four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
user_rating: 
0

The Mediterranean Theater in World War II

A-PathVictoryThe invasion of Normandy and the defense of Stalingrad often overshadow the Mediterranean theater in World War II history. In The Path to Victory, Porch makes a case for the importance of the North African campaign as a tune-up for the Allied troops against an Axis army adrift in the desert. Perhaps not coincidentally, the campaign also allowed FDR time to build up enough troops, ensuring that America’s role in the D-Day invasion carried with it enormous political currency at the end of hostilities. Filled with profiles of the men involved and detailed account of battles from Africa up through Italy, The Path to Victory is the comprehensive volume on this decisive historic moment.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 816 pages. $35. ISBN: 0374205183

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"No other treatment of the subject approaches Porch’s narrative and thematic sweep, his eye for telling detail and his forcefully expressed judgments. Porch may not persuade everyone of all of his contentions, but he has given us a monumental work and a major contribution to our understanding of World War II." John Whiteclay Chambers II

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Full of sprightly prose, keen insights and extensive research. ... This is a volume that deserves to be read and then reread to gain its full flavor and wisdom." Calvin L. Christman

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"The author is opinionated, grading all the generals with determined assurance." Joseph Losos

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3.5 of 5 Stars
"A skilled writer, he is as adept at describing the personal peculiarities of British, German and American generals as he is at describing their military tactics. … While there are more than a dozen maps, almost all of them use tiny, blurred type that makes them almost unreadable." Len Barcousky

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"It was not the decisive theater, but the turning point, where, as Porch puts it so well, ‘the Anglo-American alliance was forged, fighting skills were honed, generals audited and D-Day rehearsed.’ … [Porch] does a good job melding the various battles to a running strategic analysis." Geoffrey Wawro

Critical Summary

Reviews glow with kind words for Porch, a professor of national security at the Naval Postgraduate School. The author presents his case in clear, convincing prose and a careful eye to historical detail. Most importantly, he upends the idea of the Mediterranean campaign as a "costly sideshow" (Washington Post). He both successfully brings historic characters to life—including Mussolini, Churchill, and FDR—and combs through the finer points of military strategy. Whether his central hypothesis about the importance of the Mediterranean in the Allied victory is right or wrong, critics uniformly welcomed the book to the debate.

Supplemental Reading

An Army at Dawn The War in North Africa, 1942-43 | By Rick Atkinson (2003): 4 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2003. This Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist argues that the Allied invasion of North Africa provided the "testing ground" that allowed the American army to successfully invade Europe’s Western front in 1945.