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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive
This is an impressive book, primarily because Mungo Melvin has here perfected the art of demonstrating that the principles of successful operational art can be smuggled into a fast-paced, interesting narrative, without the general reader being aware of it. Accordingly, there is as much here for the campaign planner as there is for the man on the Clapham omnibus. Both...
Published on 2 April 2011 by Robert Lyman

3.0 out of 5 stars Manstein
Too much of the book dwells on the postwar trial and ramblings on generals' mindsets. Good for background of Wehrmacht.
Published 13 months ago by George Hay

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, 2 April 2011
Robert Lyman (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General (Paperback)
This is an impressive book, primarily because Mungo Melvin has here perfected the art of demonstrating that the principles of successful operational art can be smuggled into a fast-paced, interesting narrative, without the general reader being aware of it. Accordingly, there is as much here for the campaign planner as there is for the man on the Clapham omnibus. Both will walk away with a satisfying surfeit of rich things. The book provides a fascinating reminder that genius in the application of operational art is ultimately futile if the grand strategy is wrong, as it surely was in Hitler's plans for the subjugation of the East. The Soviets feared Manstein as their greatest opponent, but in the end his genius could not build more tanks, recruit more soldiers or replace the battle casualties (both human and mechanical) that constant warfighting in the East was to consume in the face of the long term Soviet superiority in this area.

The clarity of Melvin's explanation of the principles of operational manoeuvre, and of Manstein's mastery of it, is superb, but the author carefully avoids the pitfall of hagiography, presenting the man 'warts and all', not shying away for instance from issues around the systemic abuse of the rules of war by the Wehrmacht.

This book is an impressive achievement and is highly recommended.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work that is long overdue!, 11 Aug. 2010
When I first read that biography of General-Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was about to be published I was elated. When I learnt the said work was to be written by a senior British military analyst and historian I literally couldnt wait to get the book.

I was not to be disappointed.

This book is an indepth and articulate historical study of the man who in the humble opinion of this reviewer was the last great tactical genius of conventional warfare, and was long overdue for a serious study and biography.

Western historians and military figures have traditionally swallowed German wartime propoganda(mostly Goebbels work) and assumed that the likes of Rommel and Model were german military geniuses, while the standout German military leader was in fact Erich von Manstein. Hitler admired Manstein ability but loathed his attitude and aristocratic background, and saw von Manstein as a threat. Hence his promotion of individuals such as Rommel.

Although von Mansteins name is well known to serious students of military history it is less known to historians and the public at large. This book quite rightly seeks to address that lack of knowledge about this talented and complicated individual.

From the conception of the successful invasion of France to the capture of the Crimea, and holding the Red Army at bay - as much as was possible - as the German Army retreated after Stalingrad, Manstein was the man behind all these successful military ventures, in both the planning or operational levels.

The author has not attempted to gloss either the good or bad parts of the Field Marshals character or experiences.
This is not a journalistic piece with an 'axe to grind' or an ideology to expound. Rather it is a study of man whose profession was war, and one in which he excelled at a level that few of his contemporaries - Allied or Axis - could match.

Issues such as his lack of support for the German Military Resistance to Hitler, and why he never resigned in the face of National Socialisms destructive effect on Germany(and Europe) are explored by the author, and he successfully and clearly explains von Mansteins thinking.

One of the pleasures is the ease with which one can read the military maps, which is something civilians such as myself often have trouble understanding the intricacies of. Obvious attention to details and patience was taken to provide maps of great clarity which can be understood easily.

The author writes with ease, and draws the reader very effectively into Manstein and his world. And whilst the grand military and tactical skills of the man are made clear so are the details of his life: domestic, political and cultural.

