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Fateful Choices:The Decisions that changed the World 1940-1/Ian Kershaw

Historian Ian Kershaw has analysed the critical decisions that shaped World War Two but whether they changed the world is perhaps another matter.

Several are quite obvious: Hitler ‘s decision to launch Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union when Western Europe was under the Nazi jack boot and Britain almost certainly would not have survived an invasion.

Churchill’s obdurance to fight on is another fateful decision. Japan bombing Pearl Harbour, which finally gave President Roosevelt the excuse to abandon neutrality and brought the USA into the war, was another colossal error compounded by Germany declaring war on America.

Kershaw sets every decision into context.

He is strong on public opinion, readiness for war, the conflict and cooperation of the key personalities – Roosevelt, Churchill, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito. Compared to Andrew Roberts’ biography of Churchill it is rather dry and short of anecdote. The allies not only had supremacy in materiel they were the better strategists and once Germany had been repulsed in the Soviet Union there was only going to be one outcome.

Kershaw is also interesting on ‘what if?’

This is particularly important to the USA who probably would have entered the war regardless of Pearl Harbour but not in December 1941. Stalin with his purge of the armed forces in 1937 and Hitler with his megalomania shut away in Berechtsgarten undermined any coherent planning and too readily overruled military tactics and strategy.

Churchill too was hands-on but at an early stage he had set up a war cabinet and had far more constraints, as did Roosevelt with Congress.

As I say can a historian make a case that Mussolini’s invasion of Greece to impress Hitler that Italy was not a junior partner in the Axis be classified as a decision that changed the world. It took Italian troops out if the Northn African theatre , showed the lack of mettle of their troops was unsuccessful but did it change the world? Nazi troops quickly did in Greece what Italians ones could not.

Otherwise this detailed account will enhance anyone knowledge of the early years of the war.

About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts