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Fighting Power: German and Us Army Performance: 1939-1945 (Contributions in Military Studies) [Hardcover]

Martin L. van Creveld
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Book Description

28 Oct 1982 Contributions in Military Studies
Analyses the performance of two key parties engaged in fighting during World War II.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwood Press (28 Oct 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313233330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313233333
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,654,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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?Martin van Crevald has produced yet another provocative book that ... is bound to stimulate discussion. ... With the aid of almost sixty tables and figures van Crevald conducts a sophisticated analysis of measurements and calculations, juxtaposing the Wehrmacht to the U.S. Army in order to establish where the secret of the former's superior efficiency lay in scoring more kills than the enemy. ...van Crevald proceeds in a more sober and systematic way to look into a wide range of categories: social status, structure and mobility, army organization and administration, rewards and punishments, and the role of noncommissioned officers and of the officer corps.?-American Historical Review

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting use of comparative method 4 July 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is generally accepted that with very few exceptions the German army in WW II fought very well, both in offensive and in defensive operations, even against overwhelming odds and when it was clear that the war was lost, and even though many of the army's leaders had little sympathy for the Nazi regime. What is the explanation for this consistently high performance? Any attempt at deeper historical understanding must avoid the purely anecdotal and the pseudo-psychological. Professor Van Creveld in his book "Fighting Power" (defined as the sum total of the mental qualities that make armies fight) investigates, on the basis of statistics, a number of interesting aspects, and draws comparisons with the U.S. Army of the time.
Organisation, doctrine, personnel administration, medical care, selection and training of officers and NCO's are all covered.
A striking difference is how in the U.S. Army, with its penchant for management science and social and human engineering, officers and men were treated as interchangeable cogs in a machine, whereas the German army accepted and overcame considerable administrative and technical difficulties to make sure that from the start soldiers developed and maintained a strong bond with a particular regiment and with each other.
In spite of the stereotype of the arrogant monocled Prussian officer who treats his men like so much cannon fodder, it would seem that in reality there often was a closer relationship between German officers and their men than was the case in the U.S. Army.
Martin van Creveld is an entertaining writer who has mastered his subjects and provides illuminating insights in his discussions of aspects of military history that are often overlooked. Among his other books, I found "Supplying War" (about logistics since the 17th century) particularly interesting.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars top book for managing people 30 July 2010
Obviously war and peace time is very different. Nonetheless I found many parallels to who people think and operate. The German Wehrmacht applied motivational principles very different to modern management technics. This book makes it very clear that there is a different route to the Mc Kinseys or Boston Consulting.

To be clear - the Concept of Auftragsführung is much older than the Third Reich. It originated in the Napoleonic Wars and was then applied by Preussians after the battle of Jena. None of this had to do with the attrociaties commited. Many times these principles actually prevented them.

Crefeld, himself being a jew, makes the point that the only armed force applying Auftragsführung today are the Israeli Defense forces.

I myself am an IT manager and need to motivate people every day. If you like to understand what could be wrong in a larger enterprise about motivation, then this book will give you a clue.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!! 7 Aug 2009
Excellent information and analysis of the German Army during World War II. The author has done a good job and his results are very interesting and believeable. I recommend this book to everbody who wants to know more how the Wehrmacht could perform so well in combat.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
76 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference material on quality versus quantity 29 Nov 2003
By lordhoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a pretty expensive book but its well worth reading and owning if you are a serious student of World War II. To a serious student, its a well known fact that the quality of the German army was much higher then our's. We had quantity in terms of material while they had quality in terms of men. Much of this had a lot to do with difference of training, troop assignments and relationship between each other. The author explained this in a clearest way, why the Germans were able to maintained that quality in the mist of defeats while Americans were not able to catch up even while we were winning. I think what will amazed any reader is how well the German military actually took care of their troops - in terms of support and morale. Fighting against the Hollywood image mode, the author make it clear that the German army was actually bit more caring then the American army in the way they treated their soldiers. How the Germans maintained their esprit de corps will be an eye-opening reading experience, even for American WWII veteran who may wished that they were also treated as such. Author compared the two armies putting out the pros and cons of their methods. But book clearly show that the best army always don't win the war and quality of troops, never how high, cannot win victories if everything were stack against them. There is a lesson to be learned here even today as our highly trained and high tech army cannot secured a defeated nation. This book belonged in every World War II reader's library and it should be reread every couple of years. Don't let the price scare you.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good 31 Oct 2009
By Tom Munro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book assumes that the German army performed better in WW2 than the United States Forces. It tries to workout why. Despite the fact that one would expect that an authoritarian country like Germany would have a system of blind obedience the opposite was the case. The key to how their army worked was the devolution of authority. Commanders would be given a general objective but they could pursue it as they liked. Individual initiative was encouraged, as was audacity. The United States on the other hand was the country of Taylorism. A management culture that did not trust those lower down in the hierarchy and broke work down into simple components and expected blind obedience.

To make matters worse the techniques of allocating recruits in the United States Army was based on previous work experience. Those with any qualification or training were placed in army jobs that were similar to those they had in civilian employment. This meant that those going to rifle divisions were the most poorly educated and problematic recruits.