If history - especially of controversial and bloody periods - is to be studied objectively, correctly and most important of all truthfully, then it needs more books of this calibre.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most definite victory., 14 Feb. 2011
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Field Marshal Von Manstein called his war-time memoirs- "Lost Victories".Unlike them this book by Major General Melvin is a most definite victory!Manstein,(unlike the much inferior Rommel) is little known in the west, because apart from the latter part of the French campaign, he spent the entire war on the Eastern Front.Major General Melvin makes a convincing and highly readable case that he was probably the greatest general and strategist on either side in the second world war.Inevitably, the book concentrates on Mansteins military career.His personal life is not omitted- but it was farly conventional for a man of his time and class.Born into an East Prussian land-owning family- Manstein marries married a woman of similar background, was happily married to her for 46 years and had 2 sons and a daughter- the eldest son being killed in action on the Eastern Front.Mansteins liking for Motzart, fine cognac, and cigars as well as his skill at chess are all covered.We also see ,in a letter to his wife, his almost childish delight , when ,during a visit by Hitler to his HQ- his small pet dachshund chases off Hitlers alsatian, "Blondi" not once but twice.
However, as you would expect, the bulk of the book is devoted to Mansteins campaigns- a subject General Melvin is well qualified to write on.Mansteins military greatness is based on 3 things,
1. His devising of the "Sichelschnitt" plan ,which defeated the French in the summer of 1940.
2.His 1942 campaign in the Crimea- culminating in his capture of Sevastopol.
3. The 3rd "Battle of Kharkov" -Feb.1943.This campaign is deservedly studied at military academies around the world as an example of how to retrieve a disate
rous situation and shore up a collopsing front.After the defeat of Stalingrad Manstein was able to lure the Red Army on and then ,when they advanced too far ,slice them off with his famous "back-handed stroke"- an action which stabilised the Eastern Front for 6 months.
Of course, Manstein was only able to do this because Hitler had been so numbed by the defeat of Stalingrad that he gave up ,for several months, his normal interference with his commanders.
Manstein was not always victorious- he failed to relieve Stalingrad in December 1942- but -given the situation and the time of year-it is unlikely anyone else could have done better.
General Melvin also uses Stalingrad to make 2 points of contemporary relevance.
1.Hitler was not the only politician given to making claims of premature victory- against the advice of his professional advisers.
2.Hitler was not the only politician who tried to get his soldiers to hold isolated outposts ,where whatever, the troops on the ground manage to achieve, success is just not possible due to overwhelming strategic and operational odds.(Hitler believed such odds could be overcome by superior will and courage-he was wrong!-what Bush and Blair believed -we do not know.
Manstein spent the last year of his command- arguing with Hitler about wether to manouevre in the East or stand fast- before Hitler finally sacked him in 1944.Manstein always believed that if Hitler had given him a free hand in the East- he could have forced the Soviets to a stalemate in the East.Given the overwhelming Soviet superiority in manpower -it seems unlikely he could have done more than delay the inevitable for a few months.
The July plotters approached Manstein to get him to join them but he refused -saying-"A Prussian Field Marshal does not mutiny".However, he did not betray those who approached him to the Gestapo.
After the war -Manstein was convicted by a British court of war crimes and served a shrt term of imprisonment until being released in 1953.General Melvin points out that what he was convicted of were sins of omission -not commission.That he did not want to know too much about what was happening to the Jews behinnd his lines.He also did not worry unduly about the fate of the Russian peasants whose crops he burned during the retreats of 1943-44.
Manstein always denied serving Hitler."I did not serve under Hitler- I served my country" -he said .
On release from prison, he advised the post-was West German government on setting up a new army- wrote his memoirs and finally retired-he died in 1973 -aged 87.You will not find a better- written book on Manstein and the Eastern Front than this. As for Manstein- let Adolf Hitler have the last word- "This man is not to my liking- but he knows how to get things done"
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars incredible book on an incredible man, 24 July 2011
This review is from: Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General (Paperback)
i truly was amazing by this book. it is not just the story of an incredible man but also of the second world war from the point of view of the german generals. the book covers manstein all through his life and describes his campaigns in wonderful detail. i most enjoyed the part on the battle for the crimea and siege of sevastopol, truly an epic battle that tested the man to his limits as a leader. this book would make recommended reading for any one in the military as it offers great insight into what it takes to be an operational leader. Manstein truly was the greatest operational mind of the second world war, calm and confident in crises, clear minded and never allowed himself to become ego minded
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'If Only he had listened', 4 Dec. 2012
JM Cunningham (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General (Paperback)
When ploughing through this massive book, once you get past the formative years process, and into the 'meat' which of course was the Second World War, you realise how much the world would have changed if Adolf Hitler hadn't been both a brilliant politician and a psychopath; although some would argue that both sides are both necessary and present in most of our present clutch of pedestrian politicians.

