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War Without Garlands. Operation Barbarossa 1941/42 Hardcover – 26 Oct 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ian Allan Publishing (26 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071102734X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711027343
  • Product Dimensions: 25.4 x 20.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 356,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Nov 2000
Format: Hardcover
War Without Garlands is a look at the first months of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The author looks primarily at the experiences of the German combat soldier, but, unlike most other books about this campaign, Kershaw looks beyond the bald facts of frequent victory to what these victories meant to the German Army and to the individual soldier. The basic premise is that the German Army "fought itself to death", that despite great victories the Germans suffered enormous losses, which when coupled with inadequate equipment, bad intelligence, and amateur leadership led to defeat. Kershaw goes way beyond the conventional view of the Nazi armies as well equipped and led. The bulk of the invaders were no more mobile than Napoleon; most infantry walked and most artillery was towed by horses. But, most importantly, the Red Army stood and fought and did not surrender without a fight unlike previous victims of the Nazis. Added to this is the moral debasement of the Germans due to their racist attitude towards the conquered populations. By the final chapters, and the German defeat outside Moscow, one can almost feel sorry for the poor deluded German soldier. Almost but not quite. I found this book to be much better than expected, and highly reccommend it to anyone interested in WW2, especially to those with an interest in the Eastern Front. Robert Kershaw has written an excellent corrective to the conventional view of the events described, it should be widely read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Packham on 8 May 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would recommend this book the content is good, informative and very well written, but why on earth did the publisher put it into this awful format the text is small and the design is awful.

but that said the content is very good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dave History Student TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Jun 2011
Format: Hardcover
A very interesting book to study. It encompasses a select strategic overview of Operation Barbarossa with an abundance of anecdotal experiences. In fact the main theme of this book deals with the thoughts and actions of the German soldier as he fights a determined enemy, poor roads, violent rain storms, extreme temperatures and a battlefield that stretched forever.

The book begins a few days before Barbarossa launches as the Germans move to assembly points and make final preparations for the invasion and will end with the Russian counterattack in front of Moscow which started in early December. Between these two events, the strategic highlights are presented for Brest-Litovsk, Minsk, Smolensk, Leningrad, Kiev, Vyazma, Bryansk and the advance toward Moscow.

This overview is interesting but its too limiting for the serious student. David Glantz's "Before Stalingrad" has a more complete picture of Operations Barbarossa, Typhoon. But there is much more to this book than the strategic overview. The author seamlessly weaves hundreds of first hand experiences to help the reader understand the human side of war in addition to the technical. A description of what its like to struggle through muddy roads a foot deep or build a corduroy road or start a tank or truck in -20 weather or to keep your hands from falling off in that same freezing weather. The desperate situation a soldier finds himself in when wounded and miles from his unit or the partisans are hunting you. What is feels like when your assigned to clear a huge dark forest that could have Russians hiding behind every other tree.
Blitzkrieg is a favorite topic in the book and there are sidebars on panzer tactics, pocket encirclement and the costly job of clearing them, logistic problems and more.
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By John The Doc on 14 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want a grasp of this period of the Russian/German conflict and the repercussions not only for the soldiers involved but the general public's sufferings then you should buy this book.

