Visions Of Victory by Gerhard L. Weinberg
Visions Of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders, Gerhard L. Weinberg (Cambridge University Press, 2005, 292 pages, maps, paperback),
Visions of Victory provides a useful analytic overview of WW II from the points of view of the wartime leaders of the eight major powers: Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Tojo (Japan), Chaing-Kai-Shek (China), Stalin (USSR), de Gaulle (France), Churchill (Great Britain), and Roosevelt (USA). What were their war aims? How did these aims affect each country’s strategies? How did the outcome of the war compare with each leader’s aims?
Hitler’s vision was the most radical and grandiose: world domination by Germany based on racial hierarchy, military power, slavery, and genocide. The conquests envisioned by the other Axis powers were not so clearly articulated and less far-reaching. Mussolini wanted some sort of revived Roman Empire centered roughly around the Mediterranean Sea, Tojo some sort of Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, both achieved and maintained on subjugation by force.
De Gaulle and Churchill wanted, in addition to restoration or protection of their homelands and containment of Germany, to get back their countries’ colonies taken by Germany in Africa and Asia by Japan. Stalin wanted reconstruction of Russia, an extension of Soviet rule into East and Central Europe and its influence throughout the world, and a weakening of Germany. Chaing-Kai-Shek wanted to unify China, weaken Japan, and gain a place at the table of leading world powers. Roosevelt’s aims were not entirely spelled out, but included an end to colonialism everywhere and a reconstructed international cooperation in the form of a United Nations led by the great powers, particularly the U.S.
The defeated Axis powers suffered the greatest losses relative to their war aims, but Germany and Japan revived to become great economic powers in the second half of the 20th century. Britain and France protected and restored their homelands, but could not hold on to their colonies for long. China made it into the inner circle of the United Nations and eventually attained international economic prominence, but under a communist dictatorship on the mainland, with Chaing relegated to an off-shore island. The Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe, attained security, and extended their influence, but eventually broke apart under the strain. Roosevelt’s vision for the U.S. and the rest of the world came the closest to fruition.
Gerhard Weinberg is also the author of the highly regarded text, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Both books are the product of careful scholarship.
The book review above was originally published in a feature titled “Book Notes”, published in the April, 2013 edition of Amitié, the newsletter of Normandy Allies, Inc. This note was written by Walter Ford Carter, member of the Normandy Allies Board and the team that leads its history-study experience each summer. Walter, the son of Captain Elmer Norval Carter, a US Army battalion surgeon in the 29th Division who was killed in action on June 17 1944, is the author of No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son’s Journey to Normandy.