Book: Engineers of Victory

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

Paul Kennedy, the J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History

(Random House)

“Engineers of Victory” is a “nuts-and-bolts” account of the strategic factors that led to Allied victory in the Second World War. Paul Kennedy reveals how the leaders’ grand strategy was carried out by the ordinary soldiers, scientists, engineers, and businessmen responsible for realizing their commanders’ visions of success.

In January 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill convened in Casablanca and established the Allied objectives for the war: to defeat the Nazi blitzkrieg; to control the Atlantic sea lanes and the air over western and central Europe; to take the fight to the European mainland; and to end Japan’s imperialism. A little over a year later, these ambitious goals had nearly all been accomplished. Kennedy highlights for the first time the creative strategies, tactics, and organizational decisions that turned the Allied objectives into a successful reality.

The Yale historian recounts the inside stories of the invention of the cavity magnetron, a miniature radar “as small as a soup plate,” and the Hedgehog, a multi-headed grenade launcher that allowed the Allies to overcome the threat to their convoys crossing the Atlantic; the critical decision by engineers to install a super-charged Rolls-Royce engine in the P-51 Mustang, creating a fighter plane more powerful than the Luftwaffe’s; and the innovative use of pontoon bridges (made from rafts strung together) to help Russian troops cross rivers and elude the Nazi blitzkrieg. Kennedy takes readers behind the scenes, unveiling how thousands of individual Allied planes and fighting ships were choreographed to collectively pull off the invasion of Normandy, and illuminating how crew chiefs perfected the high-flying and inaccessible B-29 Superfortress that would drop the atomic bombs on Japan.