77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story very well told
I had previously read 'Overlord' by Max Hastings and found that he told that story (the battle of Normandy) very well. I read this book in hardback and found that it is similarly well told. As well as the pure facts of the allied & Russian advances and German counter-attacks, Max Hastings adds colour and interest from the personal accounts of many people he has...
Published on 8 April 2005 by Alec B
62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and sometimes preachy overview
An impressive panoramic narrative of the battle for Germany, "Armageddon" combines a wide range of sources (including many veterans) with Hastings's sharp, often iconoclastic judgement. His criticism of the military folly of Operation Market Garden, the Ardennes offensive, and Zhukov's Oder crossing is hard-hitting, but frequently deserved. Hastings is no apologist for...
Published on 1 July 2008 by Geschichtsliebhaber
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story very well told,
The book covers the western and eastern fronts and the concentration camps. It does not cover the war through Italy.
One thing I think could be much improved is the maps - there are a few, but not enough (e.g. one per chapter), they are very basic and don't tie in well with the text. There could be many more, illustrating the text, and use colour.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, judgemental, incisive..,
Allied atrocities such as the shooting of German prisoners of war and the strafing of civilians are detailed, as are those by the Germans and Russians. He spends much time on the many episodes of rape by Russian soldiers - it is thought some 2m German women were raped - and clearly has strong views on it without expressing them. He finds time for pity for the German civilian, despite acknowledging the overwhelming case for collective guilt, and sometimes one suspects even for the dogged German soldier, who Hastings rightly describes as the best fighting professional of the war. Similarly he carefully awards professional respect for the Waffen-SS, whilst in no way condoning their sometimes atrocious battlefield behaviour. He reserves much criticism - supported by much evidence - of Montgomery and the American generals, Patton included. But despite Eisenhower's faults as a strategist, Hastings is fullsome in his regard for him as a leader and politician who held together what was becoming a fractious partnership between Great Britain and the USA.
I was surprised at the observation by Hastings that the Allied soldier was a factor in why the war did not end in 1944. All Allied generals wished for a more aggressive fighting man but Hastings explains the psychology of the civilian Allied soldier well and why he sometimes ran away or shirked his duty, and contrasts him with the professional German warrior who generally fought on because in the absence of a German surrender, he had nothing left to lose. But Hastings is critical of the cautious approach of the Allied generals and contrasts it with the penetrating advances by the Soviet armies. He explains this by the fact that the Soviet generals were able to fight much more boldly and aggressively because they cared little for the suffering of their own soldiers, as well as being under much greater pressure from Stalin for rapid victories.
One thing Hastings and various historians do not mention when discussing how long the war could have dragged on if we had not had Enigma intercepts, or greater manpower, or superior economies, or better leadership than the Nazis (which Hastings contemptuously exposes), is the fact that the US had developed the atom bomb. There is no doubt the Americans would have used it on the Germans if it had been ready for it would have saved thousands of lives, just as it did when used on Japan.
This is a fantastic tome and is highly recommended whether for officers and soldiers, historians or the man on the street. Anyone with a profound interest in WWII will find this a highly satisfying read.
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Armageddon...,
62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and sometimes preachy overview,
Apart from that criticism, Hastings provides a compellingly readable and frequently heart-wrenching account of the final months of the war, paying almost equal attention to the topics usually ignored in the west, such as the sheer magnitude and ferocity of the war on the eastern front. In "Armageddon", the catastrophic climax of the Second World War comes to life, and although we probably can't imagine accurately that awful time, Hastings comes pretty close.
Two minor criticisms. The first is that Hastings argues that the allied carpet bombing of German civilian homes is justified on the grounds that the workers who got bombed were supporting the German war effort through their labour. This is of course correct, but it's a very slippery slope. Taken to an extreme, this argument completely removes the distinction between civilian and military targets: after all, enemy women are also working and supporting their working husbands, thus contributing to the war effort, and children will grow to become enemy soldiers.
Secondly, the maps Hastings includes (e.g. pp.4-5) are extremely strange, inasmuch as they show Europe in the borders of 1937 (except for Luxemburg, which Hastings for some reason considers a part of Germany). As a consequence, Hastings's maps feature a number of countries which did not in fact exist in 1944-5, such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Estonia, and simply do not show several countries which did exist, such as Slovakia and Croatia. Of course, the borders of 1937 are broadly those accepted by the Western allies, but they have nothing to do with the political realities of 1944-5; Austria, for instance, was not an independent country, as "Armageddon" suggests, but an integral part of Germany. The problem is sometimes compounded in the text. What is the reader to imagine when told that a certain regiment was moved "to the Czech border"? What Czech border? The pre-1938 Czech border did not exist in 1944-5 either politically or ethnographically. Thus Hastings causes considerable confusion, as there is no clear sense where exactly the "frontiers of Germany" are, or anything else for that matter.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb,
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why there was no Victory in 1944,
the next you are reading a surgically accurate assessment of the big canvas: the failure to finish Hitler's western armies
Most allied generals come out badly, Montgomery especially.
