Max Hastings Armaggeddon

#1
I have just finished reading Max Hastings book Armageddon. It was a brilliant read but highlighted a number of sever failings within the Western Allies capabilities during the last year of WW2. He is highly critical of the abilities of the troops on the ground and even more so of the Allied high command. Montgomery come in for particular criticism. I was wondering if any one else has read the book and what there thoughts are
 
#2
I thought it was a good book and agree he is highly critical of just about everything especially the combat ability of the allied troops. He also seemed very critical of Eisenhowers broad front policy and seemed to agree with Montgomerys narrow front ideas. On the whole a very good read if just because it strays from the standard "allies were the best because they fighting for good" ideas
RH
 
#4
The time may be approaching for a re-evaluation of the performance of the British Army in WW2, and the start of the campaign in Normandy is a good example of some pretty shoddy performance at all levels. During the first few months in Normandy the ability of the Army to fight the combined arms battle falls woefully short of the standards set in 1918, for instance. I'm not convinced that Hastings is the man to do this however, but his books are usually worth a read whether you agree with everything he says or not.

Indeed, were I to win the lottery tomorrow and retire I'd go and study history and base my thesis on a comparison of the operational art displayed by the army in WW1 and WW2.
 
#5
Read most of his books and am just finishing Armageddon; not bad books, but sometimes the account feels slanted towards his personal viewpoint. I get the impression that the majority of his interviewees were German, and that he has become very matey with some of them. Takes the conventional line on Monty-bashing and Harris-bashing, which I personally have a more revisionist opinion, but there you go.
 
#6
I thought it was rather good, especially considering its scope. Idefinitely preferred it to Beevor's Berlin, and on a par with stalingrad. I did like the quote he got from British infanteer that went something along the lines of 'my job was to protect my FOO as he moved us from Normandy to the Baltic' or words to that effect. Quo Fas Est........
 
#7
Haven't read the book, but a scrap of paper I found in my anorak says that certain regiments have Armegedon as a battle honour.

Well, Meggido actually, but it's the same thing (place).
 
#8
I have not read the book. However, if anyone is interested in the way it should have happened in NW Europe at least from the perspective of operational art you should read 'Slim, Master of War' by Robert Lyman. (ISBN 1-84119-811-0.)
 
#9
Read it, very well written and he does make a fair point to a degree. The German armies were the most consistently excellant fighting forces of the war beyond question and (slim aside) the best generals were German (Manstein, Runstedt, Heinricci, Guderian, Rommel, Kesselring and Manteuffel.) Not discrediting the performance of the Allies, i'm just saying that Hastings has a point.

P.s. do dissagree with him on Harris though.
 
#10
'Germans consisitently the best fighting soldiers'? They lost, in fact they were hammered. I don't subscribe to this 'man for man...' argument. Sorry, you don't start that that you can't finish. Germany was not good enough to finish what it started. As for the German Generals, they lost too. Again, the man for man...' argument wrt to the Generals doesn't wash. Having read the book, Monty comes in for a little criticism for being too cautious and insisting on overwhelming air and artillery preperation before his deliberate operations. These are exactly the same characteristics that Zhukov is praised for. Yes, the Wehrmacht, Waffen SS, Lutwaffe and Kriegsmarine were pretty good, but they weren't good enough when it mattered.
 
#11
It is an interesting read. As I recall, it does have the Max Hitler Hastings pro German Pro US slant. My biggest dissapointment is that I didn;t think I learned much that was new. It was just the max Hastings Spin on the last nine months of the war. So I am glad I just borrowed it from the library and didn't pay for it or feel the urge to have it as a permenant part of my library. ;)



He really isnlt impressed with the British Army in 1944-45.

I think he over does the contrast between fanatical Germans and Brits and Americans avioding casualties at all costs. More detailed accounts of British actions ion the last month of the War show quite high British casualties in the last few weeks. That isn't consistent with Hasting's contention.

