His troops called him "Smiling Albert", but his enemies considered him something between a strategic mastermind and a bloodthirsty war criminal. Hitler considered him too honest for his own good, and everybody knew he was tough. In 1944, when his staff car collided with the business end of a howitzer, a joke circulated among his armies during his convalescence: "The Field Marshal was only slightly injured, but the gun had to be retired." Such was Albert Kesselring, General Field Marshal of the Luftwaffe and one of the few of that rank to leave his memiors behind.
Kesselring had one of those military careers that is actually several careers in one -- army officer, air force general, theater commander. Considering his many achievements, he should probably be more famous, but it was his fate to be the "other field marshal" in the Southern Theater - the principle one being, of course, Rommel, with whom Kesselring often bitterly quarreled. Indeed, it was Kesselring's relations with men like Hitler, Goering, and Rommel that I was arguably looking most forward to reading about - among other things. And therin lies the problem. It turned out there were too many "other things" in MEMIORS. Kesselring was attempting too much. His life story is simply too damned big to cram into a single volume. Considering the vital importance he played in the development of the Luftwaffe, the French campaign, the Battle of Britain, the invasion of Russia, the war in North Africa and the defense of Sicily and Italy, it would have been better to split this into a two or even a three-volume series.
The problem of biting off more of his life than he could chew was exacerbated by the fact that he wrote these pages wholly or partially while imprisoned for war crimes, and thus had very limited access to research materials - he seems to be operating from memory, and from postwar literature produced by his ex-enemies. Finally, Kesselring's writing style, while not precisely bad and showing flashes of talent here and there, isn't what you would call aesthetically pleasing. Having read a lot of German military literature to use as comparison, I would rate him in the bottom half of the ex-generals: he often generalizes when he should speak specifically, and sometimes bogs down in details when he should have spoken broadly.
I also have some issues with the book itself. The pictures are low quality -, grainy, dot-matrix style, and the translation from German to British English leaves something to be desired. Ranks are incorrectly translated on many occasions and some of the sentences have that unweildy, unnatural quality that an overly literal translation tends to create. There are also some misspellings, and a comment or two in the forward which is/are downright nonsensical.
MEMIORS are by no means all bad. Kesselring's career is breath-taking in its sheer scope, and his criticisms of Allied battle strategies, the cumbersome and inefficient leadership structure of Hitler's armed forces, and the Axis failure to seize Malta (which cost them the North African war) are all fascinating. His diplomatic criticisms of Rommel shed interesting light on the less pleasing aspects of that legendary soldier. Furthermore, in defending himself against charges of war crimes in Italy, he makes a number of valid points about the hypocrisy of the Allies, who encouraged and facilitated the brutal partisan movement knowing full well how the Germans would respond to it, and then used ex post facto laws to prosecute German leaders after the war.
MEMIORS are most definitely not a smooth and easy read. In some ways they is not even as well-written as Field Marshal Keitel's death row memiors, which were cut short by his execution at Nuremberg. But they are an important contribution to war literature.