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Engineers of Victory: The Making of the War Machine That Defeated the Nazis

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,223 ratings  ·  166 reviews
Paul Kennedy, award-winning author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and one of today’s most renowned historians, now provides a new and unique look at how World War II was won. The Turn of the Tide is a fascinating nuts-and-bolts account of the strategic factors that led to Allied victory. Kennedy reveals how the leaders’ grand strategy was carried out by the ordin ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Random House Digital, Inc.
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Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
One of the more mis-titled books in recent memory and one of the more disappointing. The writer indicates that the engineering feats cannot be vioewed in a vaccuum and that some background is needed. Fair enough. Unfortunately, what you get for the rest of the book is almost entirely background and not particularly good background, either. Most of his sources are over a decade old an he ends up spouting conventional wisdom, regardless of whether it has much foundation or not. And the amount of d ...more
Mason Barge
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry to give this book two stars, since it is both amiable and revolves around questions that are interesting to me, but it consists of paragraph after paragraph of broad statements with an unfortunate lack of content.

Here, I'll grab a random paragraph:

"Nonetheless, the warding off of a submarine attack and the destruction of the attackers had to be done through technology, that is, by defensive and offensive weapons platforms. It was true, obviously, in all theaters of war and at all times
Mal Warwick
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
What use is history?

This question has been kicked around for centuries, but I’m not certain that those who venture opinions about it have bothered to ask a follow-up question: What do you mean by history?

Most of what we’re force-fed in school — even, all too often, in university courses — consists primarily of a recitation of “facts” (dates, names, events, trends). To make matters worse, those facts typically revolve around the reigns of kings and the battles they fought. That sort of “history”
An analysis of the problems that the Allies faced in the defeat of the Axis powers, how these problems were solved by small groups of individuals and institutions, both civilian and military, succeeded in enabling their political masters to achieve victory in the critical middle years of the Second World War.

At the Casablanca Conference of January 1943, the Allies created a blueprint for the defeat of the Axis powers and defined five military-operational problems that needed to be solved in orde
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a disappointment to me. I was looking for a book that would delve into topics like the use of operations research, the strategic bombing campaign survey, and the USAAF team in the Pacific that would result in the Whiz Kids of the 60's. Kennedy groups a series of Allied innovations around a group of challenges, such as winning the war in the Atlantic, storming an enemy held shore, and solving the challenge of distance in the Pacific. I think it's an interesting way to look at the wa ...more
S. Shelton
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Kenny posits that there were five key tactics to the Allied victory in World War II.
1. How to Get Convoys Safely Across the Atlantic
2. How to Win Command of the Air
3. How to Stop a Blitzkrieg
4. How to Seize an Enemy Shore
5. How to Defeat the “Tyranny of Distance.”

Kennedy discusses, at great length, the singular elements in each item: intelligence, technology, tactical and long-term strategies, planning, and the civilian and military scientist and engineers who fashioned new weapons to counter t
Painstakingly argued, authoritative, original, and engrossing, this is the sort of book that I could read again soon and still profit from. (Which means, of course, that I couldn't digest everything on the first reading -- but that's my failing, not the author's.)

As many others have commented, the focus here is less on engineers than on how Allied and Axis strategies changed (or didn't) in response to problems and failures. The five central problems Kennedy examines are interlocking pieces of a
Michael Burnam-Fink
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014, history, war
Engineers of Victory is an immensely frustrating book. Brilliantly conceived and written by an author who is obviously a talent, it nonetheless fails to address to its thesis or contribute to scholarship.

