Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Taking a Second Look at WWII with Victor Davis Hanson’s ‘The Second World Wars’

Ed Driscoll // PJ Media

Most people today assume that our understanding of WWII is largely complete, thanks to the enormous quantity of books, TV series such as ITV’s classic 1970s documentary The World at War, the myriad of documentaries that aired in the early days of the History Channel cable TV network, and the unending series of movies produced by Hollywood, particularly when compared to its predecessor, WWI. But classicist historian and fellow PJM columnist Victor Davis Hanson does yeoman’s work unpacking the events of 1939-1945.

Starting with the plurality in the title, Hanson’s 2017 book, The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won emphasizes the disparate nature of the War’s myriad battles. Hanson also explores the enormous difference in mindsets between the leaders of the Axis and Allied powers. He makes plain their difference in desired outcomes right on page three, when he notes, “The Axis losers killed or starved to death about 80 percent of all those who died during the war. The Allied victors largely killed Axis soldiers; the defeated Axis, mostly civilians.”

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The Allies were also able to improvise and adjust tactics far more easily than the Axis, Hanson writes:

The same asymmetry was true at sea, especially in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Allied leadership made operational changes and technological improvements of surface ships and planes far more rapidly than could the U-boats of the Kriegsmarine. America adapted to repair and produce aircraft carriers and train new crews at a pace inconceivable in Japan. The Allies—including the Soviet Union on most occasions—usually avoided starting theater wars that ended in multiyear infantry quagmires. In contrast, Japan, Germany, and Italy respectively bogged down in China, the Soviet Union, and North Africa and the Balkans.

Read the full book review here

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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