Although General Manstein didn't invent the idea of 'Blitzkrieg' he polished the raw gem until it became the 'jewel' which enhanced the 'Esprit-de-Corps' of the German military, and enabled it to destroy opponents without seeming effort. Manstein's division's marching south through Belgium and France, using air power as an 'aperitif' for semi-mechanised warfare proved that his ideas, if properly used, would deliver victory, and Hitler revelled in the glory which was Germany's as his legions marched.

No-one really knows why Hitler paused, for over a week, the armoured advance of his Panzers towards the beaches and buildings of Dunkirk. Some say that he was advised by an astrologer on Himmler's staff against the move of his disciplined soldiers which would have decimated the bulk of the nearly defenceless British Army as it trailed back from its badly-led and disorganised actions in France and Belgium. If Hitler had listened to the professionals, such as Kleist and more importantly Manstein; the B.E.F would have either been buried where they fell, or marched towards the ever-swelling P.O.W. camps of Germany. Bereft of even the base of a professional Army, and with the R.A.F struggling to staff its fighter squadrons, but aided only by the the best-equipped Navy in the world, the British government would have had to consider either a 'Cease-fire' or a surrender without the gift of 'Dunkirk' which steadied the British people.

If the B.E.F.'s destruction and capture had taken Britain out of the war, Hitler could have forwarded his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union without the cancerous sore of that small island's armed forces as a constant irritation at his rear, Hitler's forward planning could have advanced his invasion dates by at least eight months, and all the advances which Manstein and his fellow Wermacht generals made for Hitler's dream could have been consolidated.

In the real world, of which this book is such a good guide, we see how Manstein tried to carry out his orders, but when the tides of War turned against him, he failed to convince his leader that the word 'retreat' was a necessary part of a good soldier's lexicon, and so the needless sacrifice of thousands of Germany's best was set in concrete.

The one area of General Manstein's life and occupation as a soldiers' leader which the biographer, Mungo Melvin seems to give him the benefit of the doubt is of course in the area covered by the German's responses to the attacks by the Soviet 'Partisan' forces. These irregulars, themselves governed only very loosely from Moscow, and therefore free from supervision or scrutiny, tended towards the idea of 'the only good German is a dead German' and there was an even looser scrutiny of the tactics employed by those same 'Partisans'. The ferocity of the reprisals against the civilians by the German Army, as documented by other writers, gives witness to the gap in credulity from what Manstein ordered, and what he claimed to be aware of. As for the other charge, namely knowledge of, and participation in, the grotesquely named 'Final Solution', I for one, find it almost impossible to believe that such an industrialised human slaughter was not well-known or even tacitly even encouraged by both the corps of Germany's generals, and the German public at large.

A book to be read, and then read again. A credit to the author, whose desire to remain in the shades of his subject allow him to give his name, but not his rank.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and intriguing account., 17 Sept. 2011
C. M. Cutts - See all my reviews
This review is from: Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General (Paperback)
The level of detail in this book is such that I really feel I can picture and imagine Manstein's mannerisms and how he walked and talked, as well as being educated on his life and achievements. Enjoyed it a lot. I find it a fascinating 'what if' to think what might have happened as regards the outcome of the entire war(or at least the eastern front) if Manstein had been allowed total command in the east.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Field Marshal v.Manstein, 9 Sept. 2010
B. S. Condell (Apt. France) - See all my reviews
Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General.

