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Blood, Oil, and the Axis: The Allied Resistance Against a Fascist State in Iraq and the Levant, 1941

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In spring 1941, with the Allies on their heels on all fronts of WWII, a pro-German faction of Iraqi officers offered that country’s vast oil supply to Hitler in exchange for helping it take over Iraq. That oil supply was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the seemingly unstoppable Axis war machine. On top of that, the Vichy French overlords of neighboring Syria agr In spring 1941, with the Allies on their heels on all fronts of WWII, a pro-German faction of Iraqi officers offered that country’s vast oil supply to Hitler in exchange for helping it take over Iraq. That oil supply was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the seemingly unstoppable Axis war machine. On top of that, the Vichy French overlords of neighboring Syria agreed to collaborate with the Germans by providing airstrips and fuel for the Luftwaffe en route to fight beside their new Iraqi partners. In Blood, Oil, and the Axis, John Broich tells the fast-paced story of the improvised response launched by an unlikely coalition of Allied units from around the globe and their race to counteract this dire threat before the Axis could consolidate power in Iraq and the Levant. Broich tells his tale through the eyes of memorable figures like a young American who rejected hiscountry’s isolationism to fight the fascists years before Pearl Harbor; Freya Stark, a famous travel writer turned government agent; Roald Dahl, who flew a Hurricane fighter over Syria before becoming a children’s writer; and fighters from India, Jordan, and Iraq itself. Taking the reader on a tour of cities and landscapes grimly familiar to today’s reader—from a bombed-out Fallujah to Baghdad to Damascus—Blood, Oil, and the Axis is poised to become the definitive chronicle of the Axis’s menacing play for Iraq and the Levant in 1941 and the extraordinary alliance that confronted it.


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In spring 1941, with the Allies on their heels on all fronts of WWII, a pro-German faction of Iraqi officers offered that country’s vast oil supply to Hitler in exchange for helping it take over Iraq. That oil supply was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the seemingly unstoppable Axis war machine. On top of that, the Vichy French overlords of neighboring Syria agr In spring 1941, with the Allies on their heels on all fronts of WWII, a pro-German faction of Iraqi officers offered that country’s vast oil supply to Hitler in exchange for helping it take over Iraq. That oil supply was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the seemingly unstoppable Axis war machine. On top of that, the Vichy French overlords of neighboring Syria agreed to collaborate with the Germans by providing airstrips and fuel for the Luftwaffe en route to fight beside their new Iraqi partners. In Blood, Oil, and the Axis, John Broich tells the fast-paced story of the improvised response launched by an unlikely coalition of Allied units from around the globe and their race to counteract this dire threat before the Axis could consolidate power in Iraq and the Levant. Broich tells his tale through the eyes of memorable figures like a young American who rejected hiscountry’s isolationism to fight the fascists years before Pearl Harbor; Freya Stark, a famous travel writer turned government agent; Roald Dahl, who flew a Hurricane fighter over Syria before becoming a children’s writer; and fighters from India, Jordan, and Iraq itself. Taking the reader on a tour of cities and landscapes grimly familiar to today’s reader—from a bombed-out Fallujah to Baghdad to Damascus—Blood, Oil, and the Axis is poised to become the definitive chronicle of the Axis’s menacing play for Iraq and the Levant in 1941 and the extraordinary alliance that confronted it.

30 review for Blood, Oil, and the Axis: The Allied Resistance Against a Fascist State in Iraq and the Levant, 1941

  1. 5 out of 5

    munkchip

    This book is more about men and battles than the politics of the greater war; it provides a fascinating portrayal of the time and place, but largely neglects the behind-the-scenes aspects of the war. However, it was a good enough, and documented enough, book of the war on the ground and in the air. The attention to divided populations was the most interesting aspect; when we simplify the history of WWII to Allies and Axis, it is forgotten that Free French fought Vichy French forces, as well as t This book is more about men and battles than the politics of the greater war; it provides a fascinating portrayal of the time and place, but largely neglects the behind-the-scenes aspects of the war. However, it was a good enough, and documented enough, book of the war on the ground and in the air. The attention to divided populations was the most interesting aspect; when we simplify the history of WWII to Allies and Axis, it is forgotten that Free French fought Vichy French forces, as well as the mixed allegiances of non-Europeans. My only real gripe was that the quotes at the start of the chapters were mostly from the 2000s rather than the 1940s, yet the link between these wars, if this was meant to suggest one, was never explored within the text. I received an arc of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zeb Kantrowitz

    Once the Axis had conquered most of Europe including Greece and Crete, and in North Africa was approaching the Suez Canal, Nazi eyes turned towards the oil fields in Iraq and Iran. With control of the Levant, the Nazis could attack the Canal from both sides, and up into Russia to capture the Caspian Sea oil fields. The Vichy French refused to give the British or Free French access to Iraq, and they would fight to keep it. Here it gets very confusing, on the Axis side is the Vichy French, Luftwaff Once the Axis had conquered most of Europe including Greece and Crete, and in North Africa was approaching the Suez Canal, Nazi eyes turned towards the oil fields in Iraq and Iran. With control of the Levant, the Nazis could attack the Canal from both sides, and up into Russia to capture the Caspian Sea oil fields. The Vichy French refused to give the British or Free French access to Iraq, and they would fight to keep it. Here it gets very confusing, on the Axis side is the Vichy French, Luftwaffe planes and ground crews, local tribes that were working as mercenaries for the Germans, members of the Vichy Foreign Legion and the Royal Iraqi Army. On the side side with the British were a small contingent of the British Army (from Transjordan), the Arab Legion, the Free French, anti-Vichy Iraqis, what was call the Levies (who were local conscripts) and Indian Troops. The one important point on the side of the Axis was their air force and tank corps. The British had few planes (many were Bi-Planes), little artillery and no armor. People changed sides constantly or just disappeared into the surrounding areas taking their weapons with them. The ingenuity that the British used, and the use of the Bedouin irregulars, allowed the British to force out the Axis troops and preserve the oil for the Allies. Well writing and documented.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Levandoski

