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On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen: two fleets of dreadnoughts – gigantic 'castles of steel' able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away – were ready to test their terrible power against each other.
They skirmished across the globe before Germany, suffocated by an implacable naval blockade, decided to definitively strike against the British ring of steel. The result was Jutland, a titanic clash of fifty-eight dreadnoughts, each holding of a thousand men. When the German High Seas Fleet retreated, the Kaiser unleashed unrestricted U-boat warfare, which, in its indiscriminate violence, brought a reluctant America into the war: the German effort to "seize the trident" led to the fall of the German empire.
Massie's portrayals of Winston Churchill, the British admirals Fisher, Jellicoe, and Beatty, and the Germans Scheer, Hipper, and Tirpitz are stunning in their veracity and artistry.