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Engineers of Victory

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Engineers of Victory

The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERPaul Kennedy, award-winning author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and one of today's most renowned historians, now provides a new and unique look at how World War II...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERPaul Kennedy, award-winning author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and one of today's most renowned historians, now provides a new and unique look at how World War II...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    Paul Kennedy, award-winning author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and one of today's most renowned historians, now provides a new and unique look at how World War II was won. Engineers of Victory is a fascinating nuts-and-bolts account of the strategic factors that led to Allied victory. Kennedy reveals how the leaders' grand strategy was carried out by the ordinary soldiers, scientists, engineers, and businessmen responsible for realizing their commanders' visions of success.

    In January 1943, FDR and Churchill convened in Casablanca and established the Allied objectives for the war: to defeat the Nazi blitzkrieg; to control the Atlantic sea lanes and the air over western and central Europe; to take the fight to the European mainland; and to end Japan's imperialism. Astonishingly, a little over a year later, these ambitious goals had nearly all been accomplished. With riveting, tactical detail, Engineers of Victory reveals how.

    Kennedy recounts the inside stories of the invention of the cavity magnetron, a miniature radar "as small as a soup plate," and the Hedgehog, a multi-headed grenade launcher that allowed the Allies to overcome the threat to their convoys crossing the Atlantic; the critical decision by engineers to install a super-charged Rolls-Royce engine in the P-51 Mustang, creating a fighter plane more powerful than the Luftwaffe's; and the innovative use of pontoon bridges (made from rafts strung together) to help Russian troops cross rivers and elude the Nazi blitzkrieg. He takes readers behind the scenes, unveiling exactly how thousands of individual Allied planes and fighting ships were choreographed to collectively pull off the invasion of Normandy, and illuminating how crew chiefs perfected the high-flying and inaccessible B-29 Superfortress that would drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

    The story of World War II is often told as a grand narrative, as if it were fought by supermen or decided by fate. Here Kennedy uncovers the real heroes of the war, highlighting for the first time the creative strategies, tactics, and organizational decisions that made the lofty Allied objectives into a successful reality. In an even more significant way, Engineers of Victory has another claim to our attention, for it restores "the middle level of war" to its rightful place in history.

    Praise for Engineers of Victory

    "Superbly written and carefully documented . . . indispensable reading for anyone who seeks to understand how and why the Allies won."--The Christian Science Monitor

    "An important contribution to our understanding of World War II . . . Like an engineer who pries open a pocket watch to reveal its inner mechanics, [Paul] Kennedy tells how little-known men and women at lower levels helped win the war."--Michael Beschloss, The New York Times Book Review

    "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. . . . [Engineers of Victory] seeks to fill this gap in the historiography of World War II and does so triumphantly. . . . This book is a fine tribute."--The Wall Street Journal

    "[Kennedy] colorfully and convincingly illustrates the ingenuity and persistence of a few men who made all the difference."--The Washington Post

    "This superb book is Kennedy's best."--Foreign Affairs

    From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    How to Get Convoys Safely Across the Atlantic

    Thus was the stage set for Germany to fling into the Atlantic struggle the greatest possible strength. . . . It was plain to both sides that the U-boats and the convoy escorts would shortly be locked in a deadly, ruthless series of fights, in which no mercy would be expected and little shown. Nor would one battle, or a week's or a month's fighting, decide the issue. It would be decided by which side could endure the longer; by whether the stamina and strength of purpose of the crews of the Allied escort vessels and aircraft, watching and listening all the time for the hidden enemy, outlasted the will-power of the U-boat crews, lurking in the darkness or the depths, fearing the relentless tap of the asdic, the unseen eye of the radar and the crash of the depth charges. It depended on whether the men of the Merchant Navy, themselves almost powerless to defend their precious cargoes of fuel, munitions and food, could stand the strain of waiting day after day and night after night throughout the long, slow passages for the rending detonation of the torpedoes, which could send their ships to the bottom in a matter of seconds, or explode their cargoes in a searing sheet of flame from which there could be no escape. It was a battle between men, aided certainly by all the instruments and devices which science could provide, but still one that would be decided by the skill and endurance of men, and by the intensity of the moral purpose which inspired them. In all the long history of sea warfare there has been no parallel to this battle, whose field was thousands of square miles of ocean, and to which no limits in time or space could be set.

    --S. W. Roskill, The War at Sea, 1939--1945

    As Churchill and Roosevelt journeyed to and from Casablanca in January 1943, the weather in the North Atlantic had become as violent as any experienced sailor could remember. For much of December and January, huge storms at sea cramped naval and air activity. Merchant ships, pounded by giant waves, had heavy cargoes breaking loose and sliding around inside their hulls. Smaller warship escorts such as corvettes were tossed around like corks. Warships with heavier upperworks and gun turrets rolled from side to side. German U-boats, when they surfaced, could see nothing across the hundred-foot-high waves and were happy to submerge into quieter waters or to head south. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sailors were hurt, and not a few killed by accidents or washed overboard. In some extreme cases, the commander of a convoy was forced to order a return to base, or at least to send damaged ships back. General Sir Alan Brooke (later Viscount Alanbrooke) records in his diary that he, the other British Chiefs of Staff, and Churchill himself had their flight (or surface sailing) plans from London to Casablanca changed time and again.

    The result, quite naturally, was that convoy activity upon the storm-whipped North Atlantic routes was much less than normal in these midwinter months. Quite separate from this physical interruption, there was a second and cheerier reason the regular convoy traffic fell away at this time. Operation Torch itself demanded a vast number of escorts to assist the occupation of the Vichy states of Morocco and Algeria--the Royal Navy contributed 160 warships of various types to it--and in consequence the Gibraltar, Sierra Leone, and Arctic convoys had to be temporarily suspended.1 Since ships carrying Allied troops, landing equipment, and immediate supplies were bound to get the highest level of naval protection, and the Axis was ill-prepared for the Operation Torch invasion because of its obsessions with the Eastern...

About the Author-
  • Paul Kennedy is internationally known for his writings and commentaries on global political, economic, and strategic issues. He earned his B.A. at Newcastle University and his doctorate at the University of Oxford. Since 1983, he has been the Dilworth Professor of History and director of international security studies at Yale University. He is on the editorial board of numerous scholarly journals and writes for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, and many foreign-language newspapers and magazines. Kennedy is the author and editor of nineteen books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which has been translated into more than twenty languages, followed by Preparing for the Twenty-first Century (1993), and The Parliament of Man (2006).

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Engineers of Victory
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The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
Paul Kennedy
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Paul Kennedy
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