Volume 16: The Ever-Widening War, 1941
The Ever-Widening War deals with the dramatic events of 1941, during which the Second World War engulfed much of the world. When the year began, Britain stood alone against German dominance in Europe, facing massive air raids, the threat of invasion, and starvation unless defeat could be averted in the Battle of the Atlantic. In the spring, the German invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece—helped by its Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian allies—gave Hitler the added power and the opportunity to invade either Britain or the Soviet Union. In the summer, his massive attack on Stalin’s Russia threatened the defeat of the Soviet Union by the end of the year. Within hours of the German attack, Churchill made a decisive commitment to give the Soviets whatever help Britain could, and to persuade the United States to do likewise. Hitler failed to defeat Russia that year, being forced to pull back in December from the outer suburbs of Moscow. That same December, Japan’s surprise air assault at Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the conflict. Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States four days after Pearl Harbor was a relief to Churchill, who, finally had the United States as Britain’s essential fighting ally.
Martin Gilbert’s exemplary selection of documents, many of them secret at the time, shows Churchill’s energy and decisiveness in every aspect of the war, his strategic grasp, and the vibrant human side of his forceful personality. To read The Ever-Widening War is to enter into Churchill’s experience of leading Britain through its greatest twentieth-century crisis.