Kennedy's thesis is that WW2 was won in those critical months between the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 and early 1944. More specifically, it was won by "Organizers", men at the middle levels of the military, government, and vital industries who invented new weapons systems, sent them in
For us armchair generals/historians who have become used to reading books where great generals and/or their ground-pounding foot soldiers are glorified, this book's overall theme may come as a shock to us: the victories of the generals and soldiers wouldn't have been possible without the "problem-solvers" and the technologies and tactics they developed to overcome the great battlefield problems of World War II. Mr. Kennedy tackles these problems and their solutions in a balanced, holistic (that ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
I'm a big fan of Paul Kennedy. I have read and enjoyed his previous works on power politics, diplomacy and strategy, including his highly praised "The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers." So, when I saw that he had decided to focus his formidable talents to the Second World War and using an unconventional approach, I was thrilled. Nonetheless, upon finishing this work, I have to say that I found it disappointing. While Professor Kennedy certainly seems to have taken the time to master all of the ...more
Nathan Albright
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2020
This book is not only a history of World War II of a sort, but it is also the sort of book that has a very clear agenda, most obvious at the end of the book. As someone who has read dozens of books (at least) about the subject of creativity and innovation, it is little surprise that a book that celebrates the innovativeness and creativity of problem solvers in the Allies--especially in the US and UK--who tackled various problems that had to be solved to achieve victory should also serve as a pro ...more
As an engineering student I picked this up hoping to see some writing about technical things and how they worked, I was disappointed. While this book contains a lot of interesting fact and thoughts about ww2, it doesn't go into much detail about how the engineers actually worked and how they achieved what they did. Most of the time the book is just taking about grand strategy. Still a good book, even if I found the title misleading.
Marvin Goodman
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Gosh, I toyed with the idea of giving my first five star review to this, so completely satisfied with it was I. But then I started to think about the list of books that would be on my five-star list, and didn't want to dilute them with a moment of hysteria.

But I'll give it an unabashed four stars largely because, as I said, it so thoroughly met my expectations. With "Engineers" in the title, I expected to read something that discussed these wartime innovations from an engineering perspective, fe
Dec 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Paul Kennedy explores two fundamental military relationships in this book. That of organisation, doctrine and materiel plus the ageless military principle of the coordinated application of forces. He does that with the well-travelled and explored background of the Second World War and claims to focus on the less well known individuals and organisations that provided either materiel like the P-51 fighter, the B-29 bomber, the T-34 tank, organizations such as the US Seabees and the Allied U-boat d ...more
Margaret Sankey
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Kennedy focuses on 1943-44, as planners identified interlocking military problems with possible technological solutions--control of the air, convoy protection, stopping German army advances, and tied to find solutions. The key here is the how things played out, since a good idea means nothing without the economic and resource means to produce it, the logistical ability to get it into use, commanders willing to employ it and trained people who can do so, and Kennedy highlights the near failures o ...more
Sebastián Jaén
Aug 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
I think the book is very disappointing because it focuses a lot on the background of the battles and very little in the engineering solving problem. At the same time the reading is dense and full of unnecessary historical details. There is no account of how the engineers gathered and solve the challenges presented by war. In the book, the solutions appear, but the author does not explain how they got the work done.

There is no doubt the author is an erudite in the topic. However, the book is not
Miss-titled, and Kennedy doesn't know submarines (which hinders his first 75 pages), but after that, decent work. Kennedy not a 5 star writer. See Blackets's War for a similar work.
Tech Historian
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Badly researched history.

I must admit, I started with a bias predisposed to like this book. Yet I was profoundly disappointed - in some chapters the author simply failed do sufficient research, in others he simply got the facts wrongs (other reviews have pointed out that no, the Seabees didn't build the Mulberry Harbors.)

One of the main arguments of the book is that in five crucial areas (convoys, command of the air, Blitzkreieg, etc.) it wasn't just one event or one technology that solved the p
Charles Inglin
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author gives an overview of major aspects of World War II and discusses the technical problems that had to be solved to achieve victory, and the people, many relatively unknown, who made it possible. Often, personal relationships were instrumental in getting things done. For example, the creation of the Naval Construction Battalions, which were critical to building the infrastructure needed for the advance across the Pacific was directed by Ben Moreel, the only non-combat naval officer to ac ...more
Othón A. León
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Paul Kennedy is one of my favourite historians and this book was not exception to the rule. In this, his latest work from 2013, he recounts the ways grand strategy (the State's strategy) was achieved during WWII by soldiers, scientists, businessmen, even regular citizens, responsible for carrying out their leaders’ plans. Since this is a book on pure strategy, each chapter begins with the phrase, "How to...". For example, he begins the book by recounting the Battle of the Atlantic (the longest o ...more
Dan Dundon
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
The cover of this book is intriguing. It purports to document how engineers made a difference in World War II. Too often, books about World War II have concentrated on the heroes who fought the battles on the ground, in the air and on the seas. They do indeed deserve much of the credit. However, relatively little notice is usually given to the inventors and designers who improved the weapons of war to counter the advantages of the enemy, especially German engineers.
Many of the chapters were fasc
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This seems to be less a detailed study of innovation and adaption during wartime and more of a history of the Second World War presented through the prism of the former actions. This is not to say it was disappointing, but it did not totally live up to expectations. In answering five broad questions about problem solving that in reality encompass the major theaters of action, Paul Kennedy (of 'Rise and Fall of the Great Powers' fame) attempts to show how middle-level managers, pugnacious tinkers ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amer-history
I believe this book may have been mistitled. I fully understand that editors not authors many times dream up a book's title. Perhaps this book may better have been entitled, "Purveyors of Victory."

