THe Battle for History: Refighting World War II

By Jones, Budd | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

THe Battle for History: Refighting World War II


Jones, Budd, Air & Space Power Journal


The Battle for History: Refighting World War II by John Keegan. Vintage Books, 201 E. 50th St., New York 10022, 1996, 128 pages, $10.00 (paperback).

This short and interesting book is yet another work by the esteemed and (in recent years) prolific military commentator and historian, John Keegan.

Although he authored a somewhat uneven overall history of World War II, in The Battle for History Keegan has produced a useful, expanded review essay that briefly notes the value of many standard (and a few obscure) works dealing with the war.

Originally given in Toronto as the 1995 Barbara Frum Historical Lecture, The Battle for History is divided thematically into two sections. The first is actually chapter 1-an overview of the war's major interpretive controversies. These include everything from the origins of the war, Roosevelt's and Stalin's knowledge of the surprise attacks against their respective countries, the importance of strategic bombing and partisan resistance in defeating the Axis, to the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. Keegan is not out to settle these controversies, but he does express opinions on the merits of various interpretations. In such a short work, there is little room for analysis and supporting evidence, so the opinions can seem brutally stark. For example, Keegan flatly states that the strategic air campaign waged against Germany "did not work," although such bombing "unquestionably . . . brought about the defeat of Japan."

The book's second section comprises five chapters that review overall histories of the war, biographies, campaigns, planning (including intelligence) and logistics, and occupation and resistance. …

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