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Erich Von Manstein (Command) Paperback – 10 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (10 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846034655
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846034657
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 0.6 x 25 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 498,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This is a solid account and an excellent basis for further research. --Miniature Wargames

It is highly recommended and I look forward to further titles in this promising series --Military Modelcraft International

About the Author

Robert Forczyk has a PhD in International Relations and National Security from the University of Maryland and a strong background in European and Asian military history. He retired as a lieutenant-colonel from the US Army Reserves having served 18 years as an armour officer in the US 2nd and 4th infantry divisions and as an intelligence officer in the 29th Infantry Division (Light). Dr Forczyk is currently a consultant in the Washington, DC, area.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Barter on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
This short volume by Robert Forczyk will be useful for those who, like me, haven't read Manstein's memoirs or any previous biography on the man but wish to get the low-down on his military career. However, this book also goes a way to portraying Manstein in a more critical light than before and as such also offers something to appeal to readers who may already be acquainted with this historical figure.

The information is concise but engaging and there is a handful of very nice maps, although I did find myself using a couple of maps from other Osprey volumes (for example, maps of the Crimean campaign). Scattered throughout are lots of good photographs of Manstein during his career or pertaining to operations he was involved in and the colour plates, by Adam Hook, are also great.

Once again I believe Mr. Forczyk has done a commendable job within the space available to him. Having already written about Manstein's capture of Sevastopol in more detail I can hope the author may write a Campaign volume on Kharkov or the Korsun Pocket, which are covered briefly in this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By terrier on 1 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A balanced account of Von Manstein - his defeats as well as his victories. Very useful maps.Would recommend to all serious students of modern warfare.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By amazon customer on 25 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback
The perfect companion for all military history enthusiasts is: THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

In this book as part of Osprey's Command series, author Robert Forczyk takes look at the life of Eric von Manstein from his early years through his WWI experiences and the events of WWII that shaped his career. It also looks into how von Manstein fared post war until his death in 1973. Throughout the book are period photos and superb artwork that includes maps and charts of the campaigns in which he was involved.

In all, it is a fascinating look at one of Germany's more capable yet somewhat misunderstood commanders.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
A concise and penetrating short biography 31 May 2010
By Jonathan Lupton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Was Erich von Manstein a military genius, or an astute careerist? While the answer lies closer to the former, the alternate view gets an insightful hearing in this title. Concise and highly readable, this biography peers acutely into the complex workings of several Eastern front campaigns. Personal details are kept to a minimum, with a primary focus on Manstein's World War II career.

Guderian may have said it best, when he called Manstein "our finest operational brain," yet pointed out the man was more of a staff officer than battlefield commander. Despite his adeptness at playing "military chess," Manstein was sometimes outwitted by his most frequent Soviet opponent, Nikolai Vatutin.

Manstein's finest hour came with the "backhand blow" in February 1943, when he convinced Vatutin of the Germans' exaggerated weakness, while gathering reserves for a devastating counterattack. Author Robert Forczyk's account of this fascinating action is the most lucid I have yet read. With careful mapping and concise language, this account gets to the heart of how Manstein sprang from the ropes to render an unexpected knockout. Hitler's no-retreat intransigence may have helped, by feeding Soviet overconfidence.

After the war, with the help of well-written memoirs, Manstein cultivated his "brilliant strategist" image, but there was a darker side. Manstein was enmeshed in Holocaust atrocities. Manstein was no "fighting general," preferring the comfort and safety of his railway car to Russian front rigors and dangers. He was willing to sacrifice subordinates' careers, even when trying to save their commands from certain destruction, as with General von Sponeck in Crimea during late December, 1942. Any reader with experience of the career world will recognize in Manstein the familiar qualities - tightly-focused ambition, remorseless and artful manipulation of others, and obsessive image-cultivation - which infect many highly-placed figures in human institutions.

Forczyk uses a workable combination of annotated maps and clear prose to penetrate the military complexities. Like most of the Osprey titles, this book is more of an introduction and survey than an in-depth account. It is well-illustrated with photos, custom paintings, and maps. Forczyk's customary skill at research and writing makes this title a worthwhile read for amateurs and professionals alike.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Interesting but Flawed 22 Jan. 2011
By JWA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This short work is engaging and well-written, but I found some aspects of it objectionable. I agree with the accolades for Forczyk's concise descriptions of the key engagements... they are easy to understand and well-paced throughout. However, despite its many strong qualities, I think the book is seriously flawed because it is written argumentatively in a format that demands a more objective approach.

Forczyk's essential claim is that Manstein was a very good, but not great general, who in addition was badly lacking in character. The author details Manstein's great successes, namely a prime role in planning the invasion of France, his victories in the Crimea, and retaking Kharkov. Exceedingly few generals ever achieve even one victory on par with these, yet ultimately Forczyk does not seem too impressed. He sees Manstein as an intelligent disciple of standard German doctrine, but not clearly superior to less-heralded compatriots or his "nemesis," Soviet Gen. Vatutin. Forczyk never explicitly makes the argument, but logically the reader must assume that numerous German generals would have achieved comparable or superior results if they had been in identical situations.