When I picked up the book I was preparing to read a more technical, engineering-oriented work. But such is not the case here. Yes, there are some engineering marvels discussed but only in the most cursory manner. In equal parts the author discusses the importance of logistics, strategic planning and th
Nick Frazier
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. If you have any interest in history, military innovation, or organization problem-solving culture, I'd check it out.

Paul Kennedy argues that the massive resources of Allied powers during World War weren't enough to win the war. Instead, it was mid-level leaders and managers that took the problems posed and devised creative solutions.

The author uses five operational concepts or problems as case studies for the Allied effort:

1) How to get convoys safely across the Atlan
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very dense, advanced book requiring a strong background in WWII military events. It is always amazing to realize how bad the situation was for the Allies in 1942, and yet how relatively simple technological advances (combined to a great deal of smart decisions, of course) could have immediate impacts and turn the tide of the war in such a drastic way. That ''culture of encouragement'' introduced near the end of the book is a powerful concept showing how engineering and scientific research in g ...more
Ken Cambie
May 22, 2020 rated it liked it
This was one of the books recommended by John Kerry at the 2019 Barclays Asia Forum. I am hard pressed to remember how this book was relevant to what he was talking about. As noted by others the title is misleading as its primary theme is the inter-connectedness of, first, various individual innovations coming together to produce a break through, and then of the impact of different campaigns and theatres of war (providing greater insight than studying specific elements in isolation of what was h ...more
Jun 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is organized by major wartime problem -- how to protect convoys crossing the ocean, how to attack by air deep within an enemy's territory, how to pull off a successful invasion from the sea, etc. -- and addresses both the strategic and technical factors that went into the Allies' solutions to those problems in WWII.

I learned a lot about a few topics (e.g. Normandy invasion) on which I thought I had been pretty well informed; and about topics (the convoy problem) I had never thought mu
Mathieu Gaudreault
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book could have had as a title How the Allies won. The book is by subjects and not chronological. Its covers the air war over Europe, the land war against Nazi Germany, the battle against the U Boats, landing against a ennemy shore(in Europe and North Africa) and finally overcoming the distance about the war of the Pacific. In all those chapters we see the technologies that made the diffrence. in the air the Mustang with its Rolls Royce motor, under the sea the sonar and convoy systems and ...more
Andy White
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think the low scores for this book are due to expectations. What this book will not provide is in depth technical details of specific problems facing the Allies in WW2. What this book will provide is a look at all the reason for success in specific theatres of WW2. Namely, battle of the Atlantic, European air war, Germany's blitzkrieg tactics, amphibious landing and attacking long range targets. What is good about this book is that it covers Europe, Africa, Eastern front and the Pacific, all t ...more
Patrick Nielson
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insight to Victory

A brilliant dissection of five challenges that confronted the Allies and the solutions that led to their victory over the Axis. Kennedy provides a clear 30,000 foot view of the strategy and then provides details of the individuals and teams that solved the challenges. Each challenge is tied to the whole World War conflict, demonstrating how the solutions for each fit into winning the war. Insights are also provided about other histories and analyses of the Allies triumph, with
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Paul Michael Kennedy is a British historian specialising in the history of international relations, economic power and grand strategy. He has published prominent books on the history of British foreign policy and Great Power struggles.

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