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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Title, Good Book
This is a very good book, but not the book the title suggests. The title suggests that the book focusses on the engineering achievements that contributed to winning WWII, whereas in fact, the book is actually a history of the strategies that won the war. Whoever created the title deserves a dope-slap. "Engineering" has two meanings, (a) the most common meaning: the...
Published 20 months ago by Fredric M. Blum

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140 of 156 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly Researched History
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...
Published 23 months ago by Tech Historian


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140 of 156 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly Researched History, February 24, 2013
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This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (Hardcover)
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. The Americans set up an 800 person lab to do this - the Harvard Radio Research Lab. They developed chaff (mechanical means to confuse German radars) and electronic jammers - 24,000 of which were built and installed on American and British bombers. By the time the P-51 had come on the scene British and American planes were carrying advanced electronic warfare equipment to defeat and degrade the German air defense systems.

It's understandable that bomber crews seeing P-51's destroy enemy fighters became convinced this is how we won the air war over occupied Europe. In contrast, Jammers and chaff doing their job by making flak and air intercepts ineffective could only be understood via operational analysis (which showed that they did work.) The P-51's _were_ a crucial part of gaining air superiority over Europe. But to write a history of the air war over Germany claiming that they were _the_ reason is simply flawed history.

This just isn't a bad book, it does damage to the real history of World War II.
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84 of 93 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Well off the mark for genuine Scholarship, February 22, 2013
This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (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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182 of 211 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Some Bad History, February 20, 2013
This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (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. And as far as "obviating the need to capture...Cherbourg," the very first American objective, after securing the Utah beachhead, was to attack and seize Cherbourg, which they did twenty days after D-Day by attacking it from its vulnerable, undefended rear rather than from its impregnable front. Supply through Cherbourg became the lifeline for the Allied armies for the rest of the war.

Feeling certain that these observations could not possibly be the thoughts of the author, I perused the book only to find that they were. Bad history is always the result of bad research, and Kennedy's fact checkers and proof readers did him a great disservice even if the author was unknowing of the facts. They could have saved him embarrassment.

Thumbing through a bit more of the text brought little relief as I was next puzzled to see Kennedy challenge that Stalingrad and Midway were not the cataclysmic turning points of the war; and that he was further amazed that Tokyo gave up trying to sieze the Hawaiian Islands after the loss at Midway! He failed to answer the obvious questions, "How," and "With What?" This far-fetched idea most likely stems from his vision of WWII as a giagantic "chessboard." I was finally forced to put the book down when I saw that fellow Louisianian, General Claire Chennault, the leader of the famous Flying Tigers, was referred to as "Claude."

That many men of all stripes contributed to the war effort and its braintrust is a given, and a compelling history can be written about that subject, but it does not have to be embellished with bad history.
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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy on strategy, light on detail, February 16, 2013
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If the subtlety of grand strategy is your thing, Kennedy Dissects it from every angle. If you are expecting an analysis or history of the engineering triumphs that emerged during WWII you will be dissapointed. The book is very light on the engineering, scientific evolution that created the final products that facilitated the Allies victory. It dissects the strategies that created the necessity for them in unending variations. I found myself plodding through the analysis waiting for the few pages of juicy material about the development of the actual engineering triumphs themselves. The author, at the outset, defines an engineer broadly as a "problem solver". This creates a kind of bait and switch with the title and explains my dissapointment. Strategy yes, invention and development evolution, not so much.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Really - Nothing New, February 19, 2013
By 
William Hopke (Titusville, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (Hardcover)
I was rather disappointed with this book. Perhaps I took the author's title too literally. I thought this book would be about people. To an extent it is, but it is really about systems. We briefly meet some people, such as the pilots and professionals who took a mediocre airplane and turned it into a legendary one, the P-51. We meet practically no one from Boeing regarding B29 development. The book is really more about systems and the synergy that comes about when systems are developed and integrated. And it is also about what happens if systems are not integrated or break down. The topics are rather a rehash if you already have a solid military history background: The Battle of the Atlantic, the air war from the fighter and bomber perspective, the East Front, Amphibious landing theory and practice, and the Pacific campaign. There is nothing new here. They are all dealt with through an analysis that posits that the integration of various systems comes up with a sum greater than the total of the parts. Radar, long range aircraft, hedgehog mortars, convoys, escort vessels. Marines, fast carriers, Sea Bees and B-29s. So I did not find anything really new here. One thing I did find that surprised me was a reference to Gen. Claude Chennault. How this book could have been reviewed by so many people and proofed and not one person knew that the man's name is Claire Chennault astonishes me.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vague, no detail, February 19, 2013
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This book is a fairly standard WWII history that adds a gloss and spin of "engineering" and 'problem solvers' in an effort to make it unique.

The trouble is that there is little real explanation of the nature of the devices that solved the problems, the efforts of the people who devised them, and their technical challenges and evolution.

