Sir Max Hastings
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About Sir Max Hastings
Max Hastings is the author of twenty-seven books, most of them about war. Born in London in 1945, he attended University College, Oxford before becoming a journalist. In 1967 he was a World Press Institute Fellow in the United States, then stayed to report the 1968 US election. Thereafter he worked as a reporter for BBC TV and British newspapers, covering eleven conflicts including Vietnam, the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the 1982 South Atlantic war. His first major book was BOMBER COMMAND, published in Britain and the US in 1979. He has since authored such works as VIETNAM, CATASTROPHE, ARMAGEDDON, RETRIBUTION, WINSTON'S WAR, THE KOREAN WAR AND INFERNO. Between 1986 and 2002 he served as editor-in-chief of the British Daily Telegraph, then editor of the London Evening Standard. He has won many awards both for his books and his journalism, including the 2012 $100,000 Pritzker Library prize for lifetime achievement, and the 2019 Bronze Arthur Ross medal of the US Council For Foreign Relations for VIETNAM. He lives in Berkshire, UK, with his wife Penny and has two grown-up children, Charlotte and Harry. Max says: 'I am lucky enough to have been able to earn my living doing the things I love most: travelling and hearing incredible stories from people all over the world, then writing about their experiences in war, when mankind is at both its best and worst'. Among the scariest moments of his career as a war correspondent, he cites following the embattled Israeli army on the Golan Heights in October 1973, and reporting the last weeks in Vietnam in 1975, before flying out of the US Embassy compound in its final evacuation.
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An absorbing and definitive modern history of the Vietnam War from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Secret War.
Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the 1968 Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and also much less familiar miniatures such as the bloodbath at Daido, where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out, together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed two million people.
Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it as overwhelmingly that of the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American. US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings, and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression. Here is testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bargirls, and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, and Huey pilots from Arkansas.
No past volume has blended a political and military narrative of the entire conflict with heart-stopping personal experiences, in the fashion that Max Hastings’ readers know so well. The author suggests that neither side deserved to win this struggle with so many lessons for the twenty-first century about the misuse of military might to confront intractable political and cultural challenges. He marshals testimony from warlords and peasants, statesmen and soldiers, to create an extraordinary record.
World War II involved tens of millions of soldiers and cost sixty million lives—an average of twenty-seven thousand a day. For thirty-five years, Max Hastings has researched and written about different aspects of the war. Now, for the first time, he gives us a magnificent, single-volume history of the entire war.
Through his strikingly detailed stories of everyday people—of soldiers, sailors and airmen; British housewives and Indian peasants; SS killers and the citizens of Leningrad, some of whom resorted to cannibalism during the two-year siege; Japanese suicide pilots and American carrier crews—Hastings provides a singularly intimate portrait of the world at war. He simultaneously traces the major developments—Hitler’s refusal to retreat from the Soviet Union until it was too late; Stalin’s ruthlessness in using his greater population to wear down the German army; Churchill’s leadership in the dark days of 1940 and 1941; Roosevelt’s steady hand before and after the United States entered the war—and puts them in real human context.
Hastings also illuminates some of the darker and less explored regions under the war’s penumbra, including the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland, during which the Finns fiercely and surprisingly resisted Stalin’s invading Red Army; and the Bengal famine in 1943 and 1944, when at least one million people died in what turned out to be, in Nehru’s words, “the final epitaph of British rule” in India.
Remarkably informed and wide-ranging, Inferno is both elegantly written and cogently argued. Above all, it is a new and essential understanding of one of the greatest and bloodiest events of the twentieth century.
In recounting these extraordinary events, Max Hastings draws incisive portraits of MacArthur, Mao, Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and other key figures of the war in the East. But he is equally adept in his portrayals of the ordinary soldiers and sailors caught in the bloodiest of campaigns.
With its piercing and convincing analysis, Retribution is a brilliant telling of an epic conflict from a master military historian at the height of his powers.
This is epic story of the last eight months of World War II in Europe by one of Britain’s most highly regarded military historians, whose accounts of past battles John Keegan has described as worthy “to stand with that of the best journalists and writers” (New York Times Book Review).
In September 1944, the Allies believed that Hitler’s army was beaten, and expected that the war would be over by Christmas. But the disastrous Allied airborne landing in Holland, American setbacks on the German border and in the Hürtgen Forest, together with the bitter Battle of the Bulge, drastically altered that timetable. Hastings tells the story of both the Eastern and Western Fronts, and paints a vivid portrait of the Red Army’s onslaught on Hitler’s empire. He has searched the archives of the major combatants and interviewed 170 survivors to give us an unprecedented understanding of how the great battles were fought, and of their human impact on American, British, German, and Russian soldiers and civilians.
