The way the world ends

The Second World War has always been a topic of interest to me, but it’s been especially on my mind as the 60th anniversary of the war’s end approaches. Today I started reading Max Hasting’s Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, which sets out to tell the tale of the bloody, drawn-out, and surprisingly difficult defeat of Germany after D-Day.

Armageddon asks a simple question: why did it take the Allies so long to defeat Germany after D-Day?

I first took note of Hasting’s book when Christianity Today flagged it as one of 2004’s top 10 books. This interview with the author several months ago cemented my interest. Hastings, from the interview:

I have always had a nagging fascination with what happened [after D-Day], in particular with why the Allies didn’t win in 1944. At the beginning of September 1944, most of the Allied leadership, with the notable exception of Winston Churchill, was completely convinced that the war was going to be over by the end of the year. In the West, the Germans seemed completely beaten. The Western Allies had overwhelming superiority in tanks, aircraft, everything—you name it. So I wanted to look at this question of why we didn’t end the war in 1944. Secondly, and almost as important, virtually all the books that have been written about this period look at either the Eastern or the Western front—not both. And I wanted to set the two in context: to see what happened to the Western Allies in the context of what happened with the Soviets.

I’ll report back again when I’ve finished the book.

Comments (2) to “The way the world ends”

  1. You don’t know the answer to this? It’s simple. They should have given Patton all the fuel and supplies he wanted. I like Stephen Ambrose’s opinion that if that had been done it would have been likely that Patton would have been able to cut off the German army’s retreat back to Germany and forced them into the body of the Allied invasion force.

    Of course, the answer to almost any WW2 question in hindsight is: “They should have let Patton do it.”

  2. I realize you’re being semi-facetious, but if you don’t mind I’ll answer anyway 🙂 Patton is getting a fair amount of discussion in this book, Bill, and much of it mirrors what you and Ambrose feel on the subject. Hastings credits Patton with having a fair bolder and more imaginative grasp of the strategic situation than Eisenhower or Montgomery and at one point muses about what might have gone differently had Patton been given a bigger role in the post-Normandy campaign.

    Unfortunately (if that’s the right word), according to Hastings, Eisenhower was one of the only American leaders with the patient (if over-conservative) personality needed to keep all of the various British and American generals and forces cooperating nicely. Also, the Allied supply system, which was suffering from borderline incompetent direction, probably could not have kept up with the blitzkrieg-style advances for which Patton was known. There was also a sense among many of the other Allied commanders that Patton promised more than he could sometimes deliver, although this doesn’t seem terribly fair given the snail’s pace at which the rest of the Allied forces were moving through Europe.

    I’ll let you know if anything else about Patton crops up in the book–I’m fairly certain it will.

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