Cover image for World War II : a short history
World War II : a short history
Lyons, Michael J., 1930-
Personal Author:
Third edition.
Publication Information:
Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 367 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library D743 .L96 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Highly regarded for its concise clarification of the complexities of World War II, this book illuminates the origins, course, and long-range effects of the war. It provides a balanced account that analyzes both the European and Pacific theaters of operations and the connections between them. The Fifth Edition incorporates new material based on the latest scholarship, offering updated conclusions on key topics and expanded coverage throughout.



When the first edition of World War II: A Short History appeared in 1989, the conflict had already inspired over 70,000 volumes. The number has risen steadily since then. In this fourth edition, I again have incorporated material from the vast array of new literature, along with suggestions from readers. In particular, I have increased coverage of the Holocaust as well as German occupation policies and the issues of collaboration and resistance among European peoples. I have also expanded the chapter on the home fronts in the chief belligerent countries and have devoted more attention to Japan in the period preceding the war as well as in regard to the Japanese biological and chemical warfare program. In addition, I have dwelt to a greater extent on the intense hatred between Americans id Japanese that marked the war in the Pacific and set it apart to some extent from the conflict between the Western Allies and Germany. I have added a section on early efforts to break the German cipher that eventually enabled the Allies to read enemy messages on a regular basis, the process known by the code name "Ultra." In the light of new research, I have modified my analysis on the German victory in the West in 1940 to a certain degree. I have also focused in greater detail on the Allied landings in Normandy. Finally, I have interjected as much material as possible to illustrate what it was like to be a fighting man during the war. I have tried to accomplish all of this without expanding the book to un-manageable length. It is, after all, billed as a short history. By its very nature, it cannot cover everything in the detail one might like. My basic purpose in this edition is still the same as that which prompted me to write the first: to satisfy the needs of the college student in the classroom as well as those of the general reader. At the same time, I have sought to provide a relatively brief synthesis of the work of other scholars that the professional historian will find useful. With these aims in mind, I have endeavored neither to overestimate the reader's knowledge of the subject nor to insult his or her intelligence by being too elementary. In pursuit of this elusive goal, I have attempted to fashion a book that is readable, informative, understandable, and interesting. Each reader will determine how well I have succeeded. Though focusing primarily on the Second World War, I have examined the many factors that combined to cause that terrible calamity as well as the most significant effects of the conflict. Obviously, in a work of this scope, it has been necessary to deal selectively and summarily with the highly complex history of the decades preceding the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 and the period that followed the defeat of Germany and Japan in 1945. I have also striven to present a balanced account that does justice to both the European and Pacific theaters of operations and the connections between them. The global conflagration gave birth to innumerable controversies, and I have done my best `to analyze the most important of these while often presenting my own views as to the best interpretations to place on them. Any author incurs numerous debts in writing and publishing a book. Mine start with the late Professor Harold C. Deutsch, whose masterful course at the University of Minnesota kindled my fascination with the Second World War. Thanks also go to the many students who enrolled in my own World War II course at North Dakota State University during a period of over two decades. Their obvious interest helped stimulate my dedication to this project. Professor Archer Jones offered encouragement and advice during his years as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. I must also acknowledge my discussions, not to mention arguments, with Professor James D. Sadkovich, which helped to alter my view of Italy's performance in the war to some extent. My good friend and colleague Professor David B. Danbom provided me with inspiration by example as well as strong personal support. I also greatly appreciate the encouragement and suggestions of Professor A. Harding Ganz. I am indebted, too, for the many valuable suggestions offered by the readers who found my manuscript worthy of publication. These include James P Shenton, Columbia University; Joseph W Bendersky, Virginia Commonwealth University; David Detzer, Western Connecticut State University; John Maxwell, West Virginia University; Robin F. A. Fabel, Auburn University; Donald L. Layton, Indiana State University; Robert Maddox, Pennsylvania State University; Charles L. Ponce de Leon, SUNY Purchase; Nancy Wingfield, Northern Illinois University; and Neil Heyman, San Diego State University. My gratitude for their encouragement also goes with much affection to my children--Mary, Mike, and Nancy Finally, I must pay tribute to my late wife, Joan, whose generous and constant support during my labors on the first three editions was sorely missed this time. I have done my utmost to eliminate mistakes from the following pages. Any errors that have eluded these efforts--whether in fact, interpretation, or otherwise--are solely my own. Michael J. Lyons Excerpted from World War II: A Short History by Michael J. Lyons All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

I The Origins of World war II
1 World War I: The Great Turning Point
2 The Legacy of World War I
3 The Rise of the Dictators
4 The Road to War
II Germany's March of Conquest
5 Blitzkriegin the East,Sitzkriegin the West
6 Complications in the North: Finland, Denmark, Norway
7 The Fall of France
8 Britain Is Still an Island
9 The Plot Thickens: The Mediterranean and the Balkans
III The War Becomes Global
10 Operation Barbarossa: Dream ofLebensraum
11 Hitler's New Order in Europe
12 America Enters the War
13 Japan Triumphant, December 1941-May 1942
IV The Tide Turns
14 The Tide Turns in the Pacific
15 The Tide Turns in Europe: Stalingrad and El Alamein
16 The Second Front Question and the Invasion of North America
17 Probing the Underbelly: Sicily and Italy
18 War in the Atlantic
19 Target Germany: The Allied Bombing Offensive
20 Total War and the Home Fronts
V The Triumph of the Allies
21 Russia Moves West, 1943-44
22 Cross-Channel Invasion at Last: D Day to the German Border
23 The End of the Thousand-Year Reich
24 Island Hopping in the Pacific
25 War on the Periphery: China, Burma, India
26 The Collapse of Japan
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