The German Generals Talk by B.H. Liddell Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Very rarely do you have a book that does a good job interviewing the losers in the war. And just as rare do you have the interviewees be so open and candid about themselves and their bosses. Hart, who is probably one of the gold standards of British military historians, was able to gain unprecedented access. What’s more, Hart was just as open in his mind talking to them, letting the interviewees eventually shape his conclusions in the end.
It’s hard with other wars; the Chinese and North Koreans in the Korean War are either dead or behind the Bamboo Curtain and probably are not good students of modern military history and waging wars. Sure, there was Sun Tzu whose principles are still studied today, but so much needs to be updated. In Vietnam, the Viet Cong and NVA, but they too aren’t talking and no one seems that interested to talk to them. Same with Desert Storm in 1990s. POW interviews were conducted privately and were not published.
Therefore, this book is so unique, especially all the older generals had fought in World War 1 and World War 2. From an operational craft, they had learned so much – what to do, what not to do, what’s new, etc. And yet they still lost or still had the typical inertia that can beset the military mind. You have Rommel and Thoma, Guderian, Student, and Manteuffel, the “next gen”, the upstarts, who won battles because they refuse to be bound by the “old” way of doing things.
And yet, Germany still lost. Hart’s conclusion from a strategic military TRADOC viewpoint was that the old and the new generations and ideas could not work together. They could not stand up to Hitler who was more right than wrong at times. In short, Hart believes part of the reason for defeat was due to narrow mindedness. Notice, Hart didn’t mention the moral bankruptcy of Nazi Germany as the cause for defeat. Hart says that is left for the philosophers.