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Crumbling Empire: The German Defeat in the East, 1944 Hardcover – 30 Jun 2001

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"Mitcham has provided an extremely valuable service to the general reader of military history. The magnitude of the struggle on the Eastern Front was so great that it defies any attempt to condense the action to a meaningful narration for the general reader. Through Mitcham's describing the events as the individual German commanders saw them and reacted to the Soviet attacks, the reader becomes intimately involved. Numerous charts, tables, maps, and appendices are included for those who want more detail, but the narrative flows in a smooth fashion in highly readable and dramatic prose."-Walter Dunn author of Hitler's Nemesis and Kursk

About the Author

SAMUEL W. MITCHAM, JR. is an internationally recognized authority on Nazi Germany and the Second World War and is the author of more than 15 books on the subject, including this title's companion volume, "Retreat to the Reich" (Praeger, 2000), "Why Hitler?" (Praeger, 1996), and "The Desert Fox in Normandy" (Praeger, 1997), as well as several dozen articles. A former army helicopter pilot and company commander, he is a graduate of the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College. He has been a professor of geography and military history since 1984. He lives in rural Louisiana.

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On September 1, 1939, the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) invaded Poland, igniting World War II. Read the first page
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Situation East: Steel meets the Hammer. 9 Sept. 2002
By Sean Marche - Published on
Format: Hardcover
September 7, 2002
Crumbling Empire:
The German Defeat in the East 1944
By: Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.
By its very title, this book is a detailed account of the changing tide of the war in the east.
Written mainly from a German intermediate corps and divisional perspective, the author intersects both graphic tactical details and a strategic explanation into a coherent discussion of the actual battles.
The book also includes biographies and accounts of lesser known but historically valuable leaders and units which served in this area. From the flanked, preempted commands of Field Marshal Ernest Busch to the largely unknown and less than honorable actions of the Kamensky and Direlwanger battalions; in addition to the vitally important role of famous and elite units like the 3rd SS panzer division "Totenkopf" and the 5th SS panzer division "Viking"--assigned missions of futility and impossibility (and almost achieved them).
At appropriate times, the author overlays with a description of the strategic military and diplomatic situation in the region or sector, and its impact on the vital control of natural resources--copper, bauxite, grain and petrol. It is not mentioned, but also needed foreign currency and gold reserves. Aspects in the war in the east that argueably caused the defeat of the German Reich faster than tactical bloodshead on the battlefield.
Supporting material includes substantive photographs and well documented, detailed footnotes and order of battle diagrams. And some front line situation maps which are lacking. In appearance, it looks as if the maps are hand drawn templates that have been photocoped. The information is compressed, cluttered and difficult to discern against the textual material referenced.
Beyond this, the book is well written and detailed towards the issue. The reader can both imagine and understand the inexorable situation facing the Germans, the ferocity and desperation of the battles themselves and an accurate survey of the strategic situation in the east in 1944 during declining months of the great patriotic war.
Sean Marche
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The outline and definition of defeat. 19 Feb. 2004
By Sean Marche - Published on
Format: Hardcover
By 1944 the direction of world war two is moving inexorably against Germany and evidence of this is seen on every military situation map.
Crumbling Empire: The German defeat in the east 1944 is written from a German divisional and corps perspective and follows the last desperate attempts of the German Wehrmacht to wedge the crushing Soviet offensive against Germany and her axis allies, particularly Romania and Hungary. The detailed text includes unit assignments and aggressive tactical warfare, including accounts of the lesser-known atrocities of SS units like the Kaminsky and Direlwanger battalions.
The well-written text includes a survey of the German diplomatic mission developing in the face of exponential military losses. Despite last-ditch espionage and effective rearguard actions, the German military position remains difficult throughout the entire campaign as there is literally no effective response against a vengeful Soviet onslaught that is determined to make the final moves in the great patriotic war.
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Great overview but few Russian sources 2 Aug. 2001
By john a. johnson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mitcham does a far better job on the obvious areas of the Ostfront, and actually covers some issues that carry into 1945. His sources are far more German oriented than Russian, and that always brings balance issues into the picture. He pays little attention to Hitler's dismissal of von Manstein and teh underlying reasons for that strange decision. The real annoyance is that a book about East Front that was published in 2001 used mostly German sources when more and more Soviet era sources are available.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Brief Overview of the War from June 1944 to Feb 1945 4 Sept. 2009
By Dave Schranck - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The rating of 4 stars is conditional. If you're a newcomer or have a casual need this book is a quick read and will give you a basic understanding of the Soviet offensive from June 1944 to Feb 1945 from a German perspective. If you have greater demands the rating falls to 3 stars for as an overview it doesn't drill down tactically sufficiently for your needs and there are gaps in the action. I bought the book with a specific intention in mind. I just recently read "Soviet Blitzkrieg" the fine book by Walter Dunn which has a Russian perspective of Operation Bagration and wanted to compare the two books for similarlities and accuracy but it will be difficult to do for the two books have two different levels of detail. Some comparisons will be made but not to the degree needed. The Dunn book spends nearly 250 pages on just the first phase of Operation Bagration while Mr Mitcham's book also covers the offensive against AGN being pushed back into the Baltics (Courtland Pocket) while AGNU, in the south, is pushed back into Rumania and Hungary in about the same number of pages.
It seems a little strange to end the book in Feb but there is a lot to cover in the last 2 months of the war and it was probably beyond the publisher's page limits or maybe they both wanted to milk another book. If reading a predominately German perspective is disagreeable for being onesided, then let me suggest reading Walter Dunn, David Glantz or John Erickson to see the Russian side.
There are a number of positive attributes of the book that makes it worth 4 stars. Though the tactical coverage is an overview and doesn't have the detail of the Dunn book or especially a Glantz book, the information is creditable and informative. You can learn from it. There are bios of Model and Busch, the two commanders of AGC. I knew both generals were loyal Nazis but didn't realize Busch was such a devoted lapdog of Hitler and would mindlessly follow all orders regardless of the consequences. There are also many other lesser ranks discussed throughout the narrative which was interesting. Many of them you just don't read about in other books and I applaud the author for including them in the story. There were photos of some of these less known German soldiers as well. The author is very succinct in desrcibing the huge superiority of men, tanks and guns the Soviets had against the Germans by this time. The author frequently gives statistics with his narrative.
The author also provides Orders of Battle for each front discussed. I also learned about the Kaminsky Brigade which General Schmidt insituted in the Orel district to help police the civilians. There is also brief coverage of the Warsaw Uprising.
The coverage did have some background info on Rumania and Hungary which for the casual reader means not necessarily having to buy another book on this secondary front.
There were many maps, and though they're simple, did help to explain the narrative. Besides the photos of the German soldiers, there are other photos to peruse.
There is a useful Appendix that displays Rank Equivalents, Unit Strengths, Tank Characterstics and Staff Abbreviations. There is also a useful Index that will help you find any of the many army units that were discussed.

