All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939–1945 by Max Hastings - review by Julian Thompson

Julian Thompson

Butcher’s Bill

All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939–1945


HarperPress 748pp £30

An average of 27,000 people died each day between September 1939 and August 1945 as a result of the war. We still live with the consequences to this day. Max Hastings has combined his considerable experience of war reporting with years of research on the Second World War to write a compelling account of this terrible event, largely told through the eyes of a multitude of men and women who were touched by it. The book is well paced throughout, and a compelling read: no mean feat given the vast canvas it covers. He writes with compassion, but without sentimentality; with understanding, but without hesitating to explode myths where necessary. He castigates incompetence, but acknowledges that mistakes are often made in war. He knows that even the finest intelligence organisation will rarely tell you everything you would like to know.

He reminds us that although the Germans were almost invariably superb at the tactical and operational level, their strategy was often flawed. Hitler’s blunder in attacking Russia is common knowledge. Humanitarian reasons aside, Hitler’s destruction of the Jews was strategic lunacy, contributed nothing to German victory, and diverted resources both

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