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The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II Hardcover – Dec 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (USA); 1st Edition edition (Dec 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060009764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060009762
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,418,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

A reassessment of the military strategies of World War II presents arguments that such events as the Polish campaign of 1939 and the fall of France in 1940 were not blitzkrieg victories.

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This book, the result of a quarter century of research and reflection, demonstrates that traditional accounts of the Sec World War are seriously flawed. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on 17 Dec 2003
Format: Hardcover
According to The Blitzkrieg Myth, the German army was superior to other armies, especially where training and officer experience was concerned. Mosier quotes sources that say that every German soldier was equal to about 1.2 Allied soldiers, and 2 Russian soldiers. When Germany lost the war, it was not because of quality, but more because of strategic errors made by proponents of what has become known as Blitzkrieg (Mosier calls it "Breakthrough"). Advocates of this strategy believed that infantry had had its day and that tanks and other armoured vehicles were the future of warfare. Despite what historians have been saying for years, Mosier thinks that this is all a myth.

Mosier certainly presents his case well. The Blitzkrieg Myth is meticulously researched, with extensive notes where he not only quotes his sources, but often also tells how accurate those sources are. He is not afraid to quote sources he doesn't agree with, and then present his facts to show why he disagrees with these sources. The notes are laid out in a very clear fashion, attached to the end of each chapter rather then all gathered at the end of the book. The layout of the book is very easy to read, and it's very easy to keep track of Mosier's notations. For once, I actually followed each one instead of giving up in frustration.

Mosier tackles two "myths" in this book: the power of armoured warfare and the power of strategic air bombing. Mosier shows that, despite what we have been told, Germany did not have a clear superiority in tanks at the beginning of the war, and that the Germans did not subscribe to the "Blitzkrieg" strategy to invade Poland and France.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Philip on 26 Jan 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you were alive in 1945, subsequently frozen and then defrosted in the present day this book might be interesting or have some new information in it. As it is he argues against theories and opinions and historiography that is decades old or non-existent. The book is one long straw-man going over debates that were old hat in the 1930s (Fuller) and the 1970s (Blitzkreig revisionism). It reads like a very long web forum post: it's opinionated, blatantly contradicts itself in several places and has more than a smug, sarcastic Michael Moore air about it. He dismisses long established academic research with waves of the hand and a "they just don't get it" attitude. The whole Blitzkreig myth did and does exist, but it has been examined in a more learned, more scholarly and more respectable manner than this for nigh on 40 years - you read the book in the hope that there is new insight, what with it having such a confident title, and you are bitterly disappointed. He deliberately ignores the Entire Eastern Front, in my view because of intellectual lazyness and an inability to research the primary sources.

The reviews on Amazon.com list all the other myriad of faults with this book and his dismissive attitude toward 40 years of research. I finished it only to see how outrageous the writing got. If you have even a moderate interest in military history you will waste your time reading this. It does not deliver on its promises. Amateur and shallow.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 21 Oct 2013
Format: Paperback
Not to be confused with the official German Army study, "The Legend Of Bitzkrieg", Mosier's book consists of next to nothing but hand waving and straw men. For example, that complete capitulation by France took all of five weeks "proves" that the Germans could have been defeated if the BEF hadn't evacuated from Dunkirk. How the BEF would have been supplied, what it might have done, why a five week delay in utter defeat - the Germans were mostly on foot with horse drawn logistics and could only move so fast after all - proves this are not considered. This book is just very, very bad - read "Legend" instead.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book - as it dares to be different and confrontational - just like all of Mosiers work. That said, he makes compelling arguments for his thesis, and the book will stimulate interest for those who find WW2 forever compelling.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 54 reviews
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Compelled to respond 10 Sep 2004
By Ian D. Hopper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When I saw John Mosier's The Blitzkrieg Myth on the shelf, I couldn't help but start reading it. As the title suggests the book is revisionist history, and I am always interested in finding out what recent research and ideas have uncovered, and what traditional beliefs consequently have been brought into doubt. I expected something fresh and thought provoking, but I was sorely disappointed. Mosier's book told me only one thing I didn't already know when I was twelve years old- the extent of German air transport losses in Holland. Needless to say, that has nothing to do with proving his thesis. The same could be said for most of the book.