This new biography by Major General Melvin is long overdue and it is likely that it will remain the definitive work on Manstein for a considerable time to come. Significantly, although the book is clearly written with the military specialist in mind, there is a great deal which will be of serious interest to a wide general readership.

Until now, Manstein's reputation as a military genius has been based on his own memoir `Lost Victories' which described his role in designing and planning Fall Gelb (case yellow) the Ardennes campaign in 1940 and on the Eastern Front until his dismissal by Hitler in 1944. Now, for the first time, a General Staff Officer is providing an in-depth appraisal of Manstein's overall career, his campaigns, his subsequent trial before a British military court in 1948 and his later contributions to the present-day Heer, the modern German Federal Armed Forces.

General Melvin's research and analysis is of a high order. The more so, as a War College graduate he has extensive experience of the military operational environment and is the first historian to be granted unlimited access to the Manstein family archives. As a German linguist, he was able to use such access to full advantage. Additionally, (having walked the ground) he provides a General Staff Officer's skilled appraisal of Manstein's major campaign successes such as the Crimea, where he was able to identify and visit the site of the German 11th Army headquarters. There are also rare insights into the Field Marshal's later brilliant defensive operations in the Donets River Basin, both on forehand and backhand maneuvers, at Army Group level.

Such historically vexed questions as Hitler's disastrous policy regarding the 6th Army at Stalingrad receive welcome clarification and the planning for the last, much delayed, German offensive operation `Citadel' at Kursk are covered with good attention to detail.

Manstein's turbulent relations with Hitler are described (with various sources being employed) as is Hitler's intellectual weakness in the Strategic Art where he had difficulty in deciding between Economic and Military priorities. The clash of wills in the War Room at Berchtesgarten in early 1944, made Hitler acutely aware that his abilities in the areas of Strategy and the Operational Art were overshadowed and he would not accept such a rival. Soon afterwards, Manstein was sent into retirement.

General Melvin's significant success with this book is that he has placed Manstein in the historical context of the period. All the major questions regarding his genius as a planner, his relevance as a strategist, his profound and intuitive expertise in the Operational Art as an Army and later as an Army Group commander, the accusations of war crimes, his attitude to the Jews, together with his later trial and subsequent sentencing are all dealt with both in detail and with a refreshing objectivity. This is supported by a wealth of quoted source material, extensive notations and an impressive and fascinating bibliography of published and unpublished material. Also well worthy of note are the re-designed situation maps.

As a person, Manstein is shown to be a product of the traditional Prussian aristocracy, a dedicated career officer presenting the traditional values of his social class such as loyalty, professionalism, decency, courage and moral rectitude; all of which were by no means exceptional in his time. Perhaps ironically, it is these same values which earned him the venomous distrust of Hitler and the Nazi party. Manstein's early service in the First World War, and later in the Reichswehr was much above average and it was clear that the TruppenAmt was, even then, considering him for an important career. The author assigns an important section of the book to this period which also covers the murderous in-fighting between the SA and the Nazi party machine.

General Melvin has created a highly researched and well balanced account of the life of, perhaps, the most skilled commander of any of the armed forces involved in the Second World War and I highly recommend the book to serving military personnel and to the general reader who has an interest in the military history of the period.