    Interesting blend of the telling of the strategic and personal stories related to the mid-east conflict early WW2. You will have a familiarity with most locations as they are prominent in current activities of history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kershaw

    Interesting because it covers a portion of World War II known to few. Over reliant on secondary sources however so if you've read Slim or Masters, you'll be familiar with much of the story. Interesting because it covers a portion of World War II known to few. Over reliant on secondary sources however so if you've read Slim or Masters, you'll be familiar with much of the story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Randall Harrison

    This a very detailed, informative, interesting story about a thin slice of WW II history that is probably not familiar to many. I knew the general outline of this theater of operations in WW II, mostly through reading about ANZAC and Indian army activities during the war. Broich fills in the details with an easy-to-read narrative that focuses on a number of minor actors in the larger campaign. That style worked well for me, telling the big picture through the details of individual actors and mil This a very detailed, informative, interesting story about a thin slice of WW II history that is probably not familiar to many. I knew the general outline of this theater of operations in WW II, mostly through reading about ANZAC and Indian army activities during the war. Broich fills in the details with an easy-to-read narrative that focuses on a number of minor actors in the larger campaign. That style worked well for me, telling the big picture through the details of individual actors and military units. Others might not appreciate that micro level of detail about individuals and individual units engaged in the campaign. However, he seamlessly weaves their narrative into the larger story of the Brits unprepared and under-supplied units charged with fighting the well-prepared and well-supplied Vichy units in modern Syria and Lebanon. Great read for WWII history buffs. Might not be interesting enough to hold the interest of the casual reader of WWII history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Robinson

    Blood, Oil and the Axis: The Allied Resistance Against a Fascist State in Iraq and the Levant, 1941 by John Broich is a superior account of the pro-Axis coup in Iraq and the subsequent Anglo-Iraqi War in May 1941. While other histories tend to focus on the rebellion solely within Iraq and the British Commonwealth counter-offensive, Broich explains the coup in its wider geopolitical regional context involving Nazi Germany's designs on the Levant, Fascist Italy's colonial ambitions and how the Vic Blood, Oil and the Axis: The Allied Resistance Against a Fascist State in Iraq and the Levant, 1941 by John Broich is a superior account of the pro-Axis coup in Iraq and the subsequent Anglo-Iraqi War in May 1941. While other histories tend to focus on the rebellion solely within Iraq and the British Commonwealth counter-offensive, Broich explains the coup in its wider geopolitical regional context involving Nazi Germany's designs on the Levant, Fascist Italy's colonial ambitions and how the Vichy French authorities in neighboring Syria and Lebanon reacted. The strategic importance of oil is detailed with interesting and insightful parallels made to 21st Century conflict in Iraq. Another factor I appreciated in Broich's analysis is his explanation of how closely contested the Iraqi siege of RAF Base Habbaniya was and, if not for critical decisions made by a few individuals, a viable Axis puppet state may have taken root in Iraq - a great example of Clausewitzian chance.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I enjoyed this book. It was interesting on several levels. It portrayed a part of World War II that most people are probably unfamiliar with. As an American, most of the books that I have read focus on events after 1941. Few, other than books about the Battle of Britain, focus on events prior to America's entry into the war. Even fewer concentrate on the smaller 'backwater' theaters of the war. I was surprised to find that the Iraqi government supported the Nazis. This book provides a refreshing I enjoyed this book. It was interesting on several levels. It portrayed a part of World War II that most people are probably unfamiliar with. As an American, most of the books that I have read focus on events after 1941. Few, other than books about the Battle of Britain, focus on events prior to America's entry into the war. Even fewer concentrate on the smaller 'backwater' theaters of the war. I was surprised to find that the Iraqi government supported the Nazis. This book provides a refreshing British view of the early stages of the war and focuses on the men in the battles as opposed to the grand politics and skullduggery. I recommend this book for anyone that is interested in the early phases of World War II or the 20th century history or the Middle East.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    What a great book. Well researched and written it focuses on British actions in the levant. Fighting the Italians, Vichy French and the Iraqis the a cast of characters shows the power of the British and colonial Armies of WWII.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe Smith

    There are some interesting portions of this book, especially re British military activities in Iraq & the Levant early in WW2. But overall, not a great book. Worth a read if you're a WW2 buff like me. There are some interesting portions of this book, especially re British military activities in Iraq & the Levant early in WW2. But overall, not a great book. Worth a read if you're a WW2 buff like me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katlyn

    It was ok not great but ok

  11. 5 out of 5

    jonathan schwartz

  12. 4 out of 5

    Henry Porter

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grouchy Historian

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ardith

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joan Brown

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Boiko

  17. 4 out of 5

    Donald Gillespie

  18. 4 out of 5

    robert kenney

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Shep

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Frank S. Dean

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jack Taylor

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sean Smart

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Zatolokin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Len Coombs

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bill Baar

  27. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  29. 5 out of 5

    robert pond

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ted Mccormack

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