The main point of The Blitzkrieg Myth is to discredit Fuller's ideas on armored attacks, and Douhet's on strategic bombing. Since virtually no one believes in the efficacy of strategic bombing as conducted in WWII, the latter assertion is largely superfluous. The majority of the book is devoted to advancing the idea that armored breakthroughs were a myth created by propaganda and reinforced by the blind beliefs of military leaders.

Naturally, one would expect that Mosier would address the battles which are considered to be classic examples of armored breakthroughs and explain how and why they have been misunderstood. But he doesn't. The most troubling feature of the book is Mosier's ignorance or willful exclusion of contradictory or problematic evidence. As I read The Blitzkrieg Myth, I kept leafing backwards and rereading, wondering if I had missed something. But I hadn't. Mosier simply does not deal with events that don't fit neatly into his prescriptive theory.

A good example of his biased selectivity is the chapter in which he deals with the German invasion of France in 1940. He claims that German victory had nothing to do with the employment of armor, or a superior understanding of its use. This is, of course, a bold revisionist claim. A serious student would wonder at how the German Panzer thrust through the Ardennes would have proceeded were it not the use of tanks. Rommel's extremely deep and quick drive through Belgium and into France which everyone has previously called an armored breakthrough deserves some sort of explanation. (Rommel penetrated almost 50 miles in one day, which would have been completely impossible with merely infantry). It should be noted, however, that Mosier has a personal prejudice against Rommel which he reveals several times throughout the book, and since personal prejudice seems to be the only guiding influence in this book, Rommel's achievements are hardly likely to be mentioned. Instead of a clear explanation of how previous views are misguided, Mosier rattles off irrelevant anecdotes about how the Germans took heavy losses against the French in several battles, how the British didn't really fight (despite the fact that the Germans considered the British counterattack at Arras the biggest threat to their flank during the entire campaign), etc. What these random snippets are meant to prove is a complete mystery. There is no train of argument, only a mangled conglomeration of random facts that don't suggest anything other than the author's inability to address his argument's detractions head on.

After reading many hours in frustration, trying to figure out where I had missed his argument, I realized he didn't really have one. Mosier is simply a contrarian. He prefers disagreement over understanding, and excludes evidence and ideas which he disagrees with. Glancing over his footnotes and reading his other comments about those who disagree with him shows Mosier to be hubristic and petty, and completely outside the realm of serious scholarship. Mosier openly admits he is not an historian. This book proves it.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Poor 7 April 2005
By Tom Munro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In 1979 Len Deighton wrote a book called Blitzkrieg: From the rise of Hitler to the Fall of Denmark. It was quite a readable and well written book which showed that the allies greatly outnumbered the Germans during the battle for France in 1940. Not only did the allies outnumber the Germans their tanks were superior and their units were mechanised. Deighton went on to say that there was only really one Blizkrieg campaign and that was the battle of France. It consisted of the rapid movement of German armed units after the initial break through. The French and British flummoxed around and because of their lack of response lost. Deighton suggested that all other conflicts in the war, specifically Poland and Russia were of a different character.

In 2001 Ernest May wrote a well researched book called Strange Victory: Hitler's conquest of France. This book showed that the allies outnumbered the Germans, that their tanks were better and they had greater numbers of aircraft. May's book argues that a failure to understand the nature of the German attack lead to their demise. However the allies learnt from their experience whilst Hitler did not. Hitler's confidence about tactical victory led him to close his eyes to other considerations.

