A very readable, well-researched but concise account of the pivotal year by a seasoned Newsweek editor who happens to come from an illustrious Polish family. Although just 300+ pages in length, the book is loaded with first-person accounts of what went on, both on the battlefield and behind the scenes. The author is, of course, especially attuned to matters that involved the Poles, and that is quite a lot. This is a“must-read” if WW II is one of your pet topics, with something of novel interest on almost every page.
From p. 223, Lord Ismay on our friend J. Stalin (A type):
“… He was surprised by Stalin’s diminutive stature, but not fooled by about his fundamental nature… ‘He moved stealthily like a wild animal in search of prey, and his eyes were shrewd and full of cunning… He never looked one in the face. But he had great dignity, and his personality was domineering. As he entered the room, every Russian was frozen into silence, and the hunted look in the eyes of the generals showed all too plainly the fear in which they lived. It was nauseating to see brave men reduced to such abject servility.’ “
The only person who was not intimidated by Stalin was Marshal Zhukov (likely another A type), but even Zhukov kept a fresh set of underwear nearby in a paper bag “in case there was a knock on the door”. Zhukov was much admired by Stalin for his tactics of using his men as cannon fodder when he had a superiority in numbers but the ammunition ran out.
Nineteen-forty-one was indeed a pivotal year, but D-day did not come until 1944. If it were the Russians opening a new front in the West, they would have launched it in 3 weeks, not three years… with enormous losses on the field of battle but they would have been in Paris in a fortnight (well, maybe a slight exaggeration).
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