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The Path to Victory: The Mediterranean Theater in World War II Hardcover – May 19, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most writing on the Mediterranean theater in WWII addresses specific campaigns: the desert war, the battle for Tunisia, the long struggle for Italy. A professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Porch (The French Secret Services) brings the entire story together, integrating land, sea and air operations from the first shots of 1940 to Germany's final collapse in 1945. His sweeping narrative incorporates encyclopedic mastery of a massive body of source material, and is written in a style that holds attention from first page to last. Porch argues that rather than being the sideshow or strategic dead-end it is portrayed as in most literature, the Mediterranean was the pivotal theater of WWII in Europe. Geographically, the Mediterranean provided a focal point for the U.S., Britain and a still-powerful French Empire to come together and attack a critical Axis flank by sea. In policy terms, the Mediterranean gave the Anglo-American alliance an opportunity to coalesce, under conditions where the consequences of failure and disagreement were less than catastrophic. Strategically, once Britain pounced on the Axis decision to open a theater in the Mediterranean, British victories encouraged Hitler's decision to attack the Soviet Union. The collapse of Italy forced a westward reorientation of German strategic priorities, absorbing resources previously available for Russia. Operationally, the Mediterranean offered no major opportunities for the Wehrmacht's lethal combination of air power and mechanized forces; a military system configured for the offensive found itself from the autumn of 1942 fighting a series of high-cost defensive battles. On the other side, campaigning in the Mediterranean gave the Western allies time and opportunity to master modern war at all levels. The Italian campaign, so frequently used to illustrate the alleged futility of the Mediterranean, produced less than half the casualties of the operations in Northwest Europe while lasting twice as long. In paradigm-shifting terms, Porch's terrific book asks what the odds of success would have been had D-Day been mounted without the Mediterranean campaigns under the allies' belt, with unproven leaders, untested troops and immature weapons systems.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Reviews glow with kind words for Porch, a professor of national security at the Naval Postgraduate School. The author presents his case in clear, convincing prose and a careful eye to historical detail. Most importantly, he upends the idea of the Mediterranean campaign as a "costly sideshow" (Washington Post). He both successfully brings historic characters to life—including Mussolini, Churchill, and FDR—and combs through the finer points of military strategy. Whether his central hypothesis about the importance of the Mediterranean in the Allied victory is right or wrong, critics uniformly welcomed the book to the debate.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (May 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374205183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374205188
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Griswel VINE VOICE on May 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Path To Victory is a comprehensive one volume review of World War 2 in the Mediterranean and vicinity. It has flaws, but it provides a wealth of information and is easy to read.

The scope of the book is an uncommon one. Most titles deal with individual people or battles, or cover one country's contribution (e.g. An Army At Dawn), or look over the whole war in a general way. The auther here, Douglas Porch, deals with the whole war, but restricts himself to the Mediterranean sea. His descriptions of circumstances surrounding the battles is excellent, his short histories of the people involved are quite good (his handling of Juin is outstanding, finally, a French General to admire). His description of battle in Africa tends to be anti-climactic, however, as though the reasons for the outcome rendered the actual fighting superfluous. This is often true, but the reader of WW2 books is used to a different style. However, his description of the Italian campaign is quite good in all respects.

His story is as comprehensive as you could expect for one volume covering so much area and so much time. His argument, that the Mediterranean was critical for Allied victory (not a sideshow or distraction, as many accuse), is something you might not agree with, but is nevertheless well worth considering.

The main flaw in the work is that Porch does not have a constant command of his timeline. Often in the early to middle part of the book he will rock back and forth over the same time period, and he does not always keep the reader well grounded. I often found myself thinking of the abducted woman in Minority Report: a psychic used to living in a constant stream of flshbacks and premonitions, asks "is it now?
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mannie Liscum on November 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Douglas Porch's "The Path to Victory: The Mediterranean Theater in World War II" is an outstanding piece of historiography. While its 683 p. length may deter some from picking it up, this is a book worthy of a read by anyone with even passing interest in the Second World War, especially that portion of the war oft referred to as the 'backwater war'. Aside from Porch's clear mastery of the English language that lends itself to easily digestible prose, the most significant strength of "The Path to Victory" is related to how it can change the way the reader/historian looks/appreciates the Mediterranean Theater.

Porch, unlike most historians of note, argues that the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in WWII was not in fact a 'backwater war', but was THE definitive theater of the war in Europe. This is the base thesis of Porch's book, and he presents his historiography around this idea. Although Porch's thesis goes against the grain he does not simply spin history to fit his ideas, as other controversial authors have done. Instead, Porch presents a thoroughly researched story that in it's content is not significantly different from that presented elsewhere, but is analyzed in a more open fashion, thus allowing his thesis to be properly tested. After reading "The Path to Victory" the reader is likely to conclude that previous conclusions that the Mediterranean Theater was a 'backwater war' may have been made under quite restrictive analyses; namely, that few authors have not taken a biased, almost predetermined, approach to the analysis of this portion of the war. Much of this bias is derived from strong nationalistic feelings (e.g.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Simon A. Evans on October 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Douglas Porch' "The Path to Victory" presents a sensible, and on the whole well-balanced, survey of the progress of World War 2 in the Mediterranean. He draws keen portraits of all the players, Allied and Axis, and does not hesitate to give credit to some of the less known, and less popular, commanders (Juin, for example).

His criticisms of some commanders -- Freyberg is one -- seem born of 20/20 hind sight. Although we now know that Freyberg could have staved off the invasion of Crete with the resources at his command, he had no way of knowing this at the time, and was unable to organize himself to beat off what appeared to be a large scale German invasion of the island. For the first time Mark Clark's shenanigans in Italy are shown in a dispassionate, and largely unfavorable light.

Porch mostly gets it right, and covers a large canvas with ease, moving smoothly from discussions of technical details to the strategies needed to make almost anything happen in the turbulent politics of the time. He argues strongly, with incontrovertible evidence, for the wisdom of Churchill's strategy for fighting in the Mediterranean. His detailed coverage of the Italian campaign shows that it was nothing like the disaster often claimed. It tied down hundreds of thousands of German troops that otherwise could well have been in Normandy, allowing that invasion to proceed successfully.

It is essential to read the book with a good atlas at hand. The maps provided are appalling, among the worst I have seen in any WW2 history. Farrar, Straus and Giroux should be ashamed of themselves for producing such sloppy accompaniments to the text. The maps require the use of a magnifying glass and are mostly miracles of cartographic mud.
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