We now have Mr Mosier's book that contains the alarming revelation that the Germans were outnumbered by the allies in France. Further that the allies had far better tanks and more aircraft. The reason the allies lost was that the British irrationally withdrew from Dunkirk. Sound familiar, you bet. It is what has been for some time the general view. That is that the German attack caused a command paralysis that led to an allied defeat. Later in the war such attacks would be dealt with by counter attacks or more spirited defences.

Mosier in repeating what is in reality the accepted view of things carries on as if it is a startling revelation. Despite the fact that no one really disagrees with him he has to find a straw man to rail against. That man is General Fuller a soldier who served in World War 1 and who was an influential writer in advocating the concentrated use of tanks prior to the Second World War. Rather than being much of a revelation about the Second World War the book is more a reworking of an ancient debate that took place in the 20's.

The book then rambles on and tries to make some universal judgements about the war. These judgements are made without any discussion of the Russian front, the front which decided the war. The book contains howler after howler. It suggests that El Alamien was the first allied victory of the war. One would have though that halting of the German Typhoon offensive before Moscow might qualify, as would the counter attack that followed and almost destroyed the German army. The book also suggests that El Alamien was the first British victory since Waterloo. Again one would think that the Crimean war might be seen as one that Britain allied with France won. In addition it would seem that the British were able to halt the German offensive in 1918, in the First World War and to then counter attack and breach the Hindenburg Line. The British attacks led the German High Command to request the civilian government to sue for peace. One would think that might amount to something of a victory.

To be avoided
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Blitzkrieg Bop: A "Slightly Different Perspective" 4 May 2005
By Omer Belsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Searching for the genuine thesis of John Mosier's mess of a book is something of a challenge. Mosier is critical about the "conventional wisdom" of WW2 interpretation - but he is hard pressed to actually explain what it is. There is, he argues, something wrong in the concept he calls "breakthrough" - that fast moving tanks will cut through the enemy defenses and attack the rear of the population. He also argues against the concept of strategic air power - destroying nation's ability and will to fight by bombing its industry and civilian population. At times, he attacks a host of other - dare we call them mini myths? - For instance, the abilities of General Patton ("the great dash across France that had established him as a tanker par excellence has been accomplished without any real opposition" p. 259).

The central myth of Mosier's, though, carefully concealed until the end of the book, is that technology matters at all. "The only real lesson to be derived by the Second World War" Mosier writes "is that advances in technology do not really change the basic principles of warfare".

I find this claim quite astounding. I'm far from an expert on the second world war, but it seems clear that the central novelty was the new technology of tanks, properly engaged (that is, combined with infantry and anti-antitank weapons) supported by aerial superiority - tactics that might have been available in the Spanish Civil War, but hardly before that (indeed, the Spanish Civil War is conspicuously absent from Mosier's narrative of Military technology, tactics and thought in the 1930s). Weren't these the causes of Germany's brilliant triumph over Poland?

Poland's army was approximately as large as the German army, but Germany had twice as many tanks and four times as many airplanes as Poland. Isn't that the most natural explanation for Poland's defeat? It seems like the novel military technology made Poland's army obsolete. (pp. 64-66)

Not to Mosier it doesn't. Instead, the root of Poland's failure was in "Politics not Tactics" (p. 63) the major reason for Poland's defeat was not its technological inferiority - it was the Polish government's dependence upon the allies, and in particular the French, to mobilize within two weeks of a German invasion. The expectation, Mosier writes was "not unreasonable"; The Polish expected that if they held out for two weeks, the French counter attack would force the Germans to retreat (Ibid.)

I know next to nothing about Poland's government's response to the outbreak of the war, but the expectation of swift allies response was everything but "not unreasonable". The British and the French sat through a series of German aggressions, from its quitting the League of Nation and rearmament, invasion of the Rhineland, Anschluss with Austria and, of course, takeover of Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Munich agreement. In the event, if the Polish government did depend upon Allies assistance, they rival the Trojans in the scoreboard of the political March of Folly.

