11.07.2019 in Review

Reviews: Why The Allies Won By Richard Overy

It is obvious that Overy examined volumes of archived materials in a skillful way which eliminated the possibility of being influenced by some earlier contradictory studies on the war. He uses these existing evidences but re-examines and re-interprets them in a coherent and convincing manner. This enables him to build his argument in a captivating model that enables a reader to easily understand the scenes and events in his book. Ovary uses basic and clear statements in discussing the four major fronts in the Second World War: the Sea Battle, the aerial bombardment, the Eastern and Western Ground Battles. He also puts across the argument that the number of soldiers played an insignificant role in the outcome of the war. Overy explores the themes and lays down the factors that he believes resulted with the Allies’ victory.  He asserts that the material and personnel balance had no effect on the results of the war. He cites logistics, intelligence, and cohesion of the Allies as the main determinants. He gives the war a re-interpretation through an elaboration of critical military engagements that in an astonishing way revived the Allies fortunes. Richard Overy gives this Great War a significant brightness by discussing how and why it was won. Overy’s interpretation is very convincing because it explains away issues that were fundamentally unbelievable. For example, the dropping of explosives that would weigh more than 2.5 million tons on urban populations that apparently did not have serious implications on them. Overy gives an insightful and broad synthesis of these issues. Unlike the authors of many other books, Overy explains that there was uncertainty on the outcome of the war. For example, he shows how the Germans ahead with technology and the quest of wonder weapons which of course did worry the allies. He argues that what held them back were insufficient funding, constant political disagreements, and inadequate resources. Overy also clears incorrect thoughts like that the Allied forces were fighting for democracy, and entrench it in the world. This was erroneous because Soviet Union wasn’t a democracy. He also cleared the misconception that due to their numerical superiority, the Americans and the Soviets were sure of victory. Such misconceptions were erroneous since they trade off the matters of quality for quantity. Overy covers the sea battle in an incisive and accurate manner. He elaborates on the U boats (describing how technology and mass production had a bearing on the U boat war), the setbacks, the turning points, intelligence coups, and technological innovations. He concisely concludes the sea engagement within 15 pages of discussion.  Again on mass production, Overy talks of the Soviets’ 15,000 tanks in page 211 of this book. However, many of these Soviet tanks were in need of huge repairs as they were malfunctioned and rusty there by rendering them useless in the war.

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“Why the Allies Won” can be seen as a novel as it is a long piece of writing that has several characters, and narrates a complex story that places the characters in many varying situations. It seems like a novel as it has used the five main elements basically used in a novel: character, plot, conflict, theme, and setting. Its plot is the story of the Second World War. Overy describes the meaning of events in the war, as well as the fate of characters. The reader is able to see that Overy’s characters have life beyond the story being told as they have meaningful traits such as fear, hopes, ambitions, and concerns that any reader recognizes. It tells a richly detailed story than that an author of shorter forms of writing would tell. It is highly flexible and readers can draw varying conclusions. He has made his readers care as they read through the story as he introduces some ethical, emotional, and physical conflicts that result into tension which characters are expected to resolve. When it comes to setting, the place and time of the story can be established. His setting plays a huge role in the theme of the book. As a theme, the main idea that Overy wishes the readers to get is that the Great War was not a foregone conclusion. To do this, he gives his book a greater depth than it would have had it been a bare recitation of events. Overy carefully uses the other elements to build the theme of his work. Unlike others, Overy has counterpointed the argument that “the biggest always win” which has been found in many literature works for a very long time. “Why the Allies Won” is better that many other books on World War II as is does elaborate many other determining factors other than the obvious military one and a general reader is able to follow through without getting bored and lost. The main strength of this source is that Overy explains the importance of each front in a remarkable way and elaborates that the victory of the Allies was not a foregone conclusion. His work lays out the different factors that resulted in the Allies victory. In the chapter dedicated to the bombing campaigns, although he does not dismiss the modern-day moral arguments, he elaborates on the importance of these campaigns despite their failure to accomplish the military commanders’ goals. The ideas Overy presents in every portion of his book can potentially be elaborated into another whole book. The combination of the ideas he gets from achieved materials into a complex piece of work demonstrates mastery of the details. Overy has made a remarkable attempt to get the true contents from a huge conflicting analysis of the World War II using an easily understandable style and with convincing arguments. The book “Why the Allies Won” will be remembered for being a single volume that probably explains the history of World War II in a manner that acknowledges that the Allied victory was not necessary the obvious fate of the war. Overy narrates the story of why and how the allied forces won without the usual jingoism exhibited by other authors. Furthermore, it’s a book that carefully and clearly describes the reasons why Axis Powers’ lost the war. It elaborates on the fall of the Japanese Imperial Navy, the submarine warfare, the brutish land hostilities of Kursk and Stalingrad, the Normandy engagements, the Allies, advancement in industrial yield, and the strategic bombing.


Key weaknesses

However the work of Overy had some weaknesses. He appears to portray the Soviets as weak in a tone that demonstrates his dislike for them. On p. 216 Overy articulates that “The incompetence of Soviet forces in 1941 allowed the Panzer armies to penetrate far and fast.” Overy carefully avoids displaying Britain in such a manner. He for example, praises Britain when he argues that the British overestimated the capability of the Germans. He fails to appreciate that the Soviets had achieved by holding an enormous German attack for 68 days during the period which they inflicted huge losses on the Germans, and eventually made them retreat. In addition, Overy does seem to underestimate the importance of Allies having had more soldiers than the Axis. He bases his argument that numbers have no effect on the First World War. However, even this comparison cannot be sufficient because Overy omits the Ottomans in his deliberations. Overy negates himself by first claiming on p. 137 that the alliance would face a “…large army in waiting, seasoned with men battle-hardened from the fearful contest in Russia.” Later on, on p. 153 he says that comparing with their former selves the Germans in the French Country were just shells. He continues to say that many of the forces that guarded the coastal lines against an eminent invasion were mainly Central Asians and Eastern Europeans. On p. 200, the author seems to believe that had the Germans been equipped with more tanks, probably their 1941 assault on the Soviet Union would have been successful. This hypothesis is erroneous since he does not explain how the Soviets would react to an increase in the Germans’ tanks. Again in his account of the significance of industries, he leaves the strategic importance of Blitzkrieg unexplained. He ought to have considered it since the Germans had embraced the Blitzkrieg strategy and therefore had to plan well for that idea to work. He does not point out how the strategy on Blitzkrieg affected the economy during the war time. I deem Overy’s argument to be factual and expository. Overy carefully avoided being fanatically patriotic and prepared each chapter in an interesting and informative manner. The book is consistent in elaborating the progress of the war on all fronts and the interconnection between them. In his argument, Overy considers different aspects of the war, unlike many other books that evaluate just the military side. He evaluates the economical, moral and technological aspects as well as the roles that each main world leader played. In the end, the author briefly examines the events of the postwar period like the Cold War, Communism spread, and the powers realignment against the USSR. As the book come to close, it is evident that the Americans and the Soviet used to learn from their mistakes while Japan and Germany used to rely on their records victories which didn’t help them in the long term. In fact, this book’s contributions to history cannot be underestimated as it’s among a few that concretely tackles the Great War as whole. It’s a book that has touched on all major issues regarding this war which includes morality, technology, misconceptions, and several varied factors that lead to the Allies victory. It’s an original book because of the way issues are articulated with minimum contradictions.

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