The Second World War, A Military History. By Gordon Corrigan. New York: Thomas Dunne Books , 2011. ISBN 978-0312577094. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Illustration. Maps. Pp. 672.
The good: For the novice student of World War II, this is an excellent overview survey of the war. It is comprehensive without getting too bogged down in the details and does a good job of trying to cover every theater of the war, including some of the more neglected fronts like the Russian and China-Burma-India theater. Corrigan writes with a very easy to read style and offers some interesting insights.
The bad: For a grognard (see below) or serious student, it breaks no new ground and offers no real insight. The author, a former British soldier, also throws in a few too many little personal anecdotes for my taste, AND as usual, there are not nearly enough maps for me, especially for those little covered theaters where the geography may not be as well known to even a World War II grognard such as myself.
The disappointing: First, Corrigan gives short shrift to the air and naval wars, and to be honest I kinda skimmed over that chapter. He might as well have left it out. Ditto his chapter on the home front which didn't really seem to fit a book on the "military" history of the war. Mostly though, I have to say I was expecting a little more of an operational and tactical history. Corrigan does a good job of writing at the operational level, and does offer some analysis of the capabilities of the German Wehrmacht versus their British, Russian and American opponents.
I think the book would have been improved tremendously if Corrigan had included a little more detail on how each army fought on the tactical level, particularly highlighting how each army conducted combined arms warfare and the amazing ability of the Germans to use Kampfgruppes to keep shattered formations fighting effectively. A cogent analysis of this kind would have been especially useful to show why the Germans were so much more effective on a tactical level until very late in the war. More emphasis on tactics, training, and doctrine of the various armies would have made this a much better reference type book--if that was the author's intention.
There has been a lot of scholarship done on the operational and tactical capabilities of each army, so why Corrigan didn't use some of that, I don't know, but I think his book would have been better if he did.
Final word: For a newbie- buy this book, it is an excellent introduction to this great conflict. For the experienced student- Nothing earth-shattering, but a good read to maybe direct you in some new areas of studies.
grognard m (plural grognards)
an old veteran soldier; specifically of the grenadiers of the Imperial Guard (Grenadiers à Pied de la Garde Impériale); an old complaining soldier