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Lost Victories: War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General Paperback – 30 Jul 1995

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Product details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; New edition edition (30 July 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891415254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891415251
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 897,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Oct 1997
Format: Paperback
With an emphasis on analysis seldom presented in a book this accessible, Manstein has presented his readers with a rich history of his activities in the Second World War. The majority of the book is devoted to his greatest operational achievement, the successful withdrawal of several German army groups on the Southern end of the Russian front after the defeat at Stalingrad. There are moments in the recounting of this operation when the reader can fully appreciate the difficulties confronting Manstein and his staff; the tension, always understated by the author, becomes palpable, if only because of what he does not say. Lost Victories is a glimpse into one of the most brilliant military minds of this century and a book not to be missed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Mar 1997
Format: Paperback
Erich Von Manstein played a part in planning some of Nazi Germany's most stunning military triumphs, from the technically brilliant "Sichselschnitt" plan that destroyed the French Army in May of 1940, to the bloody Crimean Campaign of 1942.

Manstein's book is that of a professional military officer. He devotes a great deal of time to explaining the mechanics of planning an executing military strategy. His character portraits of his military colleagues lack the punch that a more independent military writer would give them; even his analysis of Adolf Hitler as a military commander is somewhat colorless. The one personal touch in the book is Manstein's account of the death of his son, fighting as a junior officer in a unit under his command.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Dec 1998
Format: Paperback
Manstein was undoubtedly one of Germany's best generals in the Second World War. Certainly one would have to compare him with Rommel, the "Star of Africa"( the only one to hold this honour apart from Hans-Joachim Marseille, the highest scoring ace on the Western Front) and others like Ewald von Kleist and Ritter von Leeb. A brilliant tactician and strategist, his book covers a lot of important aspects of the both fronts. However he tends to neglect some aspects of his actions, like the dismissal of Count von Sponek and the debacle at Kursk. Despite all that it is a must for all military students and those who wish to get an insight into the life of one of Germany's greatest field marshals.
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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Dec 2000
Format: Paperback
When I bought this book, I was expecting great things. Previously I had read "Achtung Panzer" and "Panzer Leader" by Guderian, and was expecting much the same. However, Manstein was obviously a professional soldier and not a professional writer. This book was very dull, and I ended up not really caring as each chapter became my own personal battle just to finish it. Not recomended. Try one of Guderian's books, or von Mellenthin's "Panzer Battles" instead.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Not for everyone 8 July 2006
By Older Dog - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The five stars is for what it is supposed to be-- a detailed military memoir by an exceptional leader of German armed forces. Manstein was by any judgment a first rate staff officer, who excelled with troops and shone in use of combined force tactics and strategy on a large scale. His impact in WWII was immense -- on both the Western and Eastern Front.

He was also convicted for war crimes and served four years of an 18 year sentence noted in a 1981 introduction. That is not noted in the original edition which I also have. He was not a political general, i.e. he was not a Nazi Party member and had long credentials as a professional soldier and offspring of professional soldiers. He had Hitler's ear frequently and stood up to him more than most. Evidence (from other sources) indicated that one of his orders referred to a need to eliminate "Jewish Bolshevism" once and for all. There's no point in retrying his case here,but it does affect the way some of his writing is interpreted. Some of his comments should be read knowing that he had only recently been released from prison.

Manstein had a stellar reputation before the war, although he angered some old guard when he waffled on a plan to confront Hitler. In a critical phase at the opening of the war, he was chief of staff to von Rundstedt and took part in military planning. Some of his innovative proposals were passed over.

As the Germans planned their attack into France, the Belgians captured some of the Fall Gelb, or Code Yellow plans, essentially another revision of the basic Schlieffen used in WWI. The allies were pleased because it confirmed their basic planning in reaction to such an invasion. The Germans, however, knew that the Allies knew. So the plan was revised again. Rundstedt and Manstein had already been pushing for the plan.

An interview was arranged with Hitler. Manstein describes a HItler who was engaged, understood the concepts and had an excellent grasp on technology. Manstein immediately by memo recounted Hitler's agreement with his plan and the final order included its elements. No military plan for large troop movements is ever simple. A critical element in Manstein's plan was sending a major force with tanks through the Ardennes, something thought too difficult. If the plans early phases were successful, the Allies would have little chance to recover.

He and most authorities credit the Ardennes drive, orchestrated by Rundstedt and Guderian and not without difficulty, as the major factor in the utter defeat of the Allies in Northern Belgium. Germany held back its armor, leaving mopup to infantry and aircraft. That allowed the evacuation of nearly 340-thousand troops including 26,000 French to be evacuated. Manstein cites three possible reasons; Goring's ego

and m aking peace with Britain were two. The third is currently considered the most likely, that Hitler acceded to his generals who wanted to save their armor for the second phase of the French campaign.

As Manstein points out, despite the loss of their equipment, the success of the the Dunkirk evacuation later allowed Brittish troops to fight in Africa and Italy. Despite all the success, Manstein thought more could have been achieved. It is here that he sums up Hitler's ultimate weakness, one that worsened. HItler had a firm grasp of operational problems, but lacked the professional training to know when large risks should be accepted.

In part because Americans have developed a self-righteous attitude abouut all things French, it's worth repeating Manstein's comment that even had better judgment and energy been shown, the French would have still been destroyed/defeated. Manstein's 38 Corps played a minor role in the battle for France.

Manstein deals in detail with the rivalries and factions as Germany turned toward Britain and an invastion in a "between campaigns chapter. After the decision was made to invade Russsia instead of Britain, Manstein moved to 56 Panzer Corps as commander in the early phase Panzer Dash. He praises the quality of the Waffen SS troops and termss it a terrible mistake to have set them up as a separate military organization. He argues that their casualties were disproportionate to their gains ... and that they drained the Army of potential NCOs.

Manstein's victory in the Crimea and the annihilation of a powerful Soviet force --Freeing up the 11th Army -- was in his high water mark. He was made field marshal -- and Hitler soon ordered him to take his Army to join the seige of Leningrad, but having had little effect in tthe ill-advised move, Hitler ordered 11 Army to begin moving south again. By this time, Manstein had lost some close associates and his oldest son had been killed and he was shortly named commander of the Don Army Group.

Although a Hitler favorite for being a winner, Manstein had not previously reported directly to Hitler. He comments until that point he had felt Hitler's influence on the military only indirectly and from far away. That changed. In the 50s, it had already been fashionable to blame Hitler for everything and he became a cartoon character.

Manstein puts a different light on a much more complex man but the end result is no more favorable to Hitler. His analysis of Hitler as strategist and warlord is complex and far reachingg. There is a chapter dedicated to "Hitler as Supreme Commander" including his adoption of Stalin's strategy of holding on to every piece of ground.

From this point, Manstein's tale (amid some triumphs) is on a downward trajectory. Stalingrad. Another winter in South Russia and the defensive battles of 1943 and 1944. Manstein drives close enough to encircled Stalingrad to make a breakout possible, but Hitler orders it held at all costs. Paulus and his army are lost and the relief is in vain.

The lost victories, those won and those that could have been won, are adding up. But Hitler rejects every plan that might bring victory or at least a stalemate. German troops continue to inflict fearsome casualties on the Russians, The quality of their troops kept declining, but there were always more. This is not a technical book, but it is dense with military thought and considered criticism of Hitler. It must all be in a context. It is one man's view -- and one that is considered by military historians.

It will probably be in print as long as there is a military.

While HItler would not have used the phrase "Stay the Course" but he said the equivalent in idiom Except that he didn't want to talk to anyone and began isolating himself.When people saw him, he lashed out.

He made the mistake and everyone else paid the price. The shame is that it still continues. I cannot regret these lost victories any more than I can wish that my native South had won that war. It's probably a coincidence but still ironic that a new book about Stonewall Jackson is called "Lost Victories.

It is possible to understand the pangs of lost victories ... without wishing for a change in result.

