Book Review: The Ninety Days: Five Battles That Changed The World

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by Thomas N. Carmichael

Old Saybrook, Conn.: Konecky & Konecky, 1971. Pp. 339. Illus., maps, biblio., index. . ISBN:1-56852-380-7

World War II had been going well for the Axis for just over three years at the start of October, 1942. In the Pacific, Japan was seemingly rebounding from a defeat at Midway and had, through attrition, pushed the Americans down to one operable carrier in the Pacific. Germany was deep into Russia, had been cutting off the convoys, and had the British backed up – almost with their backs against the Suez Canal. In a space of ninety days, things changed in five battles.

With less than 340 pages, Thomas Carmichael’s book cannot go into a lot of detail. However, this is easily an overview that is very difficult to top, even though it is 35 years old. Carmichael provides the crucial coverage of these campaigns, which spanned a hemisphere. Notable for its absence is the use of military terminology. This is a mass-market book, and one that is just as readable as those books by Stephen E. Ambrose.

Of these battles, perhaps the most interesting, largely due to its comparative obscurity, is the Battle of the Barents Sea. This battle, in which a British force of two light cruisers and five old destroyers held off a German force consisting of a pocket battleship, a heavy cruiser, and six destroyers – and ensured the safe arrival of convoy JW51B to Murmansk.

The other battles, Guadalcanal, El Alamein, Operation Torch, and Stalingrad, are all reasonably well known, and this book provides a superb overview of them. The bibliography points to other books that can provide more detail.

Overall, The Ninety Days is a superb overview of the period in which the war turned around. Before that period, the Axis was advancing. After that period, the Axis was in retreat, and the Allies were well on their way to victory.
Reviewer: Harold C. Hutchison    


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