Monday, May 17, 2010

No Simple Victory: A History of the World War II One Only Thinks They Know

Back in March I wrote about the very interesting program about the Battle of Kursk which was broadcasted on RT (Russia Today). The program offered good background into the largest battle of World War II which is little known in the West. An anonymous commenter recommended the book No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945 as a great eye opener to other aspects of the overlooked elements of World War II. I bought the book and read it during my recent time in the Middle East. I enthusiastically recommend the book to all those interested in a fuller picture of the Second Great War.

No Simple Victory is not a history of the Eastern Front (Nazis and other Axis forces against Soviets) but it properly gives the Eastern Front its rightful place in World War II. That means a majority of the book actually focuses on the Eastern Front. The opening part of the book compares the massive efforts spent by both the Axis and Soviets in battling each other from 1941-45 to the surprisingly much smaller efforts of the Western Allies (the British Empire, Free French, Free Pole, and the United States). The book also does a good job discussing the political setting of 1939-41 when the Soviet Union and the German Reich worked together to divide Eastern Europe between themselves.

A central thesis of the book is that the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War was almost a separate conflict than the smaller Western Front. The Western Allies originally went to war free Poland and stop German aggression. There were no policies to topple the Nazis or any other Axis government at that time. The Soviets fought to (1939-41) conquer eastern Poland, conquer the Baltic states, expand into Finland, and gain a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. The 1941-45 Soviet agenda was to regain lands lost to the Axis and expand into Central Europe. At the end of the war the Western Allies did help achieve the goal of stopping German aggression but Poland was still under tyranny and all the other Soviet war goals were accomplished. The Cold War became an extension of World War II when the Western Allies sought to curb the expansionist goals of the much more mighty Soviet Union.

Unlike other World War II books No Simple Victory does a great job discussing political and civilian matters. Everything from daily lives, the war's effect on various professions, sex, religion, and economics are discussed.

While not complete, I would have preferred more information on the Forrest Brothers and the anti-Soviet resistance in Ukraine et al that lasted into the 1960s, No Simple Victory is by far the most complete history of the European theater of World War II I have ever read.

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