The Blog


12:00 AM, Aug 5, 1996 • By AARON FRIEDBERG
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On the other side of the line, meanwhile, Hitler neutered his general staff, sacked competent commanders, surrounded himself with lackeys and party cronies, refused to establish a unified military command or an effective body for coordinating production, logistics, and military operations and, to the end, indulged his Wagnerian fantasies of himself as the solitary strategic genius. In contrast to his enemies, and to their considerable benefit, " Hitler took his position as Supreme Commander literally."

No book on a subject so large can be without shortcomings. Too little attention is paid here to Japan and to the war in the Pacific. And Overy seems at times to be bending over backwards to give the Soviets their due, mentioning only briefly the crucial economic assistance that they received from the United States and brushing past the prewar purges, which had a devastating effect on the preparedness of the Red Army.

But these failings do not detract from the overall power of Overy's argument or diminish the compelling importance of his message: Victory in the Second World War was not inevitable, and it was not due solely to material factors and impersonal forces. The generation that won the war did more than simply throw the switch on some vast industrial machine. As they pass slowly from the scene, it is therefore fitting that we should honor them for their courage, ingenuity, tenacity, and willingness to sacrifice. We owe them all we have.

Aaron Friedberg is associate professor of politics and international airs at Princeton University.