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The Complete Idiot's Guide to World War II


Idiot's Guide to WWIIWorld War II was the most influential event of the 20th century.

Why do I say that? Lots of reasons. Consider that it was the bloodiest conflict in history, involving the most nations over the greatest area. Women went to work in large numbers for the first time, setting the precedent for the women’s movement. One man became president directly because of his role in the war, and at least three other presidents were seriously influenced by their wartime experiences. The most destructive weapon ever made was developed for the war and has perhaps helped deter a third. One group of people was almost exterminated, but emerged from the ashes to reestablish a nearly 2,500 year-old nation.

As the war fades further and further from our memories, and the people who were participants and witnesses pass away, we are forced increasingly to rely on books. Thousands have been written on the subject, from broad overviews to detailed analyses of single battles. This book does not reinvent the wheel, but tries to show you the whole car and describe it in a way that is both accurate and comprehensible. You won’t find a lot of military jargon and strategy. No discussions about this division outflanking that panzer unit. I want you to come away with an understanding not only of what happened, but why it happened.

Although the Civil War receives prominence in most high-school history courses, I’m afraid World War II gets short-shrift. By the time teachers reach that point, time is running out in the semester, and a whole half-century needs to be covered. Books on the war and events of the war, such as D day and the Holocaust, still make the bestseller list, which shows the public is interested in the war. Hollywood has certainly always found the war a compelling subject, producing no fewer than three Academy Award-winning pictures related to the war, including Steven Spielberg’s 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, which was number one at the box office — deservedly so, for it provided the most realistic portrayal yet of the horrors of World War II combat.

This book is not just blood and guts. It’s economics and diplomacy. It’s entertainment and trivia. You don’t need to study this book. There’s no test scheduled for later. Take your time and enjoy. I think you’ll learn a few things you didn’t know. I know I did writing it.


The Complete Idiot's Guide to World War II