Sunday, October 28, 2012

Books I'm Reading: The Grand Alliance by Winston Churchill (October 28, 2012)

I've now finished the third volume of Winston Churchill's six-volume history of WWII The Second World War, this one entitled The Grand Alliance. The scope of this third volume is fairly breathtaking, following the escalation and expansion of the war as Germany and Italy move east through the Mediterranean, threatening Egypt, as Hitler turns on the Soviet Union, and as Japan attacks the United States in Hawaii and British and Dutch possessions in Asia, bringing Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union into a grand alliance of nations united by the goal of defeating the Axis powers.

As in the previous volumes, Churchill tells the story in the first person and mainly from the perspective of British activities. It again relies heavily on "directives, telegrams, and minutes upon the daily conduct of the war and of British affairs"--documents mostly written by Churchill himself during the conflict. These are supplemented by the author's retrospective analysis of events. At the end of the volume, I was left with a much better understanding of the relationship that developed between Churchill and President Roosevelt and of Stalin's character as revealed by communications between Churchill and Stalin. Churchill's calmness and confidence are remarkable throughout. While recognizing that winning the war will be painful and time-consuming, from a very early date he understands in broad outline how events are likely to unfold and he is unshakeable in his conviction that the Allies will win. This is not bluster. His view is based on rational analysis. In particular, Churchill understands the immense importance of now having the wealth of the United States behind Britain, which remains mostly in retreat through the period covered by this volume (1941).

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