The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West
Karl-Heinz Frieser

I was recommended this book by a German professor and am quite happy to say that I was not let down. This book goes far to show that Blitzkrieg, how it was later known to the world, was not in fact used in France. But, on the contrary, when the German General Staff was looking toward the campaign they made plans for a drawn out campaign and not for the quick defeat the French would inevitably suffer. Most of the general officers of the German High Command (both OKH and OKW) didn't believe that the Germans would be successful, and their hopes plummeted even further when presented with Manstein's plans. The original planning for France was more or less the same plan that was used in 1914, to a degree I would think this shows that German planners were not the geniuses and clairvoyant strategists that many think they were. Their success was not their ingenious planning but rather Hitler's want for a different idea from the one that bogged the Germans down in the First World War.

The eventual planning for the campaign encompassed the idea that it was going to be a slogging match and a long one at that, reserves of men and materials were planned well in advance. In the end everyone from Hitler to Guderian were surprised by the enormous success that the Wehrmacht began to enjoy from day one. The French were as surprised during the German invasion as the Soviets would later be when the Germans attacked them in June of 1941.
That is actually one aspect that I found very interesting when comparing this campaign to Barbarossa. First off both the French and Soviets had few radios amongst their tanks which led to horrible losses when communication problems arose. Contradictory orders offset some of the offensive attacks that the French wanted to throw against the Germans, the same could be seen in 1941 with the Red Army. General communication problems developed between army groups, armies, and their subordinates, again reminiscent of the Eastern Front.

The list goes on and on, it was remarkable to see that the French who in fact declared war on Germany were caught by surprise and reacted practically the same way as the Soviets did in 1941. Commanders were not sure of the intelligence about the Germans, panic was caused by phantom tank sightings which made entire divisions retreat and open up gaps in the midst of the French lines.

The author also makes a great assessment in the fact that after Hitler beat France which had support from the British and others he thought that the Soviets would be no problem, if in WWI the Russians were the ones that were defeated and the French the ones who held out, who knew that WWII would be the exact opposite? Another interesting discussion is who was responsible for the 'halt' order before Dunkirk. The author goes through all the myths and legends that have developed from the Dunkirk debacle and debunks most of them through easily accessible evidence, in the end it becomes obvious that it was not Hitler who was responsible and the fault actually lay with a certain General. The competition and jealousies would show themselves again during the next great German campaign in the USSR as it did during the campaign in France.

In the end reading this book will give the reader an understanding of how Blitzkrieg was created and 'perfected', as best it could be, with the campaign in France. What mistakes the French made that led to continued German success, and in reality the Germans had tremendous luck with their actions and the French were horribly unlucky in many of their plans, counter-attacks, maneuvers, etc. In the end an excellent read and a great addition to any library on WWII.

(Reviewed by Kunikov)

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