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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Engineers of Victory by Paul Kennedy review

Wrens breaking German codes at Bletchley Park during the second world war. Victory is achieved because one side has more capable personnel … Wrens at Bletchley Park during the second world war. Photograph: Rex Features

In this impressive historical study of five campaigns in the second world war, including the Battle of the Atlantic and Operation Overlord, Paul Kennedy's aim is to direct attention away from the high-profile leaders (the generals and politicians) and instead to highlight the vital contribution of the middle personnel – the problem solvers – and the systems they managed: "What happened to Caesar's cook is lost to history, but, assuredly, he played a role."

Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers who Turned the Tide in the Second World Warby Paul Kennedy Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book

He also agrees with Correlli Barnett who has said war is the "great auditor of institutions". As Kennedy's examples demonstrate, victory is achieved not just because one side has superior intelligence or more bombers than the other, but because one side is better organised: it has more capable, can-do personnel at all levels working in efficient and responsive systems that encourage a culture of innovation. For, as he shows, new weapons, processes and tactics are often decisive. Out of the fog of war, Kennedy distills the crucial elements in each campaign that brought final victory to the Allies. A masterly analysis of grand strategy.

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