazis. In Chapter 5 began in 1940 Hitler began his invasion of Russia, which he nicknamed Operation BARBAROSSA. He tried to take Russia in a quick and rapid campaign but failed because of sheer numbers of the USSR army and size of country. Along with Operation BARBAROOSA, Hitler launched the invasion on the Balkans and prepared to take Greece as well. In the beginning of the war, Blitzkrieg was able to utterly render the Soviets helpless where the Soviets lost hundreds of thousands and had millions captured. “The Soviet Western Army Group was surrounded around Belostok and Minsk in Belorussia, and destroyed as a fighting force in a matter of days. (147) The first few Blitzkrieg attacks were able to destroy much of Russian army, but the Russians sheer number, land mass, and climate allowed the Russians to go back on the offensive. It continues with Stalin’s winter offensive against the Germans which were starving, freezing, tired, and due to stretched supply lines. During this time, Hitler began his plans to get rid of the Jewish race and began the mass killings of Jews throughout Europe. As the campaign in Russia escalated, major battles such as Stalingrad was a turning point for the Russians. As the Germans began to be on the retreat, Russian troops began to pursue the Germans, as they tried to retreat across the Ukraine. Chapter 7 encompasses much information on the Japanese Empire and how it got involved in World War II. Japan eyed many of the colonies that Europeans and Americans held in Asia and began to contemplate attacking the United States, seeing Hitler’s early successes in hand, and they believed that the Americans were weak, providing ideal circumstances for attack. The Japanese commanders envisioned being able to destroy the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, and later build up their navy while the Americans make up for their losses. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor sealed its fate.
Chapter 8 begins with the Americans having to decide whether to deal with the Germany first or the Japanese first. They chose to deal with the Nazi’s first because they threatened the survival for almost all of Europe. However the U.S. did not ignore the Japanese threat and sent out most of its navy to deal with the Japanese, thus changing sea warfare forever in a sense. As the American carriers and ships battle out with Japanese over the control of the Pacific, they were able to drive their navy back towards Japan, taking back some islands on the way. Japanese began to introduce kamikazes to destroy the American naval vessels. Chapter 9 begins with the struggle for the Atlantic Ocean. Because the Germany and Britain were the last large countries left, the control of the Atlantic Ocean was essential for Britain’s survival. The British largely dominated the Atlantic and got shipments of supplies that were essential for the British war struggle. The British as well also blockaded the Germans, preventing them from obtaining any materials from sea, effectively slowing down the German war economy. The Germans tried to counter the blockade with wolf packs of U-boats that sunk any boat headed for Britain which did considerable damage. Luckily the British were able to counter the U-boats with development of new ships and sonar, which were able to find and destroy German U-boats. Chapter 10 mainly goes over the Italians in North Africa as they struggled against the British who tried to retake Africa as well. Churchill was able to achieve victory in Egypt by later capturing Libya in the spring. Meanwhile the Germans also began the invasion of Crete, called Operation MERKUR, in which they flew in paratroopers over the island. Germans suffered unacceptable losses and British navy prevented any support of German navy during the invasion. Hitler decided to send military aid to the Italians in Africa which turned out to be one of Hitler’s worst mistakes. With the Germans caught in Russia and little support from the outside German troops were trapped by British troops in Africa and ended up surrendering where they withdrew from Africa suffering immense losses. Chapter 11 is the demise of the 3rd Reich, with the invasion of D-day, Italy was overthrown, and the cost the Axis a huge blunder in Africa, and Russians advancing the east, Germany was in a deteriorating situation. British began to start bombing German industrial areas, and over time, were able to effectively limit the war economy of Germany. RAF was armed with the best heavy bombers of the area and eventually became accurate enough to begin affecting the German war economy. The Allies were also able to bomb crucial oil refineries that the German’s desperately needed to protect in order to fuel their panzer divisions and various aircraft. Germany began to use non-Aryan labor such as Russian and Jewish prisoners which resulted in the creation of concentration camps. Americans were able to out produce all the Axis powers combined and supplied the Allied with raw materials and weaponry that gave them an edge against the Axis powers.
