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Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II: The First Complete… (1987)

by Robert Leckie

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1605122,451 (4)1



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Perhaps Leckie chose an impossible task - a one-volume history of World War II. Like the war itself, the bibliography of World War II books is too large, one suspects, to be distilled into a single volume. Especially when the author cannot put aside the nationalistic prejudices that war fostered.

"A first-class popular history of the war, lively, entertaining, and continuously informative."--Publishers Weekly "His ability to recreate the emotions of war makes this monumental work a living history.”—Booklist. "This one-volume library manages to include everything a reader could possibly want to know about the events of World War II and the people who shaped them."--Bill Mauldin

A one-volume retelling of World War II may seem a dubious proposition, but this veteran writer of popular history has done an outstanding job. Wisely beginning with Versailles, he uses a topical approach to illuminate his vast canvas. There is more storytelling than serious analysis here, but the wartime drama is related with deftness and enticing detail. His portrayal of personalities is excellent. This work is more mature than the author's vaguely unsatisfying Wars of America (1968). He does for World War II what John Costello did for The Pacific War.

There are three ways to write about a war: from a foxhole, providing a narrow, intensely human view of a very small piece of hell; from the generals' vision of the tactical or battlefield situation; and, most difficult of all, from a global or strategic perspective.
Any number of journalists and historians have written from one or another of these vantage points. Occasionally someone can adroitly combine two. Very rarely does a writer, popular or academic, meld the three into a coherent whole.
Still it is just that sort of comprehensive work that military historian Robert Leckie attempts in his history of World War II. To reduce the chore, he has all but eliminated or overly simplified the geopolitical factors that drove the war.
The result is a history that is distended, one that gives too much credit to field commanders like Eisenhower and too little to the staff officers like the almost forgotten Brehon Somervell, a master of military procurement, and Leslie McNair, the man who trained the 8.5 million soldiers the United States would field. Understandably, mobilization and armament are complex and not very sexy, but considering that the United States did serve as "the arsenal of democracy," the subject surely deserves serious review in a comprehensive history. ( )
  MasseyLibrary | Mar 21, 2018 |
Having lived with this book almost daily for a month it has been a long dramatic reading experience. The book is both fascinating and flawed. The writing is energetic, never boring and full of interesting anecdote. It presents the unapologetically biased view of an American patriot. Leckie was a US Marine who fought in the war and thus it has the feel of the times by someone who lived it. Leckie makes no pretense about being politically correct or trying to show the belligerents as anything but "evil", incompetent, black and white.

In a work of this type the author has only 1000 pages and thus what he chooses to fill the pages with says a lot. The book is strongest in the American Pacific campaign, not surprisingly this is where Leckie had direct experience. The Eastern Front gets poor coverage given its size. The North African campaign is complicated but he spends enough time on it to give a sense of the back and forth. The 1939 and 1940 battles go by too quickly, the Battle of Britain gets 5 pages compared to Guadalcanal which gets 50 pages. Strategic bombing of Germany is barely detailed. The Italian campaign is not well covered after Cassino. The U-boat war gets 2 pages. Certain things get no mention such as the sinking of the great Bismark, but we get detail about minor Japanese ships.

Thus the complaints are too much coverage here in exchange for not enough there - subjective to be sure. Yet there was never a page I didn't enjoy and learn something new. I first learned about it in a recent survey of single-volume WWII histories. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jan 8, 2012 |
2184 Delivered From Evil: The Saga of World War II, by Robert Leckie (read 4 Feb 1989) This is a 955-page volume published in 1987. I found it a super-enthralling reading experience--undoubtedly one of the most engrossing "reads" I have had in years. It starts at the beginning (the first chapter is "1919 Versailles") and goes right up to the surrender signing on the Missouri on Sep 2, 1945. The book is one man's reading of history, and is full of opinions and judgments. It has not a single footnote, and it has a "Selected Bibliography" of seven pages. I always thought there was little about World War II I did not know, and reading this book showed me there is some truth to that thought, but yet putting it all in books like this makes a superbly engrossing account. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 30, 2008 |
Possibly the definitive history of World War Two, delivered from Evil is both very long (946 pages not including bibliographical notes) and quit readable. Robert Leckie not only mines official records and memoirs of famous generals and political figures, he also gets the point of view of the common soldier--including his own recollections as a Marine fighting in the Pacific.

When it comes to the great leaders of the war, he writes engaging biographies that include--but do not dwell upon--their faults.

He is quite fair in his treatment of friend and foe--although those looking for a morally relativistic perspective should probably look elsewhere.

www.comingstobrazil.com ( )
1 vote brazilnut72 | Sep 3, 2007 |
A broad overview of the events and the causes of WWII from an American point of view. ( )
  JBreedlove | Apr 6, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
Deft portraits of all the political and military leaders in an accessible narrative studded with evocative incidents and anecdotes. At 946 pages of text, the book is the heftiest of the single-volume [WWII] histories, but one of the easiest reads. It provides glimpses of the war unmatched by others—Hitler's dawn pilgrimage to the Paris Opera during his single, four-hour visit to the fallen city; Rudolph Hess's ridiculous parachute sally to Scotland on his 1941 "peace" mission; Japanese officers and airmen dressed in spotlessly clean garments in homage to the Samurai on the morning of Pearl Harbor. His book is so crammed with fascinating detail that he can be forgiven for misquoting Roosevelt as saying "a date that"—instead of "which"—"will live in infamy" in FDR's Dec. 8, 1941, address to Congress. The author even describes what the Germans' demonic Enigma machine looked like and how Polish and British mathematicians went about breaking its coded keys.
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The influence of luck on war cannot be calculated.
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