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Engineers of Victory.

The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War

By Paul Kennedy

Yale historian Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), looks at the Allied victory in World War II from a new perspective: that of the "ordinary" participants, like soldiers, engineers, scientists, and businessmen.

THE TOPIC: In 1943, an Allied summit in Casablanca laid out a series of five objectives for defeating the Axis Powers: gaining control of Atlantic sea lanes; winning the air battle over Europe; halting the Nazi blitzkrieg; invading the occupied European mainland; and bridging the distance across the Pacific. Kennedy recounts the efforts by which these goals were accomplished in a little over one year. Stories include the invention of the B-29 Superfortress (which would drop the atomic bombs on Japan), the Hedgehog (a ship-mounted mortar launcher), and the cavity magnetron (a miniature radar). Engineers also modified the P-51 Mustang with a Rolls Royce engine to create a fighter plane that could outmaneuver the Luftwaffe. Through these examples and others, Kennedy takes the reader behind the "big picture" of World War II to reveal the creativity and tactical decisions of individuals who brought the Allied objectives to fruition.

Random House. 464 pages. $30. ISBN: 9781400067619

Christian Science Monitor ****

"Ultimately, this is a marvelous synthesis of a vast range material that offers a new and important way of understanding the largest conflict in human history. Superbly written and carefully documented, this book offers fresh and creative insights about the conflict to even the most expert readers." TERRY HARTLE

NY Times Book Review ****

"Engineers of Victory achieves the difficult task of being a consistently original book about one of the most relentlessly examined episodes in human history. ... Although occasionally prolix and repetitive, Kennedy's volume is an important contribution to our understanding of World War II, and it sets a high standard for historians writing about other conflicts by reminding us to keep a close eye on technology." MICHAEL BESCHLOSS

Wall Street Journal ****

"Histories of World War II tend to concentrate on the leaders and generals at the top who make the big strategic decisions and on the lowly grunts at the bottom who do the fighting from foxhole to foxhole. There are usually very few pages devoted to the people in the middle, the implementers who turn great decisions into a workable reality. Engineers of Victory ... seeks to fill this gap in the historiography of World War II and does so triumphantly." ANDREW ROBERTS

Washington Post ****

"In this valuable addition to the very long shelf of recent books about World War II, Kennedy looks at the 18 months before the D-Day invasion in June 1944. ... As he walks the reader through the critical breakthroughs required to achieve such daunting tasks as attacking an enemy shore thousands of miles from home, Kennedy colorfully and convincingly illustrates the ingenuity and persistence of a few men who made all the difference." EVAN THOMAS

Boston Globe ***

"Engineers of Victory is a demandingly complex account of a relatively neglected side of the World War II. And it cries out for a touch of Ben Macintyre or a Lynne Olson, popular historians of that era who revel in character and scene-setting. Kennedy sorely lacks these skills; his 'engineers of victory' are elusive folk." MATTHEW PRICE


"The winning of great wars always requires superior organization," Kennedy writes in this nuts-and-bolts, rather than grand, history. His exhaustive study of the "middle level" of World War II recounts the development of the Allies' superior organization and creative problem solving and the men who made it all happen. Kennedy presents a detailed look at previously unexplored angles of this well-documented conflict, even if some of the characters never jump off the page. He nonetheless brings readers "behind the curtain" to see the development of the weapons and devices that ultimately led to Allied victory. The larger lesson? "Nations that do not encourage innovation and ingenuity are doomed to fail" (Washington Post).
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Title Annotation:Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War
Author:Kennedy, Paul
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2013
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