Hastings raises provocative questions: Were the Western Allied cause and campaign compromised by a desire to get the Soviets to do most of the fighting? Why were the Russians and Germans more effective soldiers than the Americans and British? Why did the bombing of Germany’s cities continue until the last weeks of the war, when it could no longer influence the outcome? Why did the Germans prove more fanatical foes than the Japanese, fighting to the bitter end? This book also contains vivid portraits of Stalin, Churchill, Eisenhower, Montgomery, and the other giants of the struggle.
The crucial final months of the twentieth century’s greatest global conflict come alive in this rousing and revelatory chronicle.
Best Nonfiction of 2020 -- Kirkus Reviews
One of the most lauded historians of our time returns to the Second World War in this magnificent retelling of the awe-inspiring raid on German dams conducted by the Royal Army Force’s 617 Squadron.
The attack on Nazi Germany’s dams on May 17, 1943, was one of the most remarkable feats in military history. The absurdly young men of the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron set forth in cold blood and darkness, without benefit of electronic aids, to fly lumbering heavy bombers straight and level towards a target at a height above the water less than the length of a bowling alley. Yet this story—and the later wartime experience of the 617 Squadron—has never been told in full.
Max Hastings takes us back to the May 1943 raid to reveal how the truth of that night is considerably different from the popularized account most people know. The RAF had identified the Ruhr dams as strategic objectives as far back as 1938; in those five years Wing Commander Guy Gibson formed and trained the 617 Squadron. Hastings observes that while the dropping of Wallis’s mines provided the dramatic climax, only two of the eight aircraft lost came down over the dams—the rest were shot down on the flight to, or back from, the mission. And while the 617 Squadron’s valor is indisputable, the ultimate industrial damage caused by the dam raid was actually rather modest.
In 1943, these brave men caught the imagination of the world and uplifted the weary spirits of the British people. Their achievement unnerved the Nazi high command, and caused them to expend large resources on dam defenses—making the mission a success. An example of Churchill’s “military theatre” at its best, what 617 Squadron did was an extraordinary and heroic achievement, and a triumph of British ingenuity and technology—a story to be told for generations to come.
Operation Chastise includes three 8-page black-and-white photo inserts and 6 maps.
Renowned historian Max Hastings recreates one of the most thrilling events of World War II: Operation Pedestal, the British action to save its troops from starvation on Malta—an action-packed tale of courage, fortitude, loss, and triumph against all odds.
In 1940, Hitler had two choices when it came to the Mediterranean region: stay out, or commit sufficient forces to expel the British from the Middle East. Against his generals’ advice, the Fuhrer committed a major strategic blunder. He ordered the Wehrmacht to seize Crete, allowing the longtime British bastion of Malta to remain in Allied hands. Over the fall of 1941, the Royal Navy and RAF, aided by British intelligence, used the island to launch a punishing campaign against the Germans, sinking more than 75 percent of their supply ships destined for North Africa.
But by spring 1942, the British lost their advantage. In April and May, the Luftwaffe dropped more bombs on Malta than London received in the blitz. A succession of British attempts to supply and reinforce the island by convoy during the spring and summer of 1942 failed. British submarines and surface warships were withdrawn, and the remaining forces were on the brink of starvation.
Operation Pedestal chronicles the ensuing British mission to save those troops. Over twelve days in August, German and Italian forces faced off against British air and naval fleets in one of the fiercest battles of the war, while ships packed with supplies were painstakingly divided and dispersed. In the end only a handful of the Allied ships made it, most important among them the SS Ohio, carrying the much-needed fuel to the men on Malta.
As Hastings makes clear, while the Germans claimed victory, it was the British who ultimately prevailed, for Malta remained a crucial asset that helped lead to the Nazis’ eventual defeat. While the Royal Navy never again attempted an operation on such scale, Hasting argues that without that August convoy the British on Malta would not have survived. In the cruel accountancy of war, the price was worth paying.
Max Hastings—preeminent military historian—takes us back to the bloody bitter struggle to restore South Korean independence after the Communist invasion of June 1950. Using personal accounts from interviews with more than two-hundred vets—including the Chinese—Hastings follows real officers and soldiers through the battles. He brilliantly captures the Cold War crisis at home—the strategies and politics of Truman, Acheson, Marshall, MacArthur, Ridgway, and Bradley—and shows what we should have learned in the war that was the prelude to Vietnam.
