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A REAPPRAISAL OF 'BLITZKRIEG 1940'

Blitzkrieg: Myth, Reality, and Hitler’s Lightning War: France 1940 - Lloyd Clark

"BLITZKRIEG - Myth, Reality, and Hitler's Lightning War: France 1940" provides the reader with a fairly comprehensive account of the German invasion of the Benelux countries and France during May and June 1940. The author sets out to show that the German victory in Western Europe was by no means certain. Indeed, Hitler had plans to invade Western Europe as early as November 1939. But postponements were made on several occasions owing to the weather. There was also an occasion in which a Luftwaffe courier plane carrying the invasion plans veered off course and crashed in Belgium in January 1940. The German officer who had the plans, tried to burn them but was thwarted by the Belgians who soon arrived on the scene. This led the Allies to believe that the Germans would attack them in the same way as had happened in 1914. For their part, the German General Staff had their fears of repeating the mistakes of 1914. Thus, the plans for invasion were altered. 

The French entered the war in a state of wearied resignation with little enthusiasm for offensive operations. Their political and military leadership were prepared for a war of attrition. They had expectations of the Germans attacking them, Luxembourg, and Belgium in much the same way as they did in August 1914. To that end, their plan was to commit their best units - along with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) - to Central Belgium in response to a German attack there. But, as the author points out, the French top commander Maurice Gamelin failed to take into account the possibility of the Germans making a bold thrust through the Ardennes Forest with their tanks (the Ardennes was regarded by the French as impassable to tanks and thus was lightly defended on the premise that the Germans would never make a major attack there). So, when the Germans sent their tanks, motorized units, and infantry through the Ardennes and into the key town of Sedan, Gamelin treated the German thrust as a diversion, requiring little response. But the Germans were wary of attritional warfare, knowing that their chances for success rested on exploiting any breakthrough with speed, dash, and savage attacks against the French designed to shock them both militarily and psychologically. Consequently, the Germans were able to reach the English Channel 10 days after the invasion began and within the following fortnight to compel the BEF to evacuate from the ports of Boulogne and Dunkirk. 

"BLITZKRIEG" contains pages of maps showing the development of the German offensives in the West (codenamed 'Fall Gelb' and 'Fall Rot') and several photos, which should appeal to any student of military history, as well as the general reader. 

Again from reading this book, I learned how much success or defeat in a military campaign encompasses many factors - human, economic, political, and psychological - that, taken together, contribute to the triumph of the conquering nation (Nazi Germany) and the demoralization and defeat of the opposing nation (France).