Bruce Condell,

Editor/Co-Author: `On the German Art of War, Truppenfuhrung'
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CAMDENJOHN, 18 Aug. 2010
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Yes, this is a superb account not only of Manstein's campaigns, his struggles with Berlin, and Hitler in particular, but also of his character.
He did not enjoy "small talk", but was obsessed by Bridge - always the competitor!
But his apparent view as described here of the Luftwaffe is strange. Their role was crucial in achieving success or failure in a campaign, but we are told he dismissed them as dominated by the Party, and their role is under played.
There is plenty of evidence elsewhere that Goering - and others in the Luftwaffe hierarchy - strongly resisted Party interference, until Goering's indolence and hedonism reduced his role to that of a cypher.
Manstein was not a political animal, but he must have known this!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General, 13 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General (Paperback)
As someone who is endeavoring to become an Army Officer, one feels it is incumbent on any erudite soldier to study
the axiom's of friend and foe alike.
Strategies and tactics from yesteryear can still be utilized now and well into the future, Clausewitzian doctrine
is still in vogue and will remain relevant for sometime. ''A swift and vigorous assumption of the offensive--the flashing sword of vengeance--is the most brilliant point in the defensive''
General Rupert Smith whose excellent new conception The Utility of Force, which has at its kernel: ''War amongst the People'' agrees with this assertion.
One must not discriminate upon the sources of constructive military theory, put simply, the criteria; if it is useful,
one should embrace and assimilate it.
Framed within this context much biographic material has been published in recent times, but General Mungo Melvin's book on the pre-eminent
Field marshal Manstein is a significant pièce de résistance on one of the greatest military minds the world has produced.
Yes, ingenious, yes, a master of operational design, yes, a master of all facets of the art of arms.
General Melvin's acute ability at being able to comprehensively dissert the essence of Field Marshal Manstein, not only in a
chronological sense, which he does superbly, but also getting inside the internal dynamic, the intrigues, the innovation, the
frustration and also on a psycho-social level with much needed pointillistic detail, academic nuances, impeccably researched
with much attention to detail with regard to sources and background developments.
Manstein's development of post WWI military doctrine (influenced in no small part by British General JFC Fuller), his innovative planning of the invasion of France via the Ardennes, known as the Manstein plan, his conquest of the Crimea and the conduct of his campaign in the Eastern Theatre.
A lot of tributaries and confluences are encountered, lateral light is thrown on many areas that we have linearly taken for granted,
if only they had...How? Well...New needed thinking is generated.
It truly is a fascinating work that will stand the test of time and should be studied by any intending or serving Army Officer
who is serious about his profession.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book in Years on War, 3 Nov. 2010
I really enjoyed this book not that I condone war except that in a war defeating the Nazis and only then could it have been nipped in the bud either economically or politically.

The fact that this book was written by an ex-major general is a welcome relief that someone in charge of a division and above can place some insights into the mind of this master of operations. He was not a master of tactics this is not alluded to, but it is suggested that he was very creative in this manner. His real genius was planning operations that succeeded in most cases.

The book boxes this man as a man of honour, willing to do his duty to serve his country first and foremost. In his memoirs that if directly asked if he would support the killing of Hitler, declined saying that it would break his oath to Hitler and would weaken the country and hence the war effort. After WW2 he was also indicted for war crimes, mainly that of omission, of not knowing or not doing anything against by the SD etc.

I better not say too much about his operations as that would endanger the enjoyment of the book but for the things he will be remembered is the double scythe attack strategy across France, which used the tactics of the Blitzkrieg (created by the British btw). He was also instrumental in Kursk which betrayed his operational principles and had a hand in the decision of the 6th Army besieged and captured in Stalingrad.

Overall an exceptional general, this tells you how good he was, Rommel even admitted that he would be glad to serve under him, Guderian thought well of him, Hitler knew he was talented but distrusted his roots plus his forwardness, Hoth was his 4th Panzer Army commander and after WW2 he was allowed to give his recommendations on the Bundeswehr Army formations of which the brigade formation became the standard for German and British forces in the 70's.

There are several anecdotes that will make you smile if not laugh as well such as his troops confrontations with the SA, Hitler's dog and the situation where Manstein met Rommel for the first time.

Read this book you won't be disappointed especially with the maps and strategies involved.
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Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General
Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General by Major General Mungo Melvin OBE (Paperback - 3 Mar. 2011)
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