Monday, April 13, 2015

Book: If the Allies Had Fallen: Sixty Alternate Scenarios of World War II

If the Allies Had Fallen. Sixty Alternate Scenarios of World War II by Dennis Showalter and Harold C. Deutsch. Frontline Books, 2010, hardback, 304 pp, £19.99, ISBN 9781848325661

The joint editors of this stimulating collection of explorations of alternative military strategies of the Second World War, Dennis Showalter and Harold Deutsch, have assembled a distinguished team of nineteen historians predominantly from the United States of America, but also including Peter Hoffmann from Canada and Richard Overy from the UK. Justifying the book's counterfactual approach, Harold Deutsch acknowledges that 'it is easy to argue persuasively the truism that the lessons of history are best derived from what actually happened, rather than from what nearly happened' but concludes that ‘what happened becomes more fully comprehensible in the light of the contending forces that existed at moments of decision'.  And so the authors contend that from Munich to Hiroshima the War might have turned out differently.

Their detailed text is enhanced by a series of illuminating maps illustrating graphically, for example, Soviet military dispositions at the end of July 1941 and reinforcements by the end of December 1941 and the Allied plan during the final stage of the war in Europe in 1945. The authors examine such questions as: What if the outbreak of war had occurred in 1938 one year earlier? What if Stalin had joined the Allies? What if the Allies had fallen and Hitler won the war? These are just some of the hypothetical questions which the book addresses stimulating in-depth analysis and debate into some key outcomes during this tumultuous seven-year period and thereby providing support for Harold C. Deutsch's contention that ‘understanding of the total historical setting is bound to contribute to a clearer view of the actual course of affairs', though perhaps not all readers will be entirely convinced of the value of the exercise.

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