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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.
From the acclaimed military historian, a history of the outbreak of World War I: the dramatic stretch from the breakdown of diplomacy to the battles—the Marne, Ypres, Tannenberg—that marked the frenzied first year before the war bogged down in the trenches.
In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings gives us a conflict different from the familiar one of barbed wire, mud and futility. He traces the path to war, making clear why Germany and Austria-Hungary were primarily to blame, and describes the gripping first clashes in the West, where the French army marched into action in uniforms of red and blue with flags flying and bands playing. In August, four days after the French suffered 27,000 men dead in a single day, the British fought an extraordinary holding action against oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost the British held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres. Hastings also re-creates the lesser-known battles on the Eastern Front, brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs inflicted three million casualties upon one another by Christmas.
As he has done in his celebrated, award-winning works on World War II, Hastings gives us frank assessments of generals and political leaders and masterly analyses of the political currents that led the continent to war. He argues passionately against the contention that the war was not worth the cost, maintaining that Germany’s defeat was vital to the freedom of Europe. Throughout we encounter statesmen, generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations in Hastings’s accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts: generals dismounting to lead troops in bayonet charges over 1,500 feet of open ground; farmers who at first decried the requisition of their horses; infantry men engaged in a haggard retreat, sleeping four hours a night in their haste. This is a vivid new portrait of how a continent became embroiled in war and what befell millions of men and women in a conflict that would change everything.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Now 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 200 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.