The West Point History of World War II, Volume II
United States Military Academy, eds. Clifford J. Rogers, Ty Seidule, and Steve R. Waddell
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2016, 370 pages
Book Review published on: May 19, 2017
Since 1847, the United States Military Academy has developed superb military history textbooks for its cadets. What has always impressed me about these textbooks is how they are written to educate and engage readers with an emphasis on addressing the human dimension of warfare. Equally notable is how they achieve this in a very concise manner. Without question, these are volumes that have been coveted for years for their quality and their purpose.
Several years ago, West Point conducted a complete revision of their History of Warfare textbooks. This revision included a partnership with their publisher, Simon and Schuster, and Rowan Technology Solutions to craft digital textbooks for the cadets. Beginning in the fall of 2014, West Point began making selected hard-copy textbooks available to the public. The latest is The West Point History of World War II, Volume II.
As you can surmise, Volume II begins where Volume I (the second volume published) left off; in this case, it is the year 1942. It takes readers from this pivotal year through the occupations of Germany and Japan, and the demobilization of U.S. troops. Ambitiously, the volume focuses on each of the fronts within its pages. Certainly, there is much to address, but the volume (like its predecessors) concisely achieves its objectives.
So, how does the book achieve this? First, several highly talented military historians were engaged to write its text. Editors Richard Overy, Robert Love Jr., and Steve Waddell each contribute one chapter to the book. The remaining chapters are crafted by the esteemed historian Robert Citino, who is best known for his excellent body of work on the German army in World War II. These authors combine to craft a book that is not your typical dry, difficult to read, academic textbook.
Second, this volume is filled with stunning visuals, which are inserted throughout. These include over fifty colored maps that were created specifically for the volume by a select group of cartographers. Additionally, readers will find dozens of photographs and graphics. Among these graphics are war timelines, orders of battle, and statistical charts. In combination, these visuals complement the outstanding text perfectly.
Finally, the role of an editor is almost always overlooked. In regards to this volume, that would be unfortunate. The superior editing of Rogers, Seidule, and Waddell should not be neglected. They have organized a book that engages the reader from the very first page and has an excellent flow to its conclusion. The editors have developed an excellent connection between text and visuals, and this dramatically aids in clarity for the reader. They have also provided readers just enough content so they may obtain a broad perspective of both fronts from 1942 to conclusion—no small accomplishment.
In summary, this is a superb book that will appeal to and benefit a wide variety of readers. For those who consider themselves well-read on World War II; the visuals themselves contained in the volume make this a valuable read. More importantly, those possessing little knowledge on the war but having a desire to broaden their understanding will find this a must read. This is a book that will entice many readers to further explore other aspects of World War II. Once again, the United States Military Academy has crafted a volume that engages and educates.
Book Review written by: Frederick A. Baillergeon, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas