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The Smoke and the Fire: Myths and Anti-myths of War, 1861-1945 Paperback – 14 Sep 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd; New edition edition (14 Sept. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0850523303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0850523300
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,099,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Oct. 2000
Format: Paperback
This book should be on the syllabus for any student of the past (and future) practice of war.
Interestingly, he spans not just the wars of the 20th century but also those in the previous period which set the scene for all modern "industrial wars". So he is able to show how the US civil war foreshadowed much that was to happen a few decades later.
I have always been intrigued by the way that the reporting of wars colours the way those conflicts are viewed by future students. What was once half-seen or even imagined in the smoke of battle, becomes publically accepted and regurgitated in our folklore. As he so cogently reveals, this is not only obscures the truth but prevents that truth from being seen and acted upon in future wars.
Reading it made me reappraise my views of these wars and want to read more of his books. I read the Thin Blue Line a decade ago and was similarly made to think - and feel not a little sorrow for those brave people.
What would be nice to see is his view of the last "great wars" of the 20th century - Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. I suspect it would be only to say history and its myths constantly repeat themselves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. O. G. M. Drewett on 23 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
Those who think they already posess an in-depth knowledge of the wars in the period concerned will find parts of Terraine's book a little shocking. But it is in any case essential for those who seek the truth. Mainly focussing on the first world war, it is well backed with evidence and argued persuasively. This book plays an important part in challenging some of the myths that have inevitably arisen from war books over the years. It ocassionally seems monotonous but is well worth sticking with!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on 30 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
John Terraine (1921 - 2003) was a screenwriter and producer for TV, best known for 'The Great War', which I remember watching on BBC in 1963-4. He was also a prolific author. This book is one of many which discusses the myths which grew up around the First World War in the late 1920s, were lent respectability by Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and the War Poets, and were encapsulated in the film 'Oh! What a Lovely War' in 1963.

The main myths were: that a whole generation of men had been lost; that the Generals could have avoided this bloodshed if they had tried an indirect approach, rather than hammering away on the Western Front; that the machine-gun was responsible for more deaths than any other weapon; that tanks could have won the war with far fewer casualties; that the British troops were `lions led by donkeys'; and, perhaps most widespread of all, that the War was in any event `futile'.

Terraine demolishes these in turn, often by reference to hard statistics. He shows that the mortality, while devastating, was not catastrophic; that the only way to defeat the German Army was to deploy an army of similar size against it, which the British were unable to do before 1916; that shellfire was more lethal than the machine gun; that the tanks available were primitive beasts, few in number, very slow and extremely vulnerable; that the British generals were as good as any and better than most; and that a War which defeated Germany and liberated Belgium and North-Eastern France could hardly be said to be pointless - especially when one compares the outcome in the West with the kind of peace which the Germans dictated in the East, where they were victorious.
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Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating 5 April 2004
By Rick Kaneen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book will be especially interesting to students of The Great War, presenting reconsiderations of long-standing 'facts' that appear in many histories of 1914-18. The myth of the "lions led by donkeys" is one of the most interesting that Terraine attempts to disspell. The book deals with WWII and some 19th century European conflict, but for the most part, only to enlighten the discussions of WWI. Well crafted and engagingly written. A must for any Great War library.
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