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The German Wars: A Concise History, 1859-1945by Michael A. Palmer
Synopses & Reviews
What was it about the German Way of War that has resulted in a near universal acceptance of that nation’s battlefield excellence? How did a nation recognized for its military supremacy end up on the losing side of two world wars? Author Michael Palmer offers his two-part thesis:“First, the Germans, unlike the Americans, failed to mature strategically as their nation grew and became more powerful. Second, the Germans, along with virtually everyone else, misinterpreted the lessons of their own successes against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870) and concluded that they had to and could successfully wage short, decisive wars in the age of industrial warfare. Reality caught up with them during the years of 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945, and the world, the Germans included, paid a horribly steep price for that mistake.” Palmer describes the major battles and events of every major German war during this period, offering insight and analysis to help the reader sort out the causes and effects of each war, including:
The Franco-Prussian War: “France, an empire, became a republic. The Prussian king became the emperor of a new national German empire. The destruction of French power allowed the Italians to complete the unification of their country.”
World War I: “When peace finally came, the Versailles treaty restricted the Weimar Republic, which had replaced the kaiser’s Second Reich, to an army of 100,000 men, a force easily outnumbered by the Poles. They even had to dismantle their infamous general staff.”
Book News Annotation:
Palmer, chair of the history department at East Carolina University, reviews the history of German warfare, from the Wars of Italian and German Unification through the end of WWII, asking why Germany lost two world wars despite its military superiority. The author claims that Germany misinterpreted its victories over various countries in the mid-19th century, and therefore continued to believe quick and decisive victories were possible in the age of industrialized warfare. The book describes the causes, effects, major battles, and events of every major German war during the period, and includes numerous boxes on war at sea and in the air, strategic bombing, and naval developments during the interwar period. Background is also given on political, social, and economic developments. B&w historical photos are included. Zenith Press is an imprint of Quayside Publishing. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The German Wars: A Concise History, 1859-1945 outlines the history of European warfare from the Wars of German Unification to the end of the World War II. The title aside, the book is not be another history of the German military; it takes a much broader approach looking at political, social, economic, and military developments across Europe, and the United States during the period. The “German War” part of the title is there because Germany plays the central part in the story. But the key element threading its way through this volume is the Industrial Revolution.
In the decades leading up to World War II, the world was in awe of the Prussian-German military, seeking to emulate what esteemed German military history scholar Robert M. Citino has termed “the German Way of War.” Military professionals around the globe became fluent in the tactical jargon: bewegungskrieg, schwerpunckt, auftragstaktik, fingerspitzengefuhl, and of course, blitzkrieg. At the same time, German warfare would become closely associated with the bloodiest and cruelest era in the history of mankind. The German Wars: A Concise History, 1859–1945 outlines the history of European warfare from the Wars of German Unification to the end of World War II. Author Michael A. Palmer looks at political, social, economic, and military developments across Europe and the United States during this crucial period in world history.
The German wars would have a lasting impact in the modern age. As Palmer writes, these wars "brought to an end and revealed the shortcomings of the classical era of modern Western military thought. But the regressive slide toward premodern and primitive warfare, in combination with the fruits of the industrial and scientific revolutions, places the world on the edge of an abyss."
About the Author
Michael A. Palmer, Ph.D., is chair of the history department at East Carolina University. Formerly he worked at the Naval Historical Center and was a field historian during the Persian Gulf War. During Operation Desert Shield he worked for the Chief of Naval Operations’ (OPNAV) Strategic Concepts Group in the Pentagon. He is an award-winning author of ten books.
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