Highly recommended.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
An excellent account through the eyes of the combatants 28 Mar 2001
By Keith Schur - Published on
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First and foremost this book provies the reader with a view of the Barbarossa campaign through the eyes of the soldiers and civilians involved. Relying heavily on first person accounts (mostly personal diaries) the author does an excellent job conveying the "look and feel" of the campaign. The experiences of both sides are covered well.
The second contribution of the book is a critical and well supported analysis of why the German invasion failed. The author presents the theory that the Germans were "victored to death" in the huge encirclement battles that took place during the summer and fall of 1941. Unlike their western counterparts, the Russian soldiers fought to the finish when surrounded, thereby inflicting severe casualties on the German infantry.
I found the most interesting analysis to be an examination of the German high command's absolute failure to master the logistic requirements of the campaign. Kershaw does an excellent job outlining the real failure of the Germans - the battle of supplies.
Overall I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it to the casual reader as well as the serious student of the Eastern Front.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A Soldiers Account of Operation Barbarossa 28 Feb 2001
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
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The author, a serving colonel in the British airborne, takes his title from the German expression "kein blumenkrieg" denoting the difference between the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 from the earlier easy conquests in the West. Unlike the relatively easy conquests in the West that were followed by parades with flowers, the early victories in Russia did not result in glorious parades. Kershaw weaves numerous German and Soviet diary and letter accounts in with cogent analysis to present a "soldier's account" of the massive German invasion of the USSR.
It is important to note that this is not a comprehensive account of Operation Barbarossa. The contributions of Axis allies are almost totally ignored, with little or no mention of the Finns, Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Italians and Spanish troops who participated in Operation Barbarossa. The six German divisions in Finland that attempted to take Murmansk and the bloody siege of Odessa are also ignored. Most of the focus is on ArmeeGruppe Center's area of operations, with much less detail on ArmeeGruppe North's efforts to take Leningrad or ArmeeGruppe South's advance to the Dniepr River and beyond.
The author's main contention is that the main philosophy of Blitzkrieg - surround enemy armies and they will surrender - did not work in the USSR. The Wehrmacht surrounded numerous Soviet armies but Russian resistance in hopeless pocket battles caused horrendous German losses. Kershaw asserts that the Germans were "victored to death" in the pocket battles around Minsk and Smolensk in July-August 1941, suffering over 100,000 troops killed. As Kershaw states, the extended pocket battles "broke the tempo of Blitzkrieg". The German OKH staff then failed to realize how badly their own units had been hurt in the pocket battles when they ordered Operation "Typhoon", the final push to Moscow in October 1941. Soviet losses had been heavy, but the Germans underestimated Stalin's ability to mobilize new forces. Atrocious winter weather and dogged Soviet counterattacks then brought the weakened Wehrmacht to its knees just outside Moscow. All told, the Wehrmacht suffered 219,000 dead and 730,000 wounded in the nine months between June 1941 and February 1942 (Kershaw fails to mention that about 25% of the wounded would be returned to duty in a few months). Unfortunately, the lack of comprehensiveness tends to undermines Kershaw's hypothesis. He provides statistics on German personnel losses but not on replacements, which makes it difficult to determine how much the Wehrmacht was actually degraded. Statistics on German tank losses also would have been useful; for example, Germany lost 1,805 PzIII and PzIV tanks in this nine-month period, but they built 1,955 in the same period. The idea that "the seedcorn of Blitzkrieg" was lost in 1941 is premature, given the ability of the Germans to mount large-scale Blitzkrieg-type offensives in 1942 and 1943. Certainly the Germans were hurt badly, but the Wehrmacht still had a lot of fight left in it after the defeat before Moscow.
Finally, the author's constant references to the "easy" campaigns in France and the "war without garlands" tend to become irritating and deceptive over time. While naïve German soldiers may have believed that Barbarossa would be over in 6-8 weeks like the earlier Blitzkriegs, it is doubtful that this sentiment was as widespread as the author claims. Kershaw ignores the fact that the simultaneous Afrika Korps campaigns in Libya were also fought without garlands and also exceeded the six-week paradigm. Anti-partisan campaigns in Yugoslavia would also be more "war without garlands". In implying that the German soldier of 1941 was psychologically conditioned to believe in campaigns that only last six weeks and then resulted in victory parades, Kershaw is painting a psychological weakness that did not exist. Most armies that start wars expect a quick decision, whether it was the Union Army in 1861 or the Kaiser's army in 1914, but they do not fall apart when this overly-optimistic assessment does not become reality. As for the "garlands" aspect, most German soldiers in December 1941 would probably have preferred a hot bath, warm socks and a good meal to a victory parade with flowers. This book is a valuable addition to an East Front library, but it must be tempered with other sources for balance.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Eastern Front in all it's utter brutality... 4 Jun 2003
By Jim - Published on
While there are many excellent works on the Eastern front most tend to be fairly dry, the exception being some of the better first-person accounts, and those often lack strategic overview. Kershaw's book fills the need in this area quite well, at least regarding the first year of that titanic struggle. Weaving diaries, after-action reports and interviews he paints a grim picture of a year-long, unending hell for those involved.
Many books on this subject tend to make the summer of 1941 appear to be a cake-walk for the Germans. While I don't consider myself an expert, I'd always felt that '41 had to have been at least the EASIEST year for them. After reading Kershaw's book it is obvious that the Soviets provided no easy years. Although many authors have given convenient excuses for Hitler's failure to gain victory in '41, ie: the appearence of T-34/KV1 tanks, onset of winter, Hitler's bad decisions, etc. Kershaw's book makes it obvious that another factor must be considered, that is the tenacity and determination of the Soviet army.
One of the stories in the book is about a group of Russian wounded in no-mans-land, German medics attempt to provide aid, and the wounded fire at them, throw grenades and resist in any way possible. Although this behavior appears almost beyond comprehension, one must bear in mind that they were resisting an invader who to them had attacked without provocation.
As others have pointed out, much of Kershaw's accounts come from the German side, the reason for that is this IS a book about the German side of that war. That said, he provides a good amount of info and accounts from the Soviet side as well, making the book, I felt very balanced. I feel the book is a great, fast-paced read that actually puts a "face" on the brutality and horror of the first year of the greatest conflict this world has seen.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Best account of Eastern Front encountered 3 Jun 2001
By A Customer - Published on
There are numerous books written about the Russo-German war but none that I have seen which offer vivid detail to the degree of War w/o Garlands. The accounts of the fighting are well researched and enable the reader to grasp both the large perspective as well as that of the individual soldier very effectively. I particularly like the inserts from soldiers' letters and diaries.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
"Kein Blumenkrieg" 18 Dec 2000
By Steven M. Leonard - Published on
While not offering any new or startling revelations concerning the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Kershaw draws on the words and images of the individual, common soldier to illustrate the mounting horror of a campaign doomed from the outset. The result is a masterpiece of the common man, a celebration of war from the perspective of the simple soldier, the view from the blood-soaked mud of the battlefield.
For readers in search of a serious study of the effects of war on the human psyche, the Kershaw's masterpiece will satisfy your curiosity. This is an analysis of the influence of war on the human condition. For the reader truly interested in the human domain of war, this is a worthwhile purchase.
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