I have read hundreds of books about the Second World War but “No End Save Victory: Perspectives of World War II” edited by Robert Cowley must rank as being one of the best. I had looked at this book several times and kept it back in its assigned shelf in the library I use, daunted by its size, (688 pages), but some weeks ago I decided to give it another shot, and am so glad I did so.
The title comes from US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Speech in January, 1941 when he said, “This nation has placed its destiny in the hands, heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is in our unity of purpose. To that high concept, there can be no end save victory.”
This collection of 46 essays cover the period from September 1, 1939 to September 2, 1945, 2, 194 days when the entire world was caught up in a war the likes of which we are most unlikely to ever see again. These essays are by respected writers like William Manchester, Caleb Carr, Stephen E. Ambrose, and John Keegan with the collection being edited by Robert Cowley, the founding editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History.”
The essays are organized in six sections:
- The German Breakout 1939-41
- The Great East Asia War
- World at War 1942-43
- The Secret War
- The End in Europe 1944-45
- Armageddon In The Pacific 1944-45
What makes these essays all the more interesting is that they dwell on the people involved, with some of the essays being first person accounts. John Gabay’s reminiscences of being a tail gunner on a B-17 comes so readily to mind as does David Balme’s story of boarding the captured German U boat U-110. Balme’s boarding was so very crucial as the Allies got the German Enigma and cracked their code which weakened their war efforts at sea very significantly.
There were many things that were new to me, for one. Did you know that the U-537 was involved in the only German armed landing in North America, an occurrence that fully came to light only in the 1980s?
Some of the other essays which I liked in particular were: Guderian’s ruing the fact they did not go for the jugular and finish off the BEF before they were evacuated at Dunkirk, when the German advance was halted on Hitler’s express orders; Admiral Husband E. Kimmel’s missing out on the defense of Pearl Harbour; of Vice Admiral Ciliax and his Channel dash taking the “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau” to safety; Orde Wingate’s crusade in Burma with his Chindits; and of the elaborate strategies to deceive the enemy done so skillfully by the Allies, especially with relation to the 1944 plans to invade Europe.
All in all, I found this book to be quite fascinating. Since it is a collection of essays, you can dip into it and read an essay on a subject of your choice at your own pace.