Though I was disappointed in some respects - there were gaps in the action and there wasn't enough tactical detail or analysis, I get the impression the author knows his subject matter and for the right person whose needs are small, this overview would be satisfactory.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Go Elsewhere For This Subject Matter 4 Jun. 2007
By SEAN MCATEER - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a not terribly well written, derivative narrative of the German defense of the East from June 1944 to February 1945. The author introduces not a single original thought or analysis, merely rehashing and citing better written secondary sources. People would be better off seeking out and reading that which he cites rather than this derivation. The author's bias is on display, but not exactly as some other reviewers allege; his lack of citing Erickson, while disturbing, is not all that decisive when you consider that the author is explicitly writing an account of the defense and Erickson wrote an account of the offense. Further, I see no particular 'anti-German' bias as alleged and I am rather quick to pick up on that as my earlier criticisms of Weinberg, attest. This author's biases are in other directions, i.e. identifying Stauffenberg as a Christian hero supporting a place where all can pray rather than the equally accurate identification of him as a murderous traitor ignorant of impending Soviet reality. The author appears to be a right wing leaning man who rather anachronistically imposes his 21st Century weltanschauung upon the realities and mores of 1944 Europe. Further, from a physical point of view, Amazon should be ashamed. The edition sent to me is a digital reprint of decidedly inferior quality, yet sold at full price. They ought to identify when they are selling these digital reprints. On the bright side, the book appeared well-edited and well proof-read, an increasingly rare thing these days. I reccomend Buchner's 'Ostfront' or Carrell's 'Scorched Earth' or Seaton or Ziemke as alternatives...Mitcham cites them often enough!!
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