The Winds of War
|The Winds of War|
First edition cover
|Series||The Winds of War|
|Publisher||Little, Brown and Company|
|Publication date||15 November 1971|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||885 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-00-221941-7 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Classification||PZ3.W923 Wi3 PS3545.O98|
|Followed by||War and Remembrance|
The Winds of War is Herman Wouk's second book about World War II, the first being The Caine Mutiny (1951). Published in 1971, it was followed up seven years later by War and Remembrance; originally conceived as one volume, Wouk decided to break it in two when he realized it took nearly 1000 pages just to get to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1983, it became a hugely successful miniseries on the ABC television network.
The story revolves around a mixture of real and fictional characters, all connected in some way to the extended family of Victor "Pug" Henry, a middle-aged Naval Officer and confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The story begins six months before Germany's invasion of Poland, which launched the European portion of the war, and ends shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States and, by extension, the Henry family, enters the war as well.
Mixed into the text are "excerpts" from a book written by one of the book's fictional characters, German general Armin von Roon, written while he was in prison for war crimes. Coming across the German version, a retired Victor Henry "translates" the volume in 1965. The text provides the reader with a German outlook at the war, with Henry occasionally inserting notes as counterpoint to some of von Roon's statements.
As the story begins, Navy Commander Victor "Pug" Henry has been appointed naval attache in Berlin. During the voyage to Europe on the S.S. Bremen, Victor befriends a British radio personality, Alistair "Talky" Tudsbury, his daughter, Pamela, and a German submarine officer, Commodore Grobke. In the movie version, he also meets German General Armin von Roon. Von Roon later becomes the viewpoint character for the German side of the war and witnesses the worsening of the German government's discrimination against the Jews.
Through his work as the attache, Pug recognizes the intent of the Germans to invade Poland. Realizing that this would mean war with the Soviet Union, he concludes the only way for Germany to safely invade is to agree not to go to war with the Soviets, even though the Communists and Fascists are sworn, mortal enemies. Going over his supervisor's head, he submits a report predicting the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact before it takes place. When the pact is made public, the report draws President Roosevelt's attention to him, and the President asks Pug to be his unofficial eyes and ears in Europe. This assignment delays again his desired sea command, but later will give him the opportunity to travel to London, Rome, and Moscow and meet Winston Churchill, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin in addition to Adolf Hitler, whom he met in Berlin.
Due to Pug's increasing amount of travel and his aversion to many of the cultural events enjoyed by his wife, Rhoda, she spends increasing amounts of time alone. Through Pug, she meets a widowed government engineer named Palmer Kirby, who later will be involved in the first phase of the Manhattan Project. Rhoda and Palmer begin to spend time together attending the opera and other events, but soon this leads to a romantic relationship. For his part, Pug begins a platonic but very close and borderline romantic relationship with Pamela, but can't decide to leave his wife Rhoda for her.
After having finally obtained command of a battleship, the USS California, he leaves for Pearl Harbor from Moscow, where he has discussed lend-lease issues and observed a battle. He flies over Asia and spends time in Manila listening to the radio broadcast of the annual Army-Navy football game. When his flight is approaching Pearl Harbor, they receive message that an attack is under way. Arriving at the base, they see the burning ships, including his own.
Pug's three children each have their own story lines. His older son, Warren, is a United States Naval Academy graduate who enters Navy Flight School in Florida. His daughter, Madeline, begins a job in American radio.
The child most prominent in the story is middle child and younger son Byron, named after Lord Byron, the English poet. Though a Columbia University graduate and holding a naval reserve commission, Byron has not committed himself to a career. In 1939 he accepts a job as a research assistant for an expatriate Jewish author, Aaron Jastrow, who is best known for his book A Jew's Jesus and lives in Siena, Italy.
Byron also meets Jastrow's niece, Natalie, and her soon-to-be fiance, Leslie Slote, who works for the Department of State. Readers later discover that Natalie and Slote are also close friends of Pamela Tudsbury from their time in Paris together. Byron is three years younger than Natalie, but catches her attention by heroically saving her uncle from being trampled by a stampeding horse during a festival in Siena.
Byron and Natalie visit her family's native town in Poland, Medzice, for a wedding, which occurs the night prior to the German invasion of Poland. They are awakened early the next morning to evacuate as the town citizens flee from the invaders. They travel from Medzice to Warsaw ahead of the invading German army, and at one point the refugees are strafed by the Luftwaffe and many are killed and injured. As they approach Warsaw, they encounter Polish soldiers who attempt to confiscate their automobile and leave them stranded. Finally, they are in Warsaw as the Germans begin the siege and are evacuated along with other Americans and citizens of neutral countries.
During the encounters with the German and Polish soldiers, Byron repeatedly behaves heroically. Leslie behaves in cowardly fashion under artillery fire, but stands up to the Germans when they attempt to separate Jewish Americans. When Natalie receives the proposal of marriage from Leslie that she has been eagerly awaiting, she realizes that the experience in Poland has changed her heart and that she is now in love with Byron. After much beating around the bush, she admits this to Byron, who promptly offers his own proposal of marriage, which Natalie accepts. She returns to America upon receiving word that her father is quite ill and is able to also attend Warren's wedding. Her father dies of a heart attack upon hearing of the invasion of Norway and Denmark on April 9, 1940.
In January 1941, she marries Byron and devotes herself to getting her reluctant uncle out of Europe to escape the Nazis, soon discovering she is pregnant.
All of the story lines are left as a cliffhanger as the United States is drawn into the war by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rhoda makes and then retracts a request for a divorce. With the USS California damaged and out-of-action, Pug is given command of a cruiser, the USS Northampton. Byron has been trained as a submarine officer. Warren has graduated from Pensacola, married a Congressman's daughter, Janice Lacouture, and is assigned to the USS Enterprise. Aaron, Natalie, and Natalie's infant son Louis are trapped in Europe as the war begins. These storylines continue through War and Remembrance.
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See also 
- DVD-featurettes on "The Winds of War"-DVD
- Morse, Barry - Remember With Advantages (2006), ISBN 0-7864-2771-X