The replacement policy and training of officers also created issues with the development of a team structure. Officers in the United States army were not allowed to fraternize with enlisted men. (They had separate facilities and were seen as remote by their men.) German officers lived with their men and developed close ties to them. The German's also tried to base their units on geographic areas. This was so that soldiers would have a shared history and ethos. Replacements came into units not as individuals but as groups of men who had trained together and built up bonds with each other.

Part of the problem of course was that the United States army was more or less built from scratch. It was expanded from a few thousand men prior to the war within a short time to some millions. The German's had a longer military history that went back a long way. One of the strengths of Creveld's book is that he shows that the German's looked with care at the performance of the army in the First World War. A good deal of the organisational structure was developed to deal with earlier problems.

All in all a good book although probably a bit dry for the general reader. One also wonders if the use of the Taylor model was not sensible in the circumstances. The United States did not have the time to train up officers in combat and the model they adopted worked. Admittedly with armies that outnumbered their opponents and had air and naval support.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overall comparison between the German and American armies of WW2 4 May 2010
By Rafael G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book starts by noting about the empirical evidence and research done by Dupuy and others about the fighting power of the German army. He notes that in engagements in 1943 and 1944 the German army inflicted about 50% more casualties per soldier engaged than the allies, in other words, that the German forces were much more effective fighting organizations than allied formations. The author sets the question: How they managed to maintain such superior fighting power? And uses the rest of the book to gather evidence.

He compares the status of the army to the rest of the society, and shows that the German army enjoyed a higher social status than the American army, that meant that the German army could draw over the cream of society, while the US army drew mostly from the lower/less educated classes. Also, selection processes were more strict in the German armed forces than in the American, selecting only the most apt for the job. And even in 1944, the basic training of the German soldier was a bit longer than for the American soldier.

The problems of the US replacement system are analyzed: The US army replaced soldiers individually, putting men in the middle of the battle without any training experience with the soldiers in his unit. This resulted from ignoring the important psychological aspect of war. As result, American divisions with a lot of replacements started suffering higher casualties than fresher units. The German divisions by contrast, replaced their men by battalions of 500 men that trained together and went together to the front.

The differences also involved the focus of the respective armed forces: While the Germans focused on operations the American doctrine focused on the logistics of maintaining material superiority. Since the US was the largest industrial economy in the world, they could always count on their superior material resources for any conflict that they participated. This meant that their military organization focused on coordinating these vast material resources into an effective front.

The conclusion is that the Germans developed such high fighting power because of their needs: Always facing powerful foes in their borders (France and Russia), and in the event of a major war, always under the risk of severe numerical inferiority (with happened in both world wars) in the event of a multi-front war, they had to make more with less: They had to maximize the military effectiveness of their resources to compensate for their lack of material superiority. The Americans in the other hand, without any powerful neighbors (Canada and Mexico) and traditionally isolated from the rest of the world, hardly maintained a level of military mobilization near the level of European powers and in the case of war, always fought on the side with superior resources (both in terms of men and 'materiel'). Hence, their military never had to develop fighting power: They didn't need to maximize the effectiveness of their military resources, since they had always several times more resources than the enemy.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Military history, and not a shot fired in this book! 13 Sep 2009
By S. Kreuger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Working by numbers vs working by character. That would be the short version of this book on the difference between the US Army in WWII vs the German Army.
This was the first book on military history that I read in which not a shot is fired! In this book you'll find no description of battles, operations or campaigns, it is all about the methods by which these two armies have recruited their soldiers, determined their abilities, trained them, led them, fed them, rewarded them, treated them when wounded.
There is a significant difference between the German Army going for quality, leadership, comradeship, forging a bond between soldiers in a unit and giving the commanders freedom in the way they execute their missions ('auftragstactiek')on the one hand and the American Army using mass. Mass in firepower, mass in numbers, masses of statistics, treating their soldiers like well produced pieces of interchangeable equipment with little thought for the individual qualities of the soldier. This caused a lot of human wastage in units and has (according to Van Creveld) lengthened the war somewhat.
In the German Army it forged a bond between soldiers that held even against the onslaught of 1943 - 1945 on the Eastern Front and later in the West, where German kept on fighting beyond all hope of winning the war or even winning a reasonable peace. But that fighting quality came at a price and Van Creveld mentions that price explicitly. For the German soldier it didn't matter for what cause he fought, it made formidable soldiers without much of a conscience.

The book is highly recommend for students of military history, but also for any modern manager who has more trust in the statistical data on his employees than in the quality, character and mission oriented freedom of work in his employees.

25 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What makes an army win? 29 Dec 2000
By Bruce W. Willett - Published on Amazon.com
Martin van Creveld's "Fighting Power" is an in-depth comparison of the United States and German armies during World War II. He looks at such factors as national character, doctrine, command principles, organization, administration, maintenance, leadership, and more and how the two forces compare. The author concludes his work with overall reflection of what work and what did not and how this might effect future military forces.
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