He also over does the contrast between the behaviour of the Soviets and the Western Allies. For e.g we might have treated the Germans masinly as human beings, but we had no qualms about exterminating the japanese as little better than insects.

This and all the other books produced by the popular military historians (neilands etc) to coincide wiuth the 60th anniversary haven't covered the missing campaigns. E.g. neither bothered to cover the fighting in autumn 1944 by the British and US operations in the Peel marshes in the Netherlands.

Its also worth reading "With Our Backs to Berlin" by Tony LeTissier, This is a series of stories from the Gewrman side about the fighting after the Seelow heights.

Also try Christopher Duffy's book Red Storm on the Reich: Soviet March on Germany, 1945

and "No triumphant procession : the forgotten battles of April 1945. By:, John Russell; Roderick De Normann. about the British army in the last three weeks of the War.
 
#12
To be fair to Hastings, he provides a lot of primary evidence of small-unit comparison between the Allied and German armies. The impressive ability of the Wehrmacht to fight defensively with limited resources reads convincingly to me.

The description of the US Army as a lumbering, fire support-obsessed leviathan riven by politics but ultimately unstoppable reminds me of the same organisation in Iraq on Sky / BBC in 2003/4.
 
#13
I thought it a bl**dy good read, Especially on the Rivalry’s between the Allied commanders with both Patton and Montgomery straining on the leash to be allowed to push on to Berlin and Glory. Whilst Eisenhower Knowing of the planed partition of Germany and that even if we got there we would have to pull back to the Elbe decided to let the Russian s pay the price of taking the city. I wonder how many of us would have never known our Grandfathers if things had been different.
 
#14
I found it a pretty good read. One quote sticks in my mind when referring to the crop of awards presented after Arnhem:

'Boy Browning received what must be the least deserved knighthood of any British general.'

I also found the section on the vast amount of deserters (A Division's worth) roaming around Europe fascinating including the amazing statistic of how many hundreds of jeeps were stolen and in circulation throughout the black market.
 
#15
I read Armageddon just prior to going on a battlefield tour of OP VERITABLE last year (clearance up to west bank of Rhine early 45), and spoke to several veterans who contributed to Hastings book. From what I gathered, he did a very good job of summing up the low level side of things. As has been said already, Hastings has a fairly obvious bias towards the Germans' fighting abilities but it seems to be well founded; it did take half the world six years to beat them, after all. I was surprised at the slant of the high level stuff, he didn't seem to rate Monty(granted the man was an egotistical shit, but he was the best battlefield General that the allies had in Europe), and agreed with Ike's decision to give the Russkis Berlin. I wasn't convinced by his arguments, but the book is a good and thought prvoking read.
 
#16
Pteranadon said:
It is an interesting read. As I recall, it does have the Max Hitler Hastings pro German Pro US slant. My biggest dissapointment is that I didn;t think I learned much that was new. It was just the max Hastings Spin on the last nine months of the war. So I am glad I just borrowed it from the library and didn't pay for it or feel the urge to have it as a permenant part of my library. ;)



He really isnlt impressed with the British Army in 1944-45.

I think he over does the contrast between fanatical Germans and Brits and Americans avioding casualties at all costs. More detailed accounts of British actions ion the last month of the War show quite high British casualties in the last few weeks. That isn't consistent with Hasting's contention.

He also over does the contrast between the behaviour of the Soviets and the Western Allies. For e.g we might have treated the Germans masinly as human beings, but we had no qualms about exterminating the japanese as little better than insects.
This and all the other books produced by the popular military historians (neilands etc) to coincide wiuth the 60th anniversary haven't covered the missing campaigns. E.g. neither bothered to cover the fighting in autumn 1944 by the British and US operations in the Peel marshes in the Netherlands.

Its also worth reading "With Our Backs to Berlin" by Tony LeTissier, This is a series of stories from the Gewrman side about the fighting after the Seelow heights.

