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Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067619
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There’s a simple explanation for the result of World War II: the Allies marshalled more military power than the Axis. While true, Professor Kennedy, the eminent author of many popular histories, would grade that explanation “incomplete.” He places a fuller interpretation on the chronological fulcrum of the global conflict, 1943, when Germany and Japan bestrode most of their conquered territories and seas, their armed forces battered but dangerous. For the Allies, someone had to devise applications of superior strength to numerous technical and strategic problems, and Kennedy elaborates five interlocking narratives of who these individuals were and what they did. Concerning amphibious landings, Kennedy elides pre-war planners of such operations with wartime designers of landing craft; ditto with theoreticians and practitioners of air power, supremacy in which was critical for the success of any invasion from sea. When Kennedy dwells on weapons like the P-51 fighter, the T-34 tank, or the Essex-class aircraft carrier, he treats them less as war-winning icons than as data for his ideas about running organizations, WWII being his case study. High authorial eminence ensures attention from the WWII readership. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“Superbly written and carefully documented . . . indispensable reading for anyone who seeks to understand how and why the Allies won.”—The Christian Science Monitor
 
“An important contribution to our understanding of World War II . . . Like an engineer who pries open a pocket watch to reveal its inner mechanics, [Paul] Kennedy tells how little-known men and women at lower levels helped win the war.”—Michael Beschloss, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Histories of World War II tend to concentrate on the leaders and generals at the top who make the big strategic decisions and on the lowly grunts at the bottom. . . . [Engineers of Victory] seeks to fill this gap in the historiography of World War II and does so triumphantly. . . . This book is a fine tribute.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“[Kennedy] colorfully and convincingly illustrates the ingenuity and persistence of a few men who made all the difference.”The Washington Post
 
“Kennedy has produced a fresh perspective on the war, giving us not just another history of an overfamiliar conflict, but a manual of technical problem-solving, written in the clearest and most compelling style, that could still prove useful to modern management today.”The Telegraph (UK)
 
“This superb book is Kennedy’s best.”—Foreign Affairs
  
“Paul Kennedy . . . has thus achieved a notable feat in bringing a large dose of common sense, historical insight and detailed knowledge to bear in his refreshing study of what might be called the material history of the second world war. . . . This material history of strategy asks the right questions, disposes of clichés and gives rich accounts of neglected topics.”Financial Times

“Paul Kennedy’s history of World War II is a demonstration not only of incisive analysis and mastery of subject, but of profound integrity, and a historian’s desire to celebrate not great leaders but the forgotten scientists, technicians, and logisticians who gave us the tactical edge, without which the strategic designs could never have been achieved.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography
 
“Kennedy’s fine-grained analysis and suspicion of any one single cause—like cipher cracking, intelligence and deception operations, or specific weapons systems, like the Soviet T-34 tank—permit him to persuasively array his supporting facts. . . . An absorbing new approach to a well-worked field.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“A fresh and stimulating approach.”Publishers Weekly

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Customer Reviews

That review raised my eyebrows since it referenced certain "facts" that were simply not true.
Ronald Drez
Enjoyed the book, good level of detail, insight to different aspects of the war effort that most people are unaware, well done.
Dr. D A Dworaczyk
The author "chases rabbits" too much and takes forever to get to the point of his story.
Coastal Dog

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Tech Historian on February 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must admit, I started with a bias predisposed to like this book. Yet I was profoundly disappointed - in some chapters the author simply failed do sufficient research, in others he simply got the facts wrongs (other reviews have pointed out that no, the Seabees didn't build the Mulberry Harbors.)

One of the main arguments of the book is that in five crucial areas (convoys, command of the air, Blitzkreieg, etc.) it wasn't just one event or one technology that solved the problem it was many. Yet in chapter 2, "How to Win the Command of the Air" the author says the air war over Europe was won by the P-51 Mustang and the Merlin engine. That is so profoundly wrong as to be embarrassing.

There's no doubt the P-51 Mustangs were a critical part of winning the air war. However, the reality is that British and American bombers were destroyed by both flak (anti-aircraft guns,) and fighters. Depending on the phase of the air war, more were lost to flak and at other times fighters.

By 1943 the German air defense system had evolved into an integrated electronic air defense network. It's early warning network consisted of 250 long-range radars and had feeds from German signal intelligence. There was a dense network of 1,000 short-range radars all feeding the equivalent of a modern air traffic control system. The air defense system controlled 15,000 radar-guided flak (anti-aircraft guns,) that used 5,000 radars. It also controlled all German fighters by vectoring them into the bomber streams using 1,500 Ground Controlled Intercept radars. And German night fighters who went after the British had onboard air-to-air radar.

The U.S. and British thought the best way to degrade the German Air Defense system was to jam and confuse it.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Rich on February 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was quite anxious to read this book thinking it would be a good complement to "A War to Be Won" (Murray / Millett). As with all books, I reviewed the author's approach, adjusted to the writing style and settled in read and enjoy. The actual review of the Casablanca Conference was cursory; no new insights there. Maybe I missed something, but I let it ride. Then the errors appeared. At first I let them ride, but by 100 pages in, it was grossly apparent that major logical, factual and basic research errors were occurring with too much frequency. Out came the red pen...

Sadly it appears that little to no effort was made by the editor to do fact checking. And I don't mean obscure facts: simple dates - wrong (Verdun was 1916,not 1917), photo captions - wrong (its an Me262 Night Fighter (B1) not a Fighter-Bomber (A2), aircraft detail - wrong (Ju52s did not participate in the Battle of Britain as bombers). The author's analysis consists of very board generalization compiled to validate existence of "feedback loops" that result in statements of conjecture. The kind of writing that gets you an automatic C in college. You get the sense that the History Channel was the primary research base.

And yes there are typos in the text, at least I don't think 'amd' is a conjunction.

I am not quite finished with the book, but it's getting the red pen treatment here on out. If the author, editor or publisher wants notes, drop a line. But I doubt this book will see a second printing.
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167 of 194 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Drez on February 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was first moved to pick up this book by reading its review in The Wall Street Journal. That review raised my eyebrows since it referenced certain "facts" that were simply not true. I cannot comment on the "engineeering feats" relative to the other topics of the book like the aircraft or the tanks, but as the author of four books on the invasion of Normandy, I can speak to the subject of the artificial harbors called "Mulberry."

The WSJ reviewer wrote, "...CBs or "SeaBees" ...under Adm. Ben Moreell...built the vast Mulberry Harbors that were towed across the English Channel to the beachheads established in Normandy on D-Day." This stunning proclamation was bad history at its worst. American Seabees had no such role. This was a British venture that consumed the energy of more than 300 British companies and a consortium of close to thirty British engineering firms employing over 45,000 British workers. They were towed across by U.S. and British tugs and assembled at their two locations under the direction of the British Navy. The Seabees contribution was a few hectic days working to clear and grade Omaha Beach to receive the pontoon and trestle roadway that would dovetail into the existing French roads on June 10. By June 19, the Mulberry A at Omaha Beach was destroyed in a great storm.

But then, there was more distortion of the facts. The WSJ reviewer continued saying, "1.5 million Allied soldiers stepped ashore on them, which obviated the need to capture the heavily defended Norman port of Cherbourg."

In fact no Americans landed at Mulberry A at Omaha Beach, or at Mulberry B in the British Sector at Arromanche, and the British Army landed only 200,000 of its entire one million man force at Mulberry B.
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