The Allies begin to invade France and the Low countries in Operation OVERLORD. “The cross-channel invasion came on June 6, 1944, German naval and air powers were now so weak that they could offer no real threat to the invasion fleet.” (371) D-day had begun and was the largest amphibious invasion ever known to mankind, which landed almost a million troops after a week. As France was liberated, many of the rebels and French army were restored and joined the fight to being down Nazi Germany. Americans, British, and French begin to liberate Belorussia, Poland, and Hungary. As the Allies near Berlin, Hitler launched his last offensive at the Battle of the Bulge, inflicting the largest American casualties ever suffered in World War II. Still it was not able to stop the American soldiers. Next it talks about the Japanese situation ending in 1945. As the Americans neared Japanese main islands, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, were essential to hold, but eventually fell costing many lives on both sides. The United States used these islands as bases for American bombers to weaken Japanese morale. Japanese now use suicide tactics instead of surrendering with kamikazes or entire garrisons charging American troops with samurai swords and bayonets. “Japan’s unwillingness to consider surrender in the spring and early summer of 1945 seems suicidal and irrational.” (416) With the casualties sustained in Okinawa and Iwo Jima, Americans reconsidered invading Japan which would cause an estimated one million American lives and more. Eventually Americans decided to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki making the Japanese finally surrendered on September 2, 1945. The next chapter basically discusses the Potsdam conference and how the world all tried to make peace with each other. In the end it deals with who won the war and how it affected the world, leading to the rise of United States and USSR as rival super powers. “This day, 15 August, was what the Allies celebrated as V-J Day-victory over Japan.” (429)
The author’s purpose was to explain the beginnings of World War II involving the old and new order establishments that were challenged. The global conflict affected much of the world and the author based it mainly on military and strategic history. “Hitler’s Russian Drive of 1942, which climaxed in the Battle of Stalingrad, was actually the sixth and last of his World War II offensives.” (167) He tried to emphasize the consequences of the war and the end of colonial empires. “…China would certainly be transformed, through several stages; Europe too, was transformed, and with is much of the world” (pg.451)
Evan Mawdsley is not only the author of this book, World War II a New History but he is also a history professor and teaches at Glasgow in Scotland. He mainly is strong on Russian history, Stalin’s era, and World War II. His other works consists of Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War and The Russian Civil War. His ideas and point of view come a lot from his background as a professor, he is really unbiased and looks as history as a whole, considering all aspects of World War II and including as much facts as possible. “The positive impact of the war was not just victory, but transformation.” (450)
Evan Mawdsley wrote, World War II A New History in 2009, which is extremely current. His ideas and research are the most up to date and accurate from all the information accumulated after the war was over. I think the time period influenced him to write an unbiased history of World War II as much as possible. He tried to examine all aspects of the war like the strategies, military strengths, economies, and the consequences of the war. It concludes with being extremely informative and helps with great understanding at all aspects either politically, militarily, and economically.
Cambridge University cites how the book is able to be extremely detailed and informative. “Mawdsley unabashed political and strategic history, with broad operational-level descriptions of the battles” Cambridge University is basically saying Mawdsley is really unbiased and is very up to date and provides concrete facts of the war unaffected by politics and personal views of the war.
I believe that, World War II A New History by Evan Mawdsley is an extremely informative and filled with concrete facts that cover all aspects of the war. It is a difficult read but intriguing at times but covers almost all aspects of World War II and is really able to shorten the length the course of World War II in a 451 page novel. Its unbiased nature of the writing gives the reader a sense of the war in a way that allows the reader to have his or her own take on World War II as a whole with the facts that are presented to them in the book. If you want learn more about the mechanics and statistics of World War II in a short and straight forward manner, then, World War II A New History would be an excellent choice.
World War II led to the rise of the super powers like United States and USSR and effectively ended the traditional colonial power of France and Britain, giving rise to a new order in the world. “The positive impact of the war was not just victory, but transformation” (pg.451) with this, the author leads the reader onto the bigger picture on how the Cold War begins along with addressing how the allies were able to fix their mistakes from World War I and making fairer and stricter agreements thus avoiding another world war.
World War II A New History by Evan Mawdsley is an abridged version on the history of World War II in a very modern sense. Untouched by biases or personal views Evan Mawdsley is able to explain the war in a very strategic and informative sense of what World War II was all about.