Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing

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Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing

Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Price
Reviewed by Ruth Price
Summary: This military history takes a 22-day slice out of WW2 and makes a convincing argument that this brief period in 1941 saw the turning point when the actions of the Axis powers, culminating in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, led to defeat by the Allies. Not for a newcomer to this period, but packed with detail for the aficionado.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1847391643

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In this detailed volume, David Downing makes a convincing argument that in the brief 22-day period between 17 November and 8 December 1941, the actions of the various Axis powers and their Allied opponents marked the beginning of the end of a war that still had several years left to run – the turning point famously described by Churchill as the end of the beginning. After Pearl Harbor, America entered the war, making it a true world war - though it was actually Hitler that declared war on America, ironically – on 11 December, just after these events take place. Sealing Their Fate opens with the launch of the Japanese fleet and ends with that same fleet's attack on Pearl Harbor, but it's not specifically about Japan and America.

In a sense, if WW2 was a history cake, Downing has cut us a thin but choice sliver. It may feel a little artificial, but it does give this book an interesting structure. Sealing Their Fate opens with some useful maps and a prologue, but every chapter thenceforward begins with a date, commencing with Monday 17 November until we arrive at a brief epilogue, the references and index.

Each chapter juxtaposes the key events occurring on that day, so we consider Japanese military tactics and philosophy, jump to the Russian front, examining events from the Russian and German sides, see Rommel's progress against the British in North Africa, etc, etc. This does feel contrived at times, as Downing is obliged to refer to events both prior and after his 22-day history cake slice, but I did feel this approach was very visual, and could imagine, with severe editing, that this book would work as an epic war film or feature-length documentary. I did start to buckle under the weight of a plethora of interchangeable military bods, so having actors play the parts of the major ones would have helped my concentration no end – despite the many fascinating details of war, at times my attention drifted. However, readers with an interest in war games, or the military aspects of WW2, would find Sealing Their Fate excellent.

I thought it would be wise to pass Sealing Their Fate over to my OH, who is the family historian, for his feedback. He was generally impressed, but felt that the addition of a timeline of the events over the 22 days, and also a chronology of the key events described by country, would have been helpful. I also felt that a glossary would have helped, as phrases like the custom of bushido had me reaching for my encyclopaedia.

Thanks to the nice people at Simon and Schuster for sending Bookbag a copy of Sealing Their Fate. Its rather quirky format nevetheless provides much to enjoy for military history fans.

Further reading: For further reading in this particular aspect of history, Bookbag liked A History of Warfare by John Keegan.

Buy Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sealing Their Fate: 22 Days That Decided the Second World War by David Downing at Amazon.com.


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