Exactly what I was looking for in a sweeping history of World War II: an unflinching view of the great war from start to finish that focused principally on the perspectives of the “little people.”
Probably the most significant thing I drew from it was the actual nature of the war. In hindsight, history often treats major decisions and campaigns as deliberate, precise and calculated. In fact, they are usually operated in a bumbling, haphazard fashion that costs thousands of people their lives.
As an American, I also noted interesting parallels to modern times that we are not often told. Most notably, that the American public was even then extraordinarily impatient and intolerant of casualties. Hawks in Iraq and Afghanistan often bemoan the American peoples’ impatience with war as though it’s a product of Walter Cronkite during the Vietnam War. Hastings conveys the fact that western democracies have always been that way.
It also dovetails into the way Hastings says we fought the war — which is principally with the use of total air superiority and with a ridiculous overindulgence in artillery. Even with those deficiencies, the United States still made a significant contribution to the Allied victory by virtue of its industrial might.
It makes one wonder, though, with our greatly diminished manufacturing capacity, how we would wage a real war today? American fighting doctrine relies almost completely on advantages we’ve had on the battlefield since 1943. If our war machine sputtered and we lost control of the skies, the prospects for the American military would not be fantastic.
Such flights of intellectual fancy are why I read works like Hastings’. Fantastic stuff.