Academic journal article Military Review

The Churchill War Papers: Never Surrender; Volume II-May 1940-December 1940 / Great Battles and Leaders of the Second World War

Academic journal article Military Review

The Churchill War Papers: Never Surrender; Volume II-May 1940-December 1940 / Great Battles and Leaders of the Second World War

Article excerpt

THE CHURCHILL WAR PAPERS: Never Surrender, Volume II-May 1940December 1940 by Martin Gilbert. 1.359 pages. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York. 1995. $75.()0.

GREAT BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Winston S. Churchill. 328 pages. Houghton Mifflin Co.. Boston. 1995. $40.00.

When Winston Churchill died in 1965, he was universally hailed as the "man of the century." While his pivotal historical role will not be forgotten, it risks being unfairly diminished, or worse denigrated, by modem historians who reject the "great man in history" notion. Modem World War II accounts often stress the "people's war" aspect of the Allied victory or the technological and intelligence advantages that allowed a mistake-prone Allied leadership, sometimes only marginally less morally offensive than their enemies, to defeat the Axis powers. These two books restore a much-needed World War II perspective.

By far, the more important of these two books is The Churchill War Papers. Of the 50th World War II commemoration books, Never Surrender, Volume II-May 1940-December 1940 best conveys the immense leadership burden at the summit of power. More than 1,300 pages of telegrams, memoranda and speeches detail the first seven epochal months of Churchill's premiership, from assuming power on 10 May 1940 to that year's inconclusive end, when the future of Western civilization was very much in question. The book also features Churchill's great war speeches, which although already firmly enshrined in the Western democratic canon, are presented here in historical context.

By following Churchill's day-today labors, one clearly sees the critical problems England faced for survival and Churchill's crucial roles as politician, goad, idea man, critic, commander and inspirational leader. …

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