Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War

In This Review

Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned The Tide in the Second World War
By Paul Kennedy
Random House, 2013
464 pp. $30.00

This superb book is Kennedy’s best. He has crafted a lucid, original take on World War II that also offers insights on broader issues of strategy and war. His simple but striking proposition is that the Allied victory rested not only on the work of grand strategists in presidential cabinets and high military commands but also on the efforts of middle managers, such as the logisticians, engineers, and operational analysts who addressed the major obstacles to success: getting convoys across the Atlantic, coping with Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics, and sustaining a campaign over vast distances in the Pacific. With sound analysis of intelligence reports and a readiness to experiment with new methods and equipment, these managers made victory possible. Kennedy’s argument clarifies that it was not just bravery at the frontlines or superior productivity that gave the Allies an advantage over the Axis powers but also an organizational culture -- most evident in the United Kingdom, which was stretched the thinnest of the Allies -- that “contained impressive feedback loops, flexibility, a capacity to learn from mistakes,” and a willingness to encourage innovation and cross institutional boundaries.

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