In this narrative, brought to life by marine artist Ian Marshall's beautiful full-color paintings, historian Paul Kennedy grapples with the rise and fall of the Great Powers during World War II. Tracking the movements of the six major navies of the Second World War—the allied navies of Britain, France, and the United States and the Axis navies of Germany, Italy, and Japan—Kennedy tells a story of naval battles, maritime campaigns, convoys, amphibious landings, and strikes from the sea. From the elimination of the Italian, German, and Japanese fleets and almost all of the French fleet, to the end of the era of the big-gunned surface vessel, the advent of the atomic bomb, and the rise of an American economic and military power larger than anything the world had ever seen, Kennedy shows how the strategic landscape for naval affairs was completely altered between 1936 and 1946.
An authoritative global narrative ... The author cherishes powerful passions ... Kennedy’s book is lavishly illustrated with watercolour paintings by the fine marine artist Ian Marshall, together with excellent maps and graphs ... Kennedy, foremost naval historian of our generation, is nonetheless a romantic. Some of his judgments — for instance about the shortcomings of Britain’s Fleet Air Arm, created by its shockingly inadequate aircraft — are less harsh than my own. Most of the book’s verdicts are hard to contest, however ... I believe the Royal Navy and US navy to have been the outstanding wartime fighting services of their respective nations. Kennedy offers them a fitting tribute and a penetrating analysis.
... packed with minutiae ... Daunting as these facts may be, the book makes for enjoyable reading, owing to the author’s easygoing style, as if he knows all this off the top of his head and is talking to you by a log fire. Kennedy is an academic who does not write like one; he writes a story, not a treatise. It is a story enhanced by Marshall’s exquisite artwork, in which the depiction of one gray warship after another never gets monotonous, retaining their fascination throughout ... That story holds chilling echoes of our own time and our own great-power struggles.
Engrossing ... The book has a thesis too—that naval warfare played a crucial role in (to quote the subtitle) 'the transformation of the global order.' No one is better positioned to make such a case than Mr. Kennedy, the doyen of the study of historical geopolitics ... It should be said that Mr. Kennedy’s treatment of the Eastern Front, though typically shrewd, rests on a debatable claim. He accepts the view that Hitler, in 1941-45, concentrated on the war with Stalin, starving Germany’s naval and air capacities in favor of land warfare in Russia. In fact, the German war economy most of that time was directed against the Anglo-Americans ... For all the heroism of individual naval encounters, Mr. Kennedy convincingly shows that World War II was won, ultimately, by superior American industrial capacity.