The Second World War, by Antony Beevor
More or less what it says on the tin. It felt like quite a long book -
around 40 hours of audio - but at the same time, more or less every section
didn't feel long enough: I wanted to know more.
AB has several other WW2 books out, and I guess that several of the
chapters in this book are more or less distilled from whole books (e.g. on
Berlin, Stalingrad, the Ardennes, D-Day and Crete). So I aim to read those
It felt a bit like listening to an extended version of "The World at War" -
the narrator had a similar grim-sounding voice. Most of my notes are of the
"I never knew that" variety:
- the thing on the Stuka dive bomber that made a noise was the "Jericho
Trumpet", deliberately designed to terrify people on the ground. But in
fact, Stuka's weren't that fantastically brilliant as aircraft
- When Russians came into Poland they rounded up intellectuals and put them
in prison camps, then when those people wrote letters home, they used the
addresses on the envelopes to find where the families lived, and rounded them
- the chapter about German attack on Crete was really gripping. Especially
as I didn’t know how it ended and wasn’t sure who was going to win. At the
end, the book says that the Germans decided after the battle that using
paratroopers was too risky a strategy to use again, but the British decided
that using paratroopers would be a good idea. I definitely want
to read his Crete book.
- Two things in the Italy battle: an allied ship with a secret cargo of
mustard has to be used in case the Germans started using chemical weapons was
bombed in the harbour and loads of people got poisoned but the doctors weren’t
told what the cause was
And the Germans, when retreating, deliberately flooded an area that had
previously been reclaimed and introduced mosquitos which caused 50,000 cases
of malaria over the following year. This was the Pontine Marshes
- Churchill doesn't come over as being that great. Americans frustrated with
him for having what they seem to see as mercurial hare-brained schemes to do
things which aren't strategically sensible. Also he sucks up to Stalin (maybe
look up the bit where he has a meeting with Stalin, with only interpreters
present) where he shows his Naughty Document that proposes dividing
countries up post-war between soviet and allied control
- in the section on Ardennes he talks about a US unit which was bombed by US airforce 13 times. Contributed to Germal saying "if it's the British, we duck; if it's the Americans, everybody ducks. If it's the Luftwaffe, nobody ducks"
- he frequently calls out the misguidedness of Arthur Harris "The Luftwaffe
had killed many more, including an estimated half a million civilians in the
Soviet Union alone, but that is still no excuse for Harris's utterly
wrong-headed conviction that Bomber Command could win the war on its own
simply by smashing cities"
- "the planning which went into Operation Neptune - the Channel-crossing
stage of Overlord - was extraordinary in its detail. On receiving their
orders, which ran to several hundred pages, the 3rd Canadian Division
dubbed it 'Operation Overboard'
- as Tony mentioned, Stalin was quite callous about the Poles "Stalin
clearly wantewd the rising to fail. The more potential Polish leaders the
Germans killed, the better it was for him"
- "The US air force bombed Iwo Jima from the Marianas for seventy-six
days. Then, at dawn on 16 February, the Japanese saw from their bunkers and
caves that the invasion fleet had arrived during the night. The naval task
force of eight battle ships, twelve escort carriers, nineteen cruisers and
forty-four destroyers anchored offshore began to bombard the island, map
square by map square [...] but when the amphibious assault began on 19
February, most of Kuribayashi's artillery was still untouched."
- "At the end of the war, their Japanese captors had kept the Indiant alive
so that they could butcher them to eat one at a time. Even the inhumanity of
the Nazi's Hunger Plan in the east never descended to such levels. Because
the subkect was so upsetting to families of soldiers who had died in the
Pacific War, the Allies suppressed all information on the subject, and
cannibalism never featured as a crime at the Tokyo War Crimes tribunal in
- "The 334 Superfortresses carpet-bombed Tokyo, sparing neither residential
nor industrial zones. More than a quarter of a million buildings went up in
flames spread by strong winds. Houses made of wood and paper caught fire in
seconds. Altogether 83,000 people died and another 41,000 were severely
injured, a far greater toll than when the second atom bomb was dropped on
Nagasaki five months later."
Since finishing the book, I re-watched "Band of Brothers" which had a lot
of placenames that were familiar after reading this book. I've got "The
World at War" lined up next.
Completed : 18-Mar-2019 (audiobook)