Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to World War II

Book Reviewed by J.C. Danville

I reviewed this book that was not intended for me, well maybe, except the first part of the title: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to World War II".  It happens that I know more than many about WWII but was curious as I find it hard to explain things that should be easy and natural for me and I always try a look at how others do it.

This book will help the innocent and naieve look less so in a discussion around a beer after watching a film about World War II.  This is an American book written for Americans and skimms skims over many British operations.
Some of the chapter's titles will make you smile, tongue in cheek jokes and all, such as "Poles Apart" for the battle of Poland 1939.  It does makes it easier to read.  The whole book is pleasing and well done.  It starts clearly with the causes of World War II which dated back from World War I to it's bunched end to the UN and the beginning of the Cold War, and explains the nazi "doctrine".  It covers a lot of material in clear short bursts of writing with side-bars on people, statistics and some trivia that might even win you a quiz.

It skips over many controversial issues of the war, presenting it all in a very American crusade, black and white, good against evil (That it was!  Except maybe not all the evil was on one side.  Think Staline…). The extensive reading list at the end is possibly one of the great readymade assets of this book for the "idiot" to read.  Some internet links might have been included too, perhaps in the 4th edition?

As a reference book it is well constructed with a "contents at a glance" first followed by detailed content with an alphabetical index at the end.

I regret the absence of footnotes over some of the civilian slaughter and waste of assets from Allied strategic bombings (160000 airmen died from both the US and UK, nearly as many as half the total US casualties!), the delivery to the east block of refugees, and POWs originating from there directly for the goulag or execution squad, the arsenal for the democracies in 39-40? (All was to be paid and delivered by the buyer, the "cash and carry" law which allowed France to pay for but never receive hundreds of planes, the useless destruction of the old Manilla intramuros…)

Of course this was not intended to be something else than what its title said and in that it does the job!
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