Bomber Command's air offensive against the cities of Nazi Germany was one of the most epic campaigns of World War II. More than 56,000 British and Commonwealth aircrew and 600,000 Germans died in the course of the RAF's attempt to win the war by bombing. The struggle in the air began meekly in 1939 with only a few Whitleys, Hampdens, and Wellingtons flying blindly through the night on their ill-conceived bombing runs. It ended six years later with 1,600 Lancasters, Halifaxes, and Mosquitoes, equipped with the best of British wartime technology, blazing whole German cities in a single night. Bomber Command, through its fits and starts, grew into an effective fighting force. In Bomber Command, originally published to critical acclaim in the U.K., famed British military historian Sir Max Hastings offers a captivating analysis of the strategy and decision-making behind one of World War II’s most violent episodes. With firsthand descriptions of the experiences of aircrew from 1939 to 1945 - based on one hundred interviews with veterans - and a harrowing narrative of the experiences of Germans on the ground during the September 1944 bombing of Darmstadt, Bomber Command is widely recognized as a classic account of one of the bloodiest campaigns in World War II history. Now back in print in the U.S., this book is an essential addition to any history reader's bookshelf.
‘A gripping new collection from Max Hastings that puts you at the heart of the battle … Compelling’ Daily Mail
‘An unmissable read’ Sunday Times
Soldiers is a very personal gathering of sparkling, gripping tales by many writers, about men and women who have borne arms, reflecting bestselling historian Max Hastings’s lifetime of studying war. It rings the changes through the centuries, between the heroic, tragic and comic; the famous and the humble. The nearly 350 stories illustrate vividly what it is like to fight in wars, to live and die as a warrior, from Greek and Roman times through to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here you will meet Jewish heroes of the Bible, Rome’s captain of the gate, Queen Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Cromwell, Wellington, Napoleon’s marshals, Ulysses S. Grant, George S. Patton and the modern SAS. There are tales of great writers who served in uniform including Cobbett and Tolstoy, Edward Gibbon and Siegfried Sassoon, Marcel Proust and Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and George MacDonald Fraser. Here are also stories of the female ‘abosi’ fighters of Dahomey and heroic ambulance drivers of World War I, together with the new-age women soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stories reflect a change of mood towards warfare through the ages: though nations and movements continue to inflict terrible violence upon each other, most of humankind has retreated from the old notion of war as a sport or pastime, to acknowledge it as the supreme tragedy.
This is a book to inspire in turn fascination, excitement, horror, amazement, occasionally laughter. Max Hastings mingles respect for the courage of those who fight with compassion for those who become their victims, above all civilians, and especially in the twenty-first century, which some are already calling ‘the Post-Heroic Age’.
"Monumental." --New York Times Book Review
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
From one of the foremost historians of the period and the acclaimed author of Inferno and Catastrophe: 1914, The Secret War is a sweeping examination of one of the most important yet underexplored aspects of World War II—intelligence—showing how espionage successes and failures by the United States, Britain, Russia, Germany, and Japan influenced the course of the war and its final outcome.
Spies, codes, and guerrillas played unprecedentedly critical roles in the Second World War, exploited by every nation in the struggle to gain secret knowledge of its foes, and to sow havoc behind the fronts. In The Secret War, Max Hastings presents a worldwide cast of characters and some extraordinary sagas of intelligence and resistance, to create a new perspective on the greatest conflict in history.
A vivid and incisive portrait of Winston Churchill during wartime from acclaimed historian Max Hastings, Winston’s War captures the full range of Churchill’s endlessly fascinating character. At once brilliant and infuriating, self-important and courageous, Hastings’s Churchill comes brashly to life as never before.
Beginning in 1940, when popular demand elevated Churchill to the role of prime minister, and concluding with the end of the war, Hastings shows us Churchill at his most intrepid and essential, when, by sheer force of will, he kept Britain from collapsing in the face of what looked like certain defeat. Later, we see his significance ebb as the United States enters the war and the Soviets turn the tide on the Eastern Front. But Churchill, Hastings reminds us, knew as well as anyone that the war would be dominated by others, and he managed his relationships with the other Allied leaders strategically, so as to maintain Britain’s influence and limit Stalin’s gains.
At the same time, Churchill faced political peril at home, a situation for which he himself was largely to blame. Hastings shows how Churchill nearly squandered the miraculous escape of the British troops at Dunkirk and failed to address fundamental flaws in the British Army. His tactical inaptitude and departmental meddling won him few friends in the military, and by 1942, many were calling for him to cede operational control. Nevertheless, Churchill managed to exude a public confidence that brought the nation through the bitter war.
Hastings rejects the traditional Churchill hagiography while still managing to capture what he calls Churchill’s “appetite for the fray.” Certain to be a classic, Winston’s War is a riveting profile of one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century.