Equally unsubstantiated is Mosier's contention that strategic airpower had failed. Never mind that Strategic Bombing completely destroyed Japan - by 1944, the allies has achieved air superiority over Europe. 80 percent of the bombs dropped on Germany were dropped after the first of January 1944 (p. 202). 1944 also marked the sharp decline of Germany's war production. Although this would seem to indicate that strategic bombing was successful, it is possible to argue that the one did not cause the other; that the failure of Germany's industries was due more to loss of territory then to the bombings. But one has to actually marshal some facts in order to do so; Mosier merely asserts this central claim of his in half a paragraph and a single footnote, and then has the Chutzpa to put this under the sub header "Anatomy of Failure".

Not only are Mosier's arguments questionable, his opponents may very well be straw men. Mosier will frequently utter something like "the picture so frequently drawn... is not real" or "Contrary to general belief..." without referring to a single source drawing the pictures or holding the beliefs. More often then not, the sinners in Mosier's account are hidden, while the offences made are insubstantial and narrow (like claiming that Richard Overy's The Battle of Britain: The Myth and the Reality implies that antiaircraft missiles did not down any Luftwaffe airplanes p. 206, n. 9).

Finally, I'm not sure how trustworthy Mosier's facts are. Mosier sites David Irving's discredited figure of two hundred thousand dead for the Dresden Bombing (p. 203). That number is an order of magnitude too large and Irving's misuse of evidence in this instance is about as well documented as these things go (see Richard Evans's refutation of it in Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial). Thus I would question the reliability of any evidence raised by Mosier.

In short, Mosier's book is unclear in conception, unconvincing in argument and unreliable in matters of fact.
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Myth vs. Reality 4 Aug 2004
By David W. Nicholas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Every few years a book comes along which turns conventional history on its head, reinterprets things, and generally shakes up thinking on a particular aspect of history, military or otherwise. The Blitzkrieg Myth is a very concious effort to do just that, intending to prove that blitzkriegs didn't work, either when the Germans implemented them against their enemies early in the war, or later when they were the victims of them.

The author approaches this theory in an unusual, and not very productive way. Instead of studying each of the campaigns in Europe in World War II that involved armored warfare, he essentially ignores North Africa, Italy, and the war in Russian, and concentrates for the most part on the campaigns in France in 1940 and 1944. This leads to the completely weird phenomenon of the author attempting to prove that both the French collapse in 1940 and the German one four years later weren't the results of mechanized assaults and encirclements by their opponents. He even, at several points in the text, labels both attacks "failures." This is clearly strange.

One major difficulty I had with the book was the author's knowledge of the campaigns and battles, and his command of the issues involved. The text contradicts itself regularly, and it cites facts not available elsewhere (i.e. they're wrong) continuously. He even repeats the statistics on the civilian dead in the bombing of Dresden that Frederick Taylor just proved were inflated by Josef Goebbels, in his book on Dresden. When he's not mangling actual facts, Mosier puts forward some truly odd opinions, often without comment. Thus Sepp Dietrich turns out to have been one of Hitler's best Panzer generals, an opinion I've never seen before. Every other writer I've ever read thought Dietrich was basically useless as an army commander.

Occasionally, there's an opinion that's interesting in its originality. The author, for instance, is a great admirer of Montgomery, and spends considerable time in the book praising him. There are so many things that he ignores or states incorrectly, however, that you have to wonder why and how he came to the conclusions that he did.

When someone writes a book, and expresses amusement at his critics and their lack of understanding of his points, he'd better be completely on target with what he says. If he's not, he's going to be subject to some severe criticism. The author does exactly that (the forward to his book is about as condescending as I've ever read) and then proceeds to fall all over the map as far as getting his facts straight is concerned. As a further impediment to understanding what he's saying, since the author is an English professor by trade, he's apparently exempt from rules governing modern grammar, and feels free to use incomplete sentences throughout his book.

