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McKercher, B.J.C. and Roch Legault (editors). Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001
How did military leaders planand fail to planfor the outbreak of war? How did that planning simultaneously respond to and guide governmental policies in the international arena? These are questions that have been oft asked and oft answered in regard to the major powers in the years leading up to the Second World War.
"Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War," by Gordon Martel. A witty and entertaining proposal for jettisoning the simplistic "Hitler was evil" theory of the cause of World War II, and a strong argument that there was "only one world war, though there was a long intermission while the players recovered from the exertions of the first act; and this war was in itself part of a longer-running drama...of the civil wars that had bedeviled Europe since the birth of the sovereign state."
"Reluctant Neutral: Italy and the Strategic Balance in 1939," by Alan Cassels. Ascribes Italy's "Lilliputian preparations" for war to unavoidable economic shortcomings, Mussolini's interference, and German indifference.
"The Weimar Roots of German Military Planning in the 1930s," by Robert M. Citino. The author of The Evolution of Blitzkrieg Tactics and The Path to Blitzkrieg explains how German planning for total war preceded Hitler's rise to power.
"Weaknesses in French Military Planning on the Eve of the Second World War," by Henry Dutailly. In a less satisfying essay, Dutailly enumerates French failings in policy and planningfor which he mostly criticizes the "wait-and-see" attitudebut concludes his chapter by admitting these weaknesses are insufficient to explain French failure "because an important question remains without a precise answer: since 1937 General Gamelin knew that a Belgian counteroffensive could be a death trap. Why did he launch it, and then demand that it push beyond the planned objectives, all the way to Breda in the Netherlands?"
"British Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War," by Sebastian Cox. "On reviewing British military planning as a whole, one is left with an impression of the RAF planning a war in Europe, in which it envisaged itself as the leading service, while the Navy planned a similar role for itself in the Far East, and the Army tried to make sense of conflicting political requirements while struggling with an ill-defined role and inept leadership."
"Jedi Knights in the Kremlin: The Soviet Military in the 1930s and the Genesis of Deep Battle," by Roman Johann Jarymowycz. In one of the more complex analyses, Jarymowycz looks at a range of issues and credits Soviet victory to Josef Stalin, "defensive victory via attrition warfare," and the "Deep Battle" theories of Marshal Tukhachevsky.
"American War Plans," by Steven Ross. The author of American War Plans, 1941-1945 and American War Plans, 1945-1950 writes, as might be expected, about specific military plans such as ABC-1, ABC-2, the Victory Program, and Rainbow 5. He also shows that, despite generally realistic and effective planning, war came to America earlier than expected and "as in previous conflicts, the United States had to fight a war of improvisation."
"Afterword: Military Planning and the Origins of the Second World War," by Sidney Aster. Interestingly, the final brief chapter of the book mostly chastises all the previous authors for failing to think and write more deeply about the issues. He ends by advising them, and other historians, "to look beneath the surface and explore the 'unspoken assumptions' of military planning; the structural detriments; the impact of gender, culture, and race; the influence of national stereotyping; the dilemmas of choosing offensive, defensive, or deterrent strategies; and the interplay between politicians and the military and their respective roles in contributing to the outbreak of the Second World War."
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Praeger.
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Reviewed 20 May 2001
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