Max Hastings is scathing about Operation Market Garden, partly on the grounds that it should never have taken place, but
Worse, when its capture was perceived to be vital, it cost 18,000 casualties, and was not open until early November, by
He is equally scathing about the necessity of the dreadful battle in the Hurtgen Forest, (so vividly portrayed in the film
Finally, he is able to show the waning of British influence upon their American allies. This was partly due to the fact that
Nowhere was this loss of influence underlined more clearly than in Eisenhower's personal message to Stalin in March 1945,
Churchill's reaction, and Eisenhower's lack of "deference" to it, signalled that in future the US and the USSR would be
(Churchill's policies in 1941 had been predicated on the assumption that the US would come to the rescue of a beleaguered
Hastings book is also marked by a better balancing of accounts between the Eastern and Western Fronts than has perhaps
The contrast between the cruelty of the fighting - and the treatment of civilians - is starkly emphasised. The conclusion
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A war book with a difference,
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If you want a blow-by-blow account of the various battles of this period, Arnhem, the Oder crossing, the Battle of the Bulge, and lesser known, but no less lethal affairs such as Hurtgen Forest, then this is not the book for you. If you want to get some idea of what it was like to live an fight in northern Europe in the last months of the war, then I can't recommend a better book.
The book makes extensive use of eyewitness accounts from the civilians, soldiers, airmen, and prisoners to build a portrait of suffering that I have rarely previously encountered. As a game designer who has previously had a war game published, I've always worried about the inability of computer games to give an indication of what modern warfare means in human terms. This book brings it home in no uncertain fashion.
The book also makes an interesting assessment of how the different armies fought, and why they fought in the fashion they did. I don't necessarily agree with the conclusions, but I think they represent an important contribution to a debate that deserves more airing. Having said that, there is a definate tendency to preach. Hastings has a very clear set of political views, and in this aspect of the book he is clearly wants his view to prevail. Even so, as long as the reader is aware of this, Hastings' contribution to the debate is very valuable.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for WWII buffs,
43 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 5-star book marred by bad editing,
By A Customer
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One theater, two wars.,
"Between 13 January and 25 April, 2nd Belorussian Front lost 159,490 men dead and wounded, and 3rd Belorussian Front 421,763. During three months in East Prussia, therefore, the Red Army suffered almost as many casualties as the Anglo-American armies in the entire north-west Europe campaign." - Author Max Hastings in ARMAGEDDON
The timeframe for ARMAGEDDON: THE BATTLE FOR GERMANY 1944-1945 is the last 9 months of the conflict in Europe, from September 1, 1944 into May 1945. On September 1, the Red Army was poised to invade East Prussia and cross the Vistula River to capture Warsaw. In the West, Eisenhower's armies had advanced across France to liberate Paris. Now, the Anglo-American forces were preparing to cross into Belgium, and Field-Marshal Montgomery's ill-conceived plan to take the bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem - a "bridge too far" as it would turn out - was on the planning board. Perhaps the war would be over by Christmas.
Author Max Hastings paints his literary canvas using the recollections and documents from those on both sides who participated in and survived the events of those last apocalyptic months: Operation Market Garden, the Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, the Soviet rape of East Prussia, the Allied heavy bombing of Germany, and the Red Army's assault on Berlin. And, most poignantly, those - slave laborers, POWs, concentration camp inmates - who outlived their sojourn in the cruel, massive prison that was, for them, the Third Reich.
ARMAGEDDON includes two sections of black and white photographs of widely varying subjects and several small scale maps of the Western and Eastern Fronts.
Hastings takes great pains to establish two major truths of the European war: that the savagery in the East made the Western Front look like a comparative garden party, and that, based on casualties suffered, casualties inflicted, and extent of territory wrested from the Nazis, the Soviet Union can truly be said to have won the war against Hitler. And, about the cooperation between the American and British allies, he explodes the popular myth with such statements as:
"... it is important to emphasize that affection played no part in the decisions or actions of either ally ... There was a deep resentment among Churchill's people of American wealth and British poverty, matched by American exasperation about Britain's pretensions to influence, and to empire ... It is against this background that Eisenhower's great achievement should be measured. He sustained the military partnership between allies who were weary to death of each other, and led them to share in victory with the facade of unity unbroken."
Serious students of World War Two may find ARMAGEDDON too superficial in its treatment of any of the topics it covers, e.g. the Soviet drive on Berlin or Monty's Market Garden. But the book wasn't meant to be a comprehensive history, but rather an overview based on individual and personal experiences. Further, Western sensibilities, especially of those now aged veterans, may be offended by the view that Ike and his generals didn't shoulder the bulk of combat against Hitler's legions. I, too, might have been taken aback had I not seen, long ago, the 1978 documentary series THE UNKNOWN WAR about the Eastern Front. (Conversely, the Americans and the British Empire won the war against Japan.)
ARMAGEDDON is a balanced, intelligent, well thought out summary. Hastings manages to put a human face on the last convulsions of the Reich. Bravo!
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Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 by Max Hastings