Despite Korea, despite Vietnam, despite a dozen smaller conflicts, a generation of Americans refers to World War II simply as "the War." Indeed, there has been nothing like it in human history: a single war that spanned three continents - a war which saw more men and women under arms, more deaths, and more destruction than any other. Now Oxford University Press provides the definitive one-volume reference to this cataclysmic event.
The Oxford Companion to World War II brings together an international team of 140 experts to cover every aspect of the conduct and experience of the conflict, from grand strategic decisionmaking to the struggles of daily life. More than 1,700 entries - ranging from brief identifications to in-depth articles on complex subjects - bring the far-flung elements and events of the war into focus. Here are essays on overarching themes and broad topics, such as the origins of the war, diplomacy, the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere, and the Final Solution.
Military campaigns and battles, of course, receive extensive attention: entries include the Fall of France, Operation Barbarossa, and the Battle of Midway, as well as such smaller events as the sinking of the Scharnhorst and the fall of Wake Island. Scores of analytical biographies range from the national leaders - Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Roosevelt, Churchill - to an array of military and political figures, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Ho Chi Minh, from Marshal Timoshenko to General von Manstein.
World War II was also an era of technological leaps, covert exploits, and horrific atrocities - and the Companion gives thorough coverage to each, with articles on weapons ranging from tanks to E-boats to rockets, on intelligence organizations (ranging from the O.S.S. to Smersh), and on the German Einstatzgruppen and Todt organization.
In addition to exploring the economics and social policies of belligerent states, the Companion addresses such topics as children - explaining how hundreds of thousands were evacuated from threatened cities, thrown into combat, killed by bombing raids, or made into orphans.