I am partially sympathetic to this context-based critique of Manstein, even though it is probably too complex a case to make properly in the requisite number of pages. Forczyk however makes a number of other damning criticisms, many of which have little or no relation to Manstein's ability as a general or even his role in the war. For instance, he blasts Manstein's arrogance, even though virtually all successful generals are arrogant. Manstein is criticized for deflecting blame for his defeats though again, this is quite common among successful generals. Manstein's book "Lost Victories" is described as "self-serving," even though Manstein freely admitted the book represented his own perspective on events.

A key theme throughout the work is that Manstein lacked "moral courage." Often, however, important contextual details are omitted by the author. For instance, he accuses Manstein of persecuting Gen. Sponeck (42 Corps) for disobedience in saving a division from encirclement on the Kerch Peninsula. However, Manstein refused his requests because he thought a withdrawal could endanger the entire army, and therefore it was a rightly a decision for the army commander to make (even if it put 46 I.D. itself at great risk). Forczyk blames Manstein for not ordering the 6th Army to break out of Stalingrad, but ignores the fact that Hitler was closely monitoring the situation and would have countermanded the order before it could take effect. To avoid this, Manstein sent a subordinate to convince Paulus to make the attempt, since it would be much harder for Hitler to stop if Paulus acted quickly of his own initiative. This attempt to circumvent Hitler is wrongly portrayed by Forczyk as an abdication of Manstein's duty, resulting from cowardice and narcissism.

Manstein's moral character is further criticized due to his alleged complicity in numerous war crimes and his refusal to help assassinate Hitler. What the author presents as fact is, in reality, a good deal more complicated. Forczyk offers no counter to Manstein's logical argument (advanced in "Lost Victories") that removing Hitler would accomplish nothing other than causing civil conflict inside Germany and weakening the position of the military. Certainly it would not have ended the war, nor would the SS have suddenly vanished. With respect to war crimes, there is a good reason Churchill et al. spoke up for Manstein: the Soviets routinely invented charges against German generals and the British government was appeasing them (the Soviets of course were known to be guilty of mass war crimes and genocide). Manstein was anti-Semitic, along with a large portion of Europe at the time, but he was no criminal.

Ultimately Forczyk's work is compromised by his agenda. He is very knowledgeable with respect to Manstein's military career, but is reacting too strongly against what he perceives to be the over-estimation of Manstein in some circles. I still recommend the book, so long as the reader understands that much of it is subjective and open for debate.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A concise but critical review of von Manstein 10 July 2010
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It seems apparent that I have a higher opinion of the Field Marshall than Mr Forczyk and was a little surprised and disheartened to see the author's criticism.. The book begins with von Manstein being born into a military family and having the traditional Prussian War Doctrine of Maneuver Warfare ingrained into him from an early age. This training would be invaluable for most of his career. His war experience in WWI and his rise in the Wehrmacht in the interwar war years is then covered. His career during WWII is then gone over with more deliberateness but with only 64 pages to work with, it puts limits on what the author can delve into.

WWII coverage begins with von Manstein's involvement in the Polish and then French invasions. In the war with Russia coverage includes the drive toward Leningrad with special attention to the battle of Soltsy in the opening months that delayed the German advance toward Leningrad for weeks. The capture of the Crimea, relief attempt of Paulus at Stalingrad, the defense of the Chir-Don-Rostov line against Operation Little Saturn, the counterattack in Feb 1943 and the recapture of Kharkov, the Kursk offensive, the retreat to the Dnepr and the loss of Kiev, the Korsun Pocket and Hube's moving pocket affair are then covered.

Perhaps my enthusiasm for von Manstein is tainting my vision but believe the capture of the Crimea was brilliant. The "backhand blow" counterattack and the eventual recapture of Kharkov in 1943 was brilliant, especially after the German and Hungarian 2nd Armies were shattered. The defense against Little Saturn was also excellent as the German forces fell back to the Donets. There was nobody in the German Army could have done better. At Kursk, a battle that couldn't be won by the Germans, von Manstein gained more ground against Vatutin than Model did against Rokossovsky. His panzers destroyed many more tanks than lost. After the losses at Kursk, the Germans didn't have much of a chance against the superior forces of Vatutin, Konev and Malinovsky. Its not surprising Kiev and the Dnepr River couldn't be held in late 1943. At Korsun with the help of von Manstein's relief attempt 40,000 men were able to escape. I believe these actions and others deserved more credit than was given in the book. Also the praise bestowed on Vatutin at Manstein's expense was not appreciated. I agree Vatutin was one of Russia's best commanders but I don't think he was better than von Manstein, especially when Vatutin's superior forces play such a large part in the equation. Hitler's constraining, disruptive orders on von Manstein must also be considered in his evaluation. (The battle at Soltsy and the envelopment of Kiev are two fine examples of Vatutin's ability to take advantage of the prevailing situation. In Manstein's defense: the Soltsy attack wouldn't have been as successful or happened at all if OKH hadn't pulled Totenkopf, who was guarding 56th PzC's right flank and rear, back into reserve just a few days earlier. )

