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Keegan, John

The History of World War II- introduced by John Keegan



The Second World War engaged more than 40 million troops from over 30 countries. It bridged three continents and two oceans, and exacted a toll of 50 million lives. It remains the most destructive and most widely influential war in human history.

While many books have been written about the causes and the course of this great war, the huge scale of the conflict, both geographically and tactically, is difficult to grasp as a single chapter in our history.

The History of World War II, with over 1,000 entries and 275 maps and photographs, covers every aspect of the war in a way that is detailed, yet immediately comprehensible. The events of the conflict and world affairs have been divided into the 13 categories that appear below, and these bands progress chronologically from 1939 to 1945. Moving horizontally you can trace the action in any theatre, moving vertically you can see exactly what was happening throughout the world. For example, in June of 1944 you will see D-Day in Europe, the first V1 flying bombs landing in England, U.S. troops' capture of Rome in Italy and the Soviet attack on Belorussia in the Eastern Front. More than 45 campaigns, tactics and events are detailed as separate features to enhance your understanding further.


The 14 full-colour panels provide a graphic document over fifteen feet in length. Whether you read through the wall chart one panel at a time, or open it to display the full extent of seven years of global conflict. The History of World War II provides the most comprehensive overview available.


Western Front- Includes the campaigns from 1940 through 1945.
Eastern Front- Principally the Soviet-German War 1941 -45, but also includes the conquest of Poland in 1939 and the Russo-Finnish War 1939-40.
The Balkans- The campaigns in Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece, 1940-41.
The Mediterranean- The campaigns in North Africa and Italy, 1940-45. 
The Middle East- Events in East Africa, Iran, Iraq and Syria, 1940-41.
The Battle of the Atlantic- The German submarine campaign against Allied shipping.
Norway- Events following the German evasion In 1940.
Air War in Europe- Including the Battle of Britain and the Anglo-American bombing of Germany.
World Affairs- Politics, diplomacy, the home front and the events that led to war in Europe.
Approach to War, Pacific- Politics and diplomacy, 1919-41.
Central Pacific- Including Pearl Harbour, all major naval battles, the fighting in the Solomons, the subsequent "Island-hopping" campaign and the bombing of Japan.
Southwest Pacific- The Philippines, East Indies and New Guinea, both during the Japanese advance and the later Ailed reconquest.
China/Burma/India- The campaigns in these countries including the Japanese conquest of Malaya and events in the Indian Ocean.


Introduction by John Keegan

World War II has a simple story. It is that of the defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies by their enemies, eventually to be called the United Nations. The unfolding of the war, however, is by no means simple. It comprised several wars, at least one of which was already in progress when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on September 1,1939, the date usually chosen to mark the war's beginning in the history books. That war was the one between China and Japan, which had opened in 1937 when Japan captured China's coastal cities; as early as 1931, however, Japan had violated Chinese sovereignty by seizing the northern territory of Manchuria.

Another of the wars comprising World War II stemmed from Italian aggression in Africa. In 1936 Mussolini annexed Ethiopia and then, after the outbreak of general war in Europe, invaded the British colonial territories on Ethiopia's borders. The first of Britain's victories of the Second World War were the defeat of those invasions, the liberation of Ethiopia and the rout of the Italian army in Libya.

The central act of World War II was Hitler's campaign of Blitzkrieg - lightning war - first against Poland, then against the Franco-British alliance in the West, then against the Soviet Union. It was initially made possible by the willingness of Josef Stalin to accept Hitler's offer of non-aggression in return for a share of dividing the territories of the weak states of Eastern Europe. Stalin benefited initially but when Hitler turned to attack Russia, after his lightning victories in the West, the deployment of the Red Army to protect the newly-acquired territories proved to be a calamity. Overextended and unprotected by frontier fortifications, the Red Army suffered defeats which it would take four years of desperate fighting to reverse. Without the intervention of the British and American armies in the amphibious invasion of France in 1944, the ability of the Red Army to drive on Berlin might never have been developed.

The commitment of the American army to a major campaign in Europe was the result of a courageous decision by President F. D. Roosevelt to subordinate his response to Japan's surprise attack on the American fleet in December 1941 to defeating 'Germany first'. Once Hitler had indeed been defeated, in large measure through the Anglo-American bomber offensive, the overthrow of Japan followed with the swiftness and completeness Roosevelt had always thought possible. It would have come about even had American atomic weapons not been developed in time to preclude an invasion of the Japanese home islands.

The complex chronology of the greatest of wars is the subject of this wall chart. Its publication will make the comprehension of a worldwide unfolding of complex events possible at a glance.

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