Also try Christopher Duffy's book Red Storm on the Reich: Soviet March on Germany, 1945

and "No triumphant procession : the forgotten battles of April 1945. By:, John Russell; Roderick De Normann. about the British army in the last three weeks of the War.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
 
#17
Hastings work tend to exclude the bigger picture. The British Infantry failed to learn lessons as quickly as the British, currently re-reading one of Chester Wilmots works and to me he sounds a lot closer to the mark. The Americans started of poorer but by COBRA they'd been retrained (in bocage tactics plus the rhino) and smashed through the German defences, we should have done the same.

Saying that I still believe Monties plan worked (pressure on the Brits/Canadians enabling an American breakout)
 
#18
Themanwho said:
Pteranadon said:
He also over does the contrast between the behaviour of the Soviets and the Western Allies. For e.g we might have treated the Germans masinly as human beings, but we had no qualms about exterminating the japanese as little better than insects. .

You say that like it's a bad thing.
That isnl;t my p;pint, but my undertsanding of Hastings' He is the one claiming the moral high ground for the Western Allies.
 
#19
polar said:
Hastings work tend to exclude the bigger picture. The British Infantry failed to learn lessons as quickly as the British, currently re-reading one of Chester Wilmots works and to me he sounds a lot closer to the mark. The Americans started of poorer but by COBRA they'd been retrained (in bocage tactics plus the rhino) and smashed through the German defences, we should have done the same.

Saying that I still believe Monties plan worked (pressure on the Brits/Canadians enabling an American breakout)
Hmm

Its an interesting issue (I assume you are commenting on the comparative adaptability of the US infantry) . I am not sure how true this really is or whether it isnlt a matter of the predudice of the writer.

There is a simple explanation why the British didn't develop bocage tactics including bocage cutters. Most of the British fighting wasn't strictly in the bocage country. The area around caen was much more open and the threat there was heavily fortified villages bristling with 88mm guns that could kill armour at 2k. Cutting through the bocage was less of a tactical problem. The British response was to used heavy bom,bers for CAS and and invent the APCs to cross the open ground at night, by passign nests of resistance. I think thats every bit as tactically innovative as the Cullen plough. ;)



Some British units adapted new tactics. e.g. the Guards and their squadron company groups. Some Britihs units had serious morale problems in Normandy and later. Several observers pointed out the lack of tactical competence and initative of British infantry in Normandy. There is the NZ observer heavily quoted by Hastings and Carlo D'etse. The Germans also commented how the Brits seemed to make little use of dead ground.

But I am not convinced that the average american unit was much better. Some US units were adaptable and lerarned during combat. Some didnlt. Some US formations had a huige turn over of senior officers. (90th infantry I think were a hard luck unit. ) SLA marshal made his name pointing out the deficency of US infantry skill and participation. The Germans comment on the extreme caution of US advances and an over reliance on firepower.

The real issue is how the Germans seemed to maintain initiatve and out perform both. The staggering performance is not that of the elite or fanatical nazis but of the resistance shown by germans in pretty average formations. E.g. the 352nd infantry Division that is written up as "battleharded veterans" at Omaha beach is nothing of the sort. In Jan 1944 it was formed from a cadre of C 4000 survivors mostly remfs - and so many under aged teenagers that the Divisional commander tries to get an extra milk ration for these adolescents.

This is the point that Hastings makes in Armageddon. There was something about the totalitarian German and Soviet armies that made its soldiers fight harder and longer than for the Western Dem,ocracies. Maybe that soemthing was as simple as faith in the Furher and knoledge that faltering could be fatal.... Maybe its more complicated.
 
#20
Russia and Germany (and to a lesser extent Japan) had had the opportunity to spend 15 years or so indoctrinating the children that grew up to be the soldiers of 1939-45, and then their systems made full use of terror to enforce discipline. The democratic armies had neither of these battlefield advantages. The Germans in 1945 also happen to have a portfolio of outstanding weapons that were ideally suited for defence. Hastings is a bit inconsistent - recognising pointing out the above factors early on in his book, but then endlessly lauding the Germans for their determined resistence and denegrating the performance of allied soldiers.
 

Similar threads

New Posts

Top