I like history and World War II, and I enjoy new interpretations of events that have been gone over conventionally on a repetitive basis. The problem is that the new light has to be accurate, and in this book it's not even close. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone; there's nothing here of interest, and if you don't have much knowledge of World War II, you're going to collect a great deal of information that's just plain wrong.
56 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Blitz or myth: Who spins the best story? 19 Mar 2004
By Mannie Liscum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Let me state right up front that an interesting thesis, if written well, can still make one think about the subject matter, even if researched poorly or selectively. This fact played heavily in my final analysis and rating of John Mosier's "The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II". Now for the breakdown:
First, this is an easy book to read and one can get through it pretty quick. In addition, it is one that, while not impossible to put down, I was compelled to read a bit more even late at night when my eyelids were getting heavy. As a literary piece this is a solid read - even if Mosier has a proclivity for semicolons!
Second, Mosier's thesis that "breakthroughs" with armor and airpower, as he re-termed tank Blitzkrieg and strategic bombing tactics together, were in fact products of historical imagination for the most part and not really practical outcomes of WWII is an interesting one - or at least the portion revolving around armored thrusts. The failure of strategic bombing has been acknowledged for years by historians both connected with and independent from the Armies that battled. Thus this portion of his thesis is accepted and need not be argued and re-proven. The former portion, that armored breakthroughs did not actually swing the balance of the war is a more interesting one that probably deserves some critical analysis. The problem here is that Mosier falls into the very trap that he claims post-war analysts and historians have fallen into - chosing events and situations that tend to provide support for the idea being proposed and spinning the history according to thesis. Mosier argues that disciples of Fuller (let's limit our discussion to tanks and armor as airpower failures are already accepted) spun the war to fit the theory of breakthroughs such that breakthroughs were the resultant history. One has to agree that their appears to be some truth in this. Certainly tanks alone were not decisive in determining the outcome of the war, and what appeared temporally and spatially as breakthoughs on the battlefield were influenced as much by political situations and non-armor Blitz military tactics as motorized tactics implicite in Fuller's ideas. Yet tanks and armor were important factors in there own right - the most important case in point being the Eastern front. Mosier tells the reader that the T34 Russian battletank was the BEST tank of the war - a point generally agreed upon by decades of historians - yet he omits essentially all reference to brilliant Russian tactic use of this tank on the Eastern front. Rather he limits his discussion to Poland, France, brief synopsis of desert battles, and post-Allied invasion western Europe. In doing so he avoids clear examples of dramatic armored breakthroughs that occurred during the march to Berlin by the Russians. Also by minimizing the discussion of the desert war Mosier again avoids discussion of what was in most cases mobile tank battles alternating with attemps of armor and infantry to breakthough defensive stances. By picking and chosing examples where the breakthrough theory is not the clear and sole determinant of the battle outcome Mosier provides support for his thesis. Is this not in all intent and purpose what Mosier said the Blitz proponents have done for decades?
So what is the correct spin? Was the Blitz a real tactical product or theoritical dream? As most things in life go it is probably fair to say "a little of both, depending upon where you look". If one takes isolated examples, as both Mosier and those he criticizes have done the extreme viewpoints win out. But what's the real answer? Here's how this book get's 4 stars instead of 2 - the answer is still out there waiting for an unbiased thorough study, taking into account all of the available historical data but using Mosier's criteria for whether or not a breakthrough theory is applicable. This means looking more boradly at the war as a whole - the entire European and Middle Eastern theatres, and addressing not pierced defensive weaknesses, as Mosier is correct to point out have generally been done previously, but to look at both defensive and offensive realities of both combatants. Thus, the interesting thesis still exists I think and for that reason my interest in the question is still high and I can give "The Blitzkrieg Myth" four stars for making me think.
Disclaimer: serious students of history should be aware before they read this book that a lot of historical fact is omitted or shoved aside in the "testing" of the thesis.
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