Max Hasting's Armageddon (1944-45)

Discussion in 'Films, Music and All Things Artsy' started by MrPVRd, Jan 3, 2005.

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  1. Has anyone read it yet? I am up to the end of the Arnhem chapter.

    Max Hastings is a well-known fan of the Wehrmacht and this book is therefore slightly biased; however it is well worth reading for his blistering criticism of UK generalship in the European theatre. Montgomery is recognised as one of a very few half-decent UK generals (with the emphasis on the half) along with two of his corps commanders, but he gets a kicking over his inability to fight anything other than set-piece battles and for his slowness, particularly in failing to grasp the importance of the approaches to Antwerp. The Yanks come out slightly better, but not much. Eisenhower is criticised for his lack of strategic insight but receives warm praise for his political gifts as supreme commander. One criticism is of UK and US staff training, which does not deal with the command of very large armies. The Germans and Russians are praised as commanders, their character defects aside. One possible conclusion that the book does not draw (at this stage anyway) is that perhaps the UK and US were handicapped in the Great War mindset of their generals, whereas the Germans and Russians had a new generation of generals, courtesy of disarmament and purges of the officer corps.

    Market Garden gets a complete (and perhaps overdue) slating at all levels from Eisenhower downwards as a foolish concept that was incompetently executed (3 drops rather than 2 drops someway distant from the objectives with no serious offensive air support - as opposed to Pegasus Bridge, which worked extremely well) and the criticism of General Browning is particularly vicious, exemplified in his "bridge too far" question - seen as demonstrating that he had no grasp of the fundamental aim of the operation. The Germans are highly praised for their ad-hoc and highly effective response to the unexpected attack, although their opponents were inadequatley armed paratroopers. The XXX Corps attack along a single road also gets the predictable kicking.

    An excellent book so far, from someone who does not sit on the fence! Perhaps it would have been worth placing under TCHs and PODs Christmas trees in light of our current fascination with light forces.
  2. I've previously read his Overlord book, found it a good intro to the Normandy campaign but I didn't agree with his Monty bashing.

    Monty seems to have a 'sound' tactical mind but couldn't control the media (especially Yank media). His plan worked in Normandy and nearly worked at Arnhem
  3. If it had worked it would of been the greatest victory ever, but is better known otherwise. Sometimes schitt happens.

    p.s sounds like a good book though. Ive read Maxs military anecdotes which gives me a bit of a laugh.
  4. I have nearly finished it and it is without doubt one of the best military histories I have read. Although he does admire the Wermacht's ability to fight well with ad hoc formations he is still pretty uncompromising about there weaknesses. Hastings is generous in both praise and criticism of all the protagonists, but Market Garden was a mistake and having read the chapter on the crossing of the Rhine this was not the best obstacle crossing ever attempted.

    As for Monty, the man was undoubtedly a fine military mind but had no idea about diplomacy. His assersion that the Brits had rescued the US during the Battle for the Bulge was completely crass and then insisting that only the UK sector should be the single thrust was niave as well as insulting. The British had been bled dry by the Normandy battles and did not have the troops (or if you believe Hastings the stomach) to carry it off.

    The book is an excellent study of the reasons for Germany's continued resistance in late 44-45 despite never standing a chance of winning. Highly recommended.