Logistics in World War II, 1939-1945

Published on
January 24, 2021
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
John Norris
Other Publication Information
255 full color illustrations
Company: Pen & Sword - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate UK - Website: Visit Site

There is an old axiom that amateurs pursue tactics, but professionals manage logistics. It is a topic that largely goes unexplored in the voluminous literature of the Second World War. Outside of the modeling world, I am an academically trained military historian who works in the public history field. I have had a keen interest in the topic. Given my background, I was keen to review this work. From a production point of view, Pen and Sword knows what they are doing – high quality binding, heavy paper, and well produced photographs, contemporary to the war and modern, color photographs of restored vehicles form the Second World War. My criticisms are with the content.

Logistics is a broad topic that can be split into many different things. The author certainly recognizes this. Using a chronological approach, he begins his story with World War One and moves forward and takes a very wide view of the war. In terms of page count, Europe gets most of the attention, with a focus on the ground war at the expensive of what happened at sea and the air. While the focus is meant to be on logistics, the book reads like a campaign history more often than not. Campaigns are important for context, and from time to time the author provides some information regarding the difficulties of supply or the ramping up of war production to meet the demands of said campaign. Given the title of the book, it was my hope that there would be a lengthy discussion of processes, institutions, and policies in place that facilitated the supply of the Allied and Axis nations. While occasionally focusing on that, the book’s narrative meanders through the war, without much of a clear focus.

The challenge of this book is that it does not seem to know what it wants to do. If the focus was intended to be on logistics, it fails in that regard. Listing statistics related to the amount of supplies produced and consumed, masquerades as a discussion on logistics. Curiously, there is a great deal of time spent of vehicles, while an important aspect, is a relatively small one given the scope of the Second World War. For example, Chapters 13 and 15 speak specifically to the German’s Kubelwagen, Kettenkrad in particular and vehicles in general. There is no doubt that mechanization revolutionized warfare and the logistical train, but they were mechanisms in an extensive logistical chain. The larger mechanisms they were part of are not addressed. Since there are not any citations in the book, I looked at the bibliography and it is not very exhaustive and is missing many of the standard reference books that one would expect in a book dealing with logistics.

I know what it takes to write a book, so it pains me to say that I cannot recommend this book. It barely scratches the surface of a compelling and interesting topic. While the book provides a foundation, it is a shallow one and it needs the deft hand of an editor to truly provide a summary of logistics in the Second World War. My thanks to IPMS and Casemate Publications for giving me the opportunity to review this book.


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