Having won an unprecedented series of victories and acquired huge new territories in 1942, Germany and Japan seemed poised to dominate most of the world. A year later both empires were reeling back in the face of Allied assaults. The rapid turnaround, King's College history professor Richard Overy writes, came about largely as a result of technological innovation and structural responsiveness. The Allies were able to convert their economies to a war footing with few institutional fetters, while the Axis powers imposed layers of bureaucracy that often competed internally. In fact, Overy writes, at one point during the war, the Luftwaffe had more than 425 different aircraft models in production, the result of different state agencies' and manufacturers' vying to push their models into the order of battle. The defeated Axis powers' conversion to their foes' economic model enabled them, according to Overy, to become technological leaders in the postwar years. His study is full of detail, and it makes for very good reading.
From Publishers Weekly
In The Road to War (1990), Overy plumbed the origins of WWII. Here, he examines the reasons for the war's outcome, challenging two pieces of conventional wisdom: that the Axis overextended itself by taking on the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union, and that the Allied victory was due to material strength only. Instead, Overy contends that the Allies' triumph depended on the exponential improvement of an initially inferior military capacity, as well as on moral fiber. The Allies, he argues convincingly, turned economic potential into fighting power, exploiting modernity by integrating technology and logistics into a comprehensive war effort that was sustained by moral force. Combining telling detail and wide scope, the author shows that, ultimately, the governments and peoples of the Allied Grand Coalition triumphed because they acted on the understanding that WWII was a life-and-death struggle for fundamental values. Photos; maps. History Book Club main selection; BOMC selection.
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