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The Winds of War  
First edition cover
First edition cover
Author Herman Wouk
Country United States
Language English
Series Winds of War series
Genre(s) War novel
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)
OCLC Number 495738
Dewey Decimal 813/.5/4
LC Classification PZ3.W923 Wi3 PS3545.O98
Preceded by The Lomokome Papers
Followed by War and Remembrance

The Winds of War was best-selling novellist 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 mini-series on the ABC television network.


Plot introduction

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 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.

Plot summary

As the story begins, Navy Commander Victor "Pug" Henry has been appointed naval attaché in Berlin. During the voyage to Europe, Victor befriends a British radio personality, Alistair "Talky" Tudsbury, and his daughter, Pamela. While in Germany, Victor meets a German general, Armin von Roon, who 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.

He also notices 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 commands 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 historical figures like Winston Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

His wife Rhoda, meanwhile, is forced to spend time away from her husband, first in Berlin and then in Washington, and begins a relationship with a government engineer named Palmer Kirby, who later will be involved in the first phase of the Manhattan Project. 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 yearly game between Army and Navy. When his flight is approaching Pearl Harbor they get the radio message that Pearl is under attack and when they approach the naval yard they see the burning ships—including his own.

Pug's three children have their own story lines. His older son, Warren, is a Naval Academy graduate who enters the Navy Flight School in Florida. His daughter, Madeline, gets involved in American radio.

The child most prominent in the story is middle child and younger son Byron, named after 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 American 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 former boyfriend, Leslie Slote, who still loves her and works for the Department of State. Readers later discover that Natalie and Slote are also good friends of Pamela Tudsbury from their time in Paris together.

Byron and Natalie visit her family's native town in Poland, Medzice, for a wedding. During the visit to Medzice, they travel through the town of Oświęcim; Auschwitz by its former Austrian name. When the war begins they travel from Medzice to Warsaw; ahead of the invading German army. In Warsaw they are trapped in the siege and are evacuated along with other neutral citizens.

Now in love with Byron after his unexpected heroism during their escape from Warsaw, Natalie informs Slote that their relationship will not be rekindled (which prior to this she had been contemplating) and accepts Byron's proposal of marriage. She returns briefly to America for Warren's wedding, and while there her father dies of a heart attack upon hearing of the invasion of Norway and Denmark on April 9, 1940.

In 1941, she marries Byron and devotes herself to getting her reluctant uncle out of Europe to escape the coming Holocaust, soon discovering she is pregnant.

All the storylines are left at a cliffhanger as the war begins. Rhoda makes and then retracts a request for a divorce. With the California already out of action, Pug is given command of a cruiser, the USS Northampton. Byron has been called to active duty as a submarine officer; and his brother Warren has graduated from Pensacola, married a congressman's daughter, Janice Lacouture, and is assigned to 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.


Author Herman Wouk was very negative and skeptical about a motion picture adaptation of his beloved and scrupulously researched novel, since he was most displeased with several earlier adaptations of his novels. But in 1983, Winds of War eventually became a successful mini-series on the ABC television network directed by Dan Curtis. Herman Wouk himself wrote the teleplay for the series and had considerable influence on the production itself, and gave detailed instructions on what and how many commercials would be allowed. Wouk also has a cameo as the archbishop of Siena. The music with its famous main theme was composed by Bob Cobert, a composer often associated with Curtis. Nazi concentration camp-survivor Branko Lustig was an associate producer in the miniseries, and also on Schindler's List.

The miniseries follows the book closely and depicts events from March 1939 until the entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941. Just as in the book, in addition to the lives of the Henry and Jastrow families, much time in the miniseries is devoted to the major global events of this period. Adolf Hitler and the German military staff with the fictitious general von Roon as a major character is a prominent subplot of the miniseries. Winds of War also includes segments of documentary footage narrated by William Woodson to explain major events and important characters.

This miniseries was followed by the sequel War and Remembrance in 1988.


Major historical events covered

Major cast of characters

Curtis originally envisioned a man in his late forties, early fifties in this part (which also was the age given for Pug Henry in the novel), but said that he couldn't find anyone with the "suitable authority and World War II-era quality" until they found Mitchum, who was, however, much older (65).
Curtis first thought Ali McGraw, at 45, was too old for the part of the 26 year old Natalie, but changed his mind after meeting McGraw herself and saw how beautiful she was. Associate producer Barbara Steele described her as having the right independence for Natalie. Unfortunately, public opinion was less than favorable. Critics panned her performance as she was deemed far too old to convincingly portray a woman who was supposed to be in her late twenties. She was not rehired for the sequel, War and Remembrance and was replaced by Jane Seymour who was nominated for an Emmy for her performance.
Vincent was considered by Curtis to be a bit troublesome, and partied hard during the production and often came up unprepared, but Curtis said after some rehearsals on the set, he put up a great, natural performance. As with MacGraw, Vincent was also not rehired for the sequel.
Houseman became ill when Curtis went into production with the sequel War and Remembrance, and died shortly before its broadcast began, so he was unable to reprise his role. He was replaced by John Gielgud.
Bellamy had previously played Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello.
This was one of the producers toughest casting choices, until they finally found Tennant. Curtis said after he saw her physical suitability for the role "God, let her be able to act!"


According to the DVD-featurette "From Novel to Television" The Winds of War became a smashing television success, and a US national television event like never seen before.


The Winds of War was released on DVD by Paramount on 25 May 2004. It is also available as Region 2.

Disc 1 Part 1 The Winds Rise
Disc 2 Part 2 The Storm Breaks
Disc 3 Part 3 Cataclysm
Part 4 Defiance
Disc 4 Part 5 Of Love and War
Bonus Materials
Disc 5 Part 6 Changing of the Guard
Disc 6 Part 7 Into the Maelstrom

See also


  • DVD-featurettes on "The Winds of War"-DVD
  • Morse, Barry - Remember With Advantages (2006), ISBN 0-7864-2771-X

External links


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