We learn for example that the cavity magnetron was invented in England, learn the names of few of the inventors and learn that it was brought to the US and made the important advance of microwave radar possible... but that's really it. The description comprises about 20 lines of text, and then the book moves on to another device. There is so much more to this story that in a book which purports to discuss these engineering or operational advances, it just isn't sufficient much alone illuminating.

The book goes on in that vein throughout. It describes standard historical events and then adds something about an invention or a device playing a role in the outcome or battle without saying much more than that the important device exists or simply came into being. For example, it describes the b-29 and its innovations in engines, pressurized crawl space etc, but doesn't give any significant information about their development or technological challenges.

In fairness, the author wrote this book only to point out that there were engineering factors that played an important part in WW2. However, these factors are barely or weakly described, so the terms "engineers" in the title is misleading insofar as learning anything about engineering or development.

There is a new book which I haven't yet read but will soon called "Blackett's War" The review in the Wall St Journal indicates it goes into some depth of the engineering and technical details of WW2 technical advances, so that book might be one for those interested in the developmental details and challenges of those advances, which are announced but not well detailed in "Engineers of Victory"
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak research and fundamentally wrong history, June 10, 2013
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This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (Hardcover)
Loved the concept for this book... however the execution is severely lacking and in places just plain wrong. Author misses hugely important developments throughout (e.g., only a couple of lines about the role of Higgins Boats in relation to amphibious warfare... that is just ignorant, and only passing mention of the role of DUKW and Amtraks). Also, apparently there were no German paratroops at Monte Casino in Italy (tell that to the soldiers who died trying to take it), and the German invasion was complete surprise to the Norwegians... even though they knew about it and just didn't have the right assets in place and poor political situation to counter it. Some interesting anecdotes peppered throughout but overall a very, very disappointing publication.

Don't buy this book ! ! !
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44 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, February 6, 2013
By 
Mark Sutter (Florissant, MO) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (Hardcover)
I'll start this review by admitting that I only read the first chapter (73 pages) which dealt with getting the convoys across the Atlantic. The other reviewers applauded the author for the detail that went into this book. I found it to be so mired in the minutiae that it was painful to get through. I had to ask if I really needed to know the name and number of every ship and every u-boat. Did I need to know the names of every ship's captain and how many days he was at sea or what route he took? It took 60 pages of this kind of groundwork information before we got to see any of the innovations that saved the convoys. As it turns out, you will learn that the convoys were finally able to succeed because of four breakthroughs (not all of them generated by engineers). Some Canadians figured that they could remove a bomb bay and replace it with added fuel, thus giving the planes longer range and affording the convoys air support. Some new radars were developed. The hedgehog mortar was invented which was similar to 1,000 Romans shooting their arrows into the air at the same time to inflict maximum damage. And finally, the allies finally broke the coding of the German Enigma machine which let them know the Germans' plans.

Maybe I was mislead by the title when I pre ordered this book. I assumed it was going to be filled with details of all of the engineering marvels that won the war. I expected to see how the Americans came up with the pontoon bridges or the dam-busting bouncing bombs. Or maybe more than just a mention of the Norden bomb-sight.

Bottom line is that I expected something more or something different from this book but that's my fault -- not the author's fault. If you feel it is unfair that I give it 3 stars after just one chapter, then please ignore my rating of the book.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A colossal disappointment !, February 23, 2013
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This review is from: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War (Hardcover)
I have been patiently reading the first 50 pages of this book in order to find out how the problem solvers came up with their solutions to the questions posed by the writer, but in vain. I have reread the first 40-50 pages but I admit that I had to give it up. All you will get is a very good description about the strategy used by the victors in WW2, but, alas, almost nothing about the way the problems were solved.
In addition, each page is hyper-loaded with so many tiny details that one keeps wondering if Professor Kennedy had the intention of causing one to exercise and stimulate his brain to the maximum. This book proves that when you are an academic, there is nothing to guarantee that you will also be able to write in a clear way. In fact, many academics excel by writing in a very dry and boring style and only a few have the rare gift to interest both their colleagues at the academic centers and the general public.
You will not gain anything from this deplorable book and its misleading title. Of course there were many problems which had to be solved during the war, but you won't find any answers here. I will therefore have to wait for a good book (or books) on this topic and am more than confident it will soon be published. Please preserve your hard-earned money for a better book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Little errors, September 13, 2013
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In reading previous reviews, I find that I am not the only one to spot errors in this book. While I don't disagree with the author's broad conclusions, I wonder why so many little oversights crept into the narrative. In addition to those already mentioned, I found the following: (1)The leader of the initial air attack on Pearl Harbor was Mitsuo Fuchida, not Minoru Genda. Genda was arguably the brains behind the attack, but Fuchida was the flight leader.(2)Guam was not the first American territory to be retaken from the Japanese. Attu, in the Aleutians, was taken back a year earlier.(3) The author also mentions fighting for Kiska in the same breath, yet the Japanese abandoned Kiska without a battle. Granted the author is British and tends to lean heavily on the war in Europe, but even I, am amateur historian at best, noticed these defects. Possibly others found the same things. I haven't read every review.
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