What is more difficult is to understand why wars that cannot be won are fought -- why the course must be stayed -- why criticism of the leadership is so bad. If the best Germany could hope to achieve against the Soviet Union, planning for that should have started before millions of people lost their lives -- for nothing.

Manstein makes the point well, that just because the political arm can order something does not make it right or wise. From a Nazi general yet!
59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Favorable, with little or no reservations. 26 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Forget the "colorful" writings of subordinates to other more "popular" military figures, Manstein wrote from the heart. His style was not meant to entertain, merely to inform. Military historians of a serious vein know that his is a matter-of-fact dialogue with the reader. His Crimean campaign was a masterpiece, yet receives no attention as does such Allied operations as Torch or Overlord. He did his best as an officer, and served the military and his nation (unfortunately for a pathetic cause). His insights on the French and Polish campaigns, as well as his take on Hitler's unfortunate victorious political gambles that paid off and fed his ego, should be required reading for any who wish to understand the true nature of Hitler's success. If you want entertainment of the trivial sort that plays to blood guts and amusing or gastly anecdotes, this is not for you. If you want to satisfy a true intellectual understanding of an outstanding general and what really happened in the opening campaigns of the Second World War, you have found a definitive work.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Insubordinate Field Marshall's Memoirs 'Required Reading' 1 Dec 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Field Marshall Manstein has written a very readable, yet technically accurate history of his 'Grand Operational' command in the Second World War. Never as popular as Rommel in person or Guderian in print, he is considered by many to be Germany's most proficent General of the war. Manstein's skill was obvious, even to der Fuhrer: no other General dared the insubordination he often displayed. Manstein was required to consider facets of war (unity of command, morale, logistics) that few other commanders have had to contend with. Of note is his enlightened handling of the people in occupied Crimea, allowing them to police and protect themselves. This was so effective that Stalin interred many Crimeans after the war. This book is well balanced between his personal relationships starting early in life and changing perceptions of battle. Starting WW 2 as an Infantry Division Commander in Poland, he is promoted to command 30 Inf Corp in France and finally to Field Marshall of almost 400,000 men in Army Group South. His narrative of the latter as the tide turned against the Reich is irresistable as his tenacity, skill and sense of impending doom is conveyed not by lucid prose, but by thorough analysis of options, often bad and worse. Dark humour in his devious handling of 'Hitler's stand fast order' is balanced with news of the death of his son in battle. And yet most memorable passages are from "the happy times", when Barborrossa was first launched and he commanded the 56th Pz Corps. Elan matches skill as he proudly notes his unit sliced through 200 miles of Russian territory in only 4 days. Although a manifestly German point of view containing facts now challenged by releases from Russian sources, this is must read. Manstein's account is objective in description of battle yet subtly personal as the war takes its toll. Anyone half serious about military history should consider this worthwhile volume.
45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Military Memoirs of German WW2 General 1 Dec 1998
By Aussie Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
Having first read this book in 1988 I find that it is still one of the best military memoirs of WW2. It stands next to 'Panzer Leader' by Heinz Guderian, 'Neither Fear Nor Hope' by General F. Von Senger Und Etterlin and 'The Rommel Papers'. The book is very easy to read and is valuable to any one who wishes to understand 'the other side of the hill'. His accounts of the various actions he was involved in during the War are excellent and his views on Hitler and German strategy make this a great book.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Greatest German Military Commander 14 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
General Feld-Marshall Erich von Manstein explains the personality of Hitler and the essential differences between the OKH (oberkommando des heer) and the Fuhrer. Beginning with the Polish campaign, the Feld-Marshall explains how the OKH became subordinated to the central high command (OKW) or oberkommando des wehrmacht. This cripples the German Army leadership and places it at Hitler's heel for the entire war, with disastrous consequences for the Eastern Front and the West as well. Von Manstein demonstrated his abilities with his plan for the attack on the West and his near salvation of 6th Army at Stalingrad. In fact, his alternative plan at Kursk, to attack straight into the salient rather that on its flanks might have spelled German victory. This is a must read for historians interested in the ground war in Europe, especially the early war in the West and the war on the Eastern Front.
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