As much as I'd hoped to read Len Deighton's Blitzkrieg, it's weeks overdue at the library and I'm ready to close out the first stage of this WW2 reading set. This volume of the Time-Life history of World War 2 focuses on an area familiar to virtually anyone with an interest in the war; the sudden German attack on Poland, the Allied declarations of war, a winter peace save on the Atlantic and in Soviet-attacked Finland, and an even more terrible assault in the spring that took down Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in a matter of weeks. This being part of the time-life series, graphics are lavish; there is a full-scale diagram of the Panzer Mk IV, Germany's workhorse, and bountiful photographs. Some are even colorized, and depict diverse scenes: French soldiers playing poker in the Maginot line, Russian soldiers frozen to death in their Finnish foxholes, an English matron serving tea to arriving French solders rescued from Dunkirk and stealing a laugh with them in the midst of the death of all they held dear. One of the photo essays covers Hitler's art programs, and would have made this volume quite popular in the schoolroom had anyone known it existed: aside from a few pieces lionizing strong but docile farmers, most of the prints and sculptures are nudes, and not all of the heroic Greek variety. Content-wise, this is certainly helpful; the text plays second fiddle to the photographs, but there are a few surprises in here. The spring invasion should not have been as large a surprise as it was, given that German pilots had crashed-landed in Belgium with sensitive information. The allies disagreed over its validity, however, and mutual distrust between them would weaken Franco-Belgian defense. I also wasn't aware that Stalin evicted Germans living in the Baltic states. There are connections to other books in the Time-Life series, like the chapter on the invasions of Finland and Norway. Blitzkrieg gives a better rendering of the British almost-invasion of Noway than Battles for Scandinavia, I think, dwelling more on the strategy. Blitzkrieg is fine for an outline or survey of the war's early action, but is most attractive for its full-page photographs, quite large given the proportions of the book.
Having covered the Blitzkrieg, the Battle of Britain, and the war in the Atlantic, it's time to move on to 1941: bring on Barbarossa and bombers!