History Military Nonfiction Here, for the first time in English, is an illuminating new German perspective on the decisive Blitzkrieg campaign of In a little over a month, Germany decisively defeated the Allies in battle, a task that had not been achieved in four years of brutal fighting during World War I. First published in as the official German history of the campaign in the west, the book goes beyond standard explanations to show that German victory was not inevitable and French defeat was not preordained. Contrary to the usual accounts of the campaign, Frieser illustrates that the military systems of both Germany and France were solid and that their campaign planning was sound. Frieser shows why on the eve of the campaign the British and French leaders had good cause to be confident and why many German generals were understandably concerned that disaster was looming for them.
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Oct 31, Numidica rated it really liked it This is a good book if you are interested in a very detailed description of the Battle of France, Having been an Army officer, and served in an armored cavalry unit, I have always wondered how the Germans pulled this off - how did they defeat the French Army, which was equivalent in size, had more artillery and roughly equal numbers of tanks, in just six weeks?
It is interesting to hear the answer from a German military historian, because it is rather different than what one hears from This is a good book if you are interested in a very detailed description of the Battle of France, It is interesting to hear the answer from a German military historian, because it is rather different than what one hears from British or American historians. Let me first get my quibbles out of the way.
The Dewoitine which was a rough match for the , had not yet been delivered to the French Air Force in numbers, and no units equipped with the Dewoitine were operational. Also, Churchill held back the greater part of RAF from supporting the French from French bases, and significantly, he held back the Spitfires, which were a match for the ME While much of what he says is true, like citing the amount of armor of size of cannons on tanks, I think he somewhat overstates the case to make the Germans look even more impressive.
But this is, as I said at the outset, a quibble, not a major flaw in the book. The other small complaint I have is that the book is almost too detailed. But this is easily overcome by skimming the sections that deal with, for example, The Raid on Mouzaive, Or the Niwi Airlanding, and this fault is largely obviated by the placement of summaries at the end of most major sections of the book.
And some of the detailed sections are interesting in how they reveal tactics and mindset of the German forces. Among the Allies, the generals were simply too old for the jobs they had, and all of their thinking was circa They could not deal with the incredibly fast pace of German panzer operations.
Allied generals simply did not do this - the model was the headquarters well to the rear as in WW1. The Allies were still using WW1 tactics where tanks could not advance faster than the infantry.
The German approach to war was active, the Allied approach was passive defense. One interesting anecdote I did not know was that Hitler was shocked when the UK and France declared war on him after his invasion of Poland.
He sat with von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister, looking paralyzed with fear, and kept asking Ribbentrop, in an accusatory tone, "What now? The Luftwaffe provided a "rolling barrage", bombing French positions across the river to substitute for the artillery that the Germans lacked.
The author points out that this was made possible by the bitter defense put up by the 80, French troops who stayed behind and ultimately became prisoner. And by the way, his feeling was that the order was given, not because of any sentimental feelings by Hitler about the Brits, but because he was a having another attack of nerves, and b arguing with his generals. So incompetence was the primary factor, not kindness. Ultimately the French soldiers were failed by their leaders.
Individual French units fought bravely, and French tankers were particularly feared by the Germans, but their actions were not coordinated by the generals quickly enough, in such a way as to stop the Germans, which at many points would have been entirely possible.
Only de Gaulle, commanding a tank division, made a really successful attack against the German flank after the breakout, but by then it was too little too late.
Britain would have fallen like Poland and France. Instead, 40 German divisions were pinned down for years in the west, waiting for the Allies to attack cross channel, and those divisions could have been used in Russia in As close as the Germans came to taking Moscow, it is hard to believe that an additional 40 divisions would not have turned the tide there.
The second point is that the German success in was like a drug to Hitler; this tactical success, largely the result of an unlikely smaller tactical success at Sedan, led Hitler to believe his Armies were invincible. He failed to grasp that strategically he had failed by not knocking Britain out of the war, and that ultimately, the industrial economies of the US and USSR would crank out enough weapons to crush him. If you read US history, it is hard to believe that the US would have tried to help a UK that had lost its Army, just as they did not try to help France.
So in that scenario, the US would never have come into the war against Germany. But, of course, this is all speculation. Thank God Hitler made the mistakes he did.
The Blitzkrieg Legend