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Why the Allies Won [Paperback]

by Richard Overy
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 17, 1997 039331619X 978-0393316193 Reprint

"Overy has written a masterpiece of analytical history, posing and answering one of the great questions of the century."—Sunday Times (London)

Richard Overy's bold book begins by throwing out the stock answers to this great question: Germany doomed itself to defeat by fighting a two-front war; the Allies won by "sheer weight of material strength." In fact, by 1942 Germany controlled almost the entire resources of continental Europe and was poised to move into the Middle East. The Soviet Union had lost the heart of its industry, and the United States was not yet armed.

The Allied victory in 1945 was not inevitable. Overy shows us exactly how the Allies regained military superiority and why they were able to do it. He recounts the decisive campaigns: the war at sea, the crucial battles on the eastern front, the air war, and the vast amphibious assault on Europe. He then explores the deeper factors affecting military success and failure: industrial strength, fighting ability, the quality of leadership, and the moral dimensions of the war. Photographs

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039331619X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316193
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
114 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Answer to the Second World War September 28, 1999
Format:Paperback
Historian Richard Overy sets out to answer what is one of the most important questions of the Twentieth Centuries, why the Allied Powers, and not the Axis, won the greatest conflict of all time. Overy emphasizes that the outcome was not a foregone conclusion, as Western Liberal societies have argued since 1945. Rather, the conflict was extremely close, and in the years from 1942-44, the war could have gone either way. Overy divides his analysis into two types of factors: the actual combat, including campaigns and tactics, and underlying factors, such as economics, resources, and leadership. Overy does more than simply rehash other historians' arguments while synthesizing them into one coherent work. For example, he maintains that the Eastern Front was the most important single front in determining the outcome of the war. At Stalingrad the Soviets won not only by sheer numbers, but by tactical superiority as well. But Stalingrad did not decide the outcome of the campaign. The German lines stabilized in 1943, and had Hitler not wasted all his heavy armor at Kursk, stalemate may have ensued. Overy also discussed the Anglo-American air war, which had little impact in 1942-43, but when the allied forces targeted the German industrial areas, they pulverized the German munitions manufacturing, so that in early 1945 Albert Speer conceded the war was over from his point of view. The sea war in the Atlantic is also examined. Germany's U-Boats nearly strangled England in the early stages, striking American and British ships at will. But American technology and ingenuity changed the tide, forcing the U-Boats to retreat after taking massive losses. All of these campaigns were close affairs, in which the allied forces made better choices than their Axis counterparts. Read more ›
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful book. October 4, 2000
Format:Paperback
This is an interesting work, and it helps one to rethink questions about the war one would have thought settled. On paper the military forces of Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union vastly overwhelm those of Germany, Italy and Japan. One would think that military victory was assured. Richard Overy questions these assumptions in this useful book. After all from 1940 to 1944 Germany had most of the resouces of continental Europe to draw upon. If the gap between the two sides seems so vast, it is partially because Germany did not take full advantage of those resources when it could have crushed the other sides. Overy provides particular attention on the battle for the seas when it appeared up until mid 1943 that the Axis might cut the lifeline across the Atlantic, and when the battle of Midway turned for the Americans on the space of a few lucky minutes. He discusses such major events as D-Day and gives due attention to the vital battle for Russia, without which Allied victory would have seemed impossible.
Crucial to this account is the economic side, however, and here Overy challenges two important scholarly opinions about the war. The first view, which developed in the sixties, looked at the relatively low levels of arms that the Germans produced, theorized that German war production was limited because of a need to placate German living standards. Because of this restriction Germany turned towards the devastating and hopefully quick stratgey of blitzkerig. The second view argued that aerial bombing was of limited success because German war production still rose from 1942 to 1945. Overy, however, argues that Hitler did not sacrifice guns for butter but always wanted a fierce military regime.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Richard Overy's excellent book takes a careful and painstaking look at both how and why the Aliies won what he contends was a much more closely fought war than traditional treatments of the matter would have us believe. He cites several issues which were crucial; the war on the seas, primarily in the Atlantic, where the balance of terror for some time seemed to be tipping in favor of the Axis forces, the air bombing war over the skies of Europe, which holstered squadrons of Axis planes into a defense of the Fatherland, and removed them from conduct of a more vigorous air campaign against the Russians; the miscalculation concerning the ability of the Soviets to sustain their battle lines and to even accelerate the pace of the war on the Eastern front. In addition Overy cites the astonishing productive and manufacturing capability of the Americans, Canadians, British, and even the Soviets, who outworked and outproduced the Germans gun for gun, plane for plane, and tank for tank during the darkest and most difficult moments of the war; the constant and confusing interference with weapon selection and production by the upper reaches of the Nazi hierarchy. Finally, the philosophical sense shared by the Allies of fighting for the right, which Overy argues persuasively informed Allied forces with a sense of moral courage that seemed to imbue them with a fighting ferocity the Axis found difficult to rival. This is a great book by a very notable author, and one every respectable denizen of WWII history should have on his or her shelf.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Analytical erudition.of the war
More than 60 years have passed after world's biggest conflict came to an end. Author has pondered the reasons that led to triumph of Allied powers against Axis bloc. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Karun Mukherji
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
My husband is a WWII buff--knows quite a bit about its history, so I wasn't sure if this book would be of interest to him. Read more
Published 2 months ago by char
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb reading!
Richard Overy has written a superb book in 'Why The Allies Won'. It is extremely readable and the author is unequivocal in the facts he presents. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bob Stevenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This is a great book. If you want to know more about the Great War, get this. The condition of this book was great.
Published 8 months ago by jonsiri harnmuanphongs
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but not entirely convincing
It may well be that his conclusions are simply a bit outdated by new research, but reading this in 2013 makes his arguments a bit unconvincing. Read more
Published 11 months ago by christopher telcontar
5.0 out of 5 stars good feel of the basis of allied victory
Real effort was from the soviet armed camp which produced such war winning tools like t-34/85 the JS2 and stormovik along with millions of motivated soviet soldiers who died but... Read more
Published 11 months ago by rafe
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the author's perspective
Although the author is not a WWII veteran and has no military backround, he provides a good historical account from an englishman academician's view point. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Hawkeye
2.0 out of 5 stars Outdated and, in part, questionable analysis
This book was written in 1995, and in some respects has not aged very well, though for the most part it does an admirable job in succinctly summarizing the conventional wisdom on... Read more
Published 15 months ago by A. E. Bjorn
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on WW II that I've read
I have read countless books on WW II and visited some of the key battlefields. This book stands apart in that it provides enormous insight into the patterns and details of exactly... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Roy
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on WWII
I had to read this book for Grad. School and I must say though at times it is a slow read, but I have learned more about WWII from this book then I did while getting my BA.
Published 18 months ago by Logan Buzzard
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