I have to take issue with another comment. Mr Forczyk believes that when von Manstein in his "Lost Victories" blames Hitler for the demise of 6th Army was just trying to pass the blame away from himself is incorrect. Von Manstein was given an impossible task; the relief attempt was sure to fail. AG Don didn't have nearly enough forces to complete the relief and he didn't have any control over Paulus. Paulus didn't have any good options but staying at Stalingrad was the worse. At least an attempted breakout in the early days with Hoth nearby had a small chance for a partial recovery but Hitler wouldn't allow it.

Von Manstein, self centered, was a career soldier and just like von Bock, Guderian, Rommel and a dozen other German officers wanted to prove himself in battle. It should not be surprising that if it came down to a choice of following Nazi doctrine or losing your job, most of these proud men will bend their morals to stay in service. It may not be proper but in a war of annihilation with so much savagery and killing on both sides its understandable. The Allies in post war trials proved von Manstein guilty of war crimes but a small prison term was levied which would seem that his participation was limited compared to some officers.

There was also five 2-D maps which were very good and complemented the narrative. The first map was a composite showing the locations of all major engagements on the eastern front that involved von Manstein. The battle of Soltsy is next where Vatutin catches von Manstein's extended forces in a pincer attack. The retreat to the Donets River is next followed by the recapture of Kharkov and the Korsun Pocket is last. There were also three illustrations that were interesting and many good photos.
The book ends with a small reading list and index.

Despite the criticism, I have high regard for Mr Forczyk's talents and this book is good and worthy of reading. I just feel von Manstein warranted less criticism and more appreciation than was given.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Good introduction to von Manstein 3 July 2010
By lordhoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read Mr. Lupton's review and I thought it was a great one. But I also thought he totally embraced Dr. Forczyk's perception that Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was overrated and self hype. Of course, if he really was the type of commander the book portrayed him to be, I would doubt if he would make it to this series of great commanders like Napoleon and Julius Caesar. But since Erich von Manstein did make to this list, he must be more then what the author painted him to be. I thought the book was well written and neatly researched as all books written by this author. He has this uncanny ability to jammed great deal of information into a very short book and still make it quite readable. For that reason, he is my favorite author among the Osprey authors. That being said, I may not always agreed with his assessment and perception. In this short biography, the book looked greatly into von Manstein's failings more then his successes. The book mentioned only three major successes in von Manstein's military career during World War II. The revised invasion of France 1940 plan, captured of Sevastopol and the famous "backhand blow" February-March campaign that restored the German eastern front in the south. And each of these accomplishments, mighty as they were, got slightly belittled in this book. All too often, his war crimes were brought up and his shortcomings. Since this series is suppose to tell us why von Manstein was a great commander worthy enough to be listed next to Napoleon and Julius Caesar, I thought the book should explained the strengths and talents of this man instead of expounding his weaknesses and his crimes. I have not read this series book on Napoleon but I doubt if that book centered around Napoleon's 1812 campaign and his Waterloo loss. Well, that what this book feel like on von Manstein. Of course, I read the author's Sevastopol book in the Campaign series and it was a good one although his feeling toward von Manstein reflects well into this current book. Still worth reading but I don't think that the book was fair in assessing von Manstein's real talents as a commander.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Good brief introduction to Erich von Manstein 8 Oct. 2010
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read Erich von Manstein's work on his role in World War II. Much more detail. However, this brief book does a decent job of putting his career in historical context.

Manstein came from a military family. Thus, it perhaps is no surprise that he chose a military career. He did not have an active troop command in World War I, but did get experience in staff positions. He was one of the lucky military officers who stayed on after the Armistice. From 1935-1939, his career in the Wehrmacht advanced. He had both staff and troop command responsibility.

He had a considerable role in altering the German strategy as they prepared for the attack on France, marking his coming onto Adolf Hitler's radar screen. After a promotion, he was transferred to the east where he was given corps command in advance of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Thereafter, we are given a decent description of his role in leadership in the ill-fated invasion. He had more successes than failures, but as the Soviet forces increasingly outnumbered German forces, it became more difficult to be effective. He was unable to save Paulus' army trapped in Stalingrad. He ran into Soviet commanders who were much more able than those whom he had encountered at the outset of the Soviet adventure.

We see his strengths--maneuver and rapid action. We also see his weaknesses, such as not anticipating enemy moves, a tendency to blame his subordinate officers for his failures, and his turning a blind eye to atrocities mandated by Nazi leadership.

If you want a brief introduction to Manstein, this brief volume will be useful.
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