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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, judgemental, incisive..
Hastings' 'Armageddon' is one of the best WWII books I've read. Clearly he has undertaken painstaking desk and field research and the results show it. But it is not just the sheer details that make the book shine, it is Hastings' opinions and judgements - however camouflaged - that give the book its deserved plaudits. He does not shirk from telling the unpalatable truths...
Published on 22 Jan 2010 by Wellread

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66 of 75 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monumental work detailing monumental events, 28 April 2014
By 
still searching (MK UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This monumental work recounts the Allies' push for Berlin from D-Day onwards, in painstaking detail, the research for which is evident in the acknowledgements and notes at the end of the book. What comes across forcefully is a kind of `everyman' point of view of the astonishing courage, sacrifice and humanity of ordinary people required to do extraordinary things in the face of the kind of monstrous evil that, ordinarily, should defy belief. The equally monumental commission given to Eisenhower in order to procure victory is also stressed, given the sometimes seemingly impossible task of maintaining the Anglo-American alliance in the face of increasingly disuniting tendencies: the monstrous egos of Montgomery and Patton being just the most obvious examples. It is interesting to speculate what the outcome might have been had the axis powers had the benefit of similarly coordinated planning.

In rating the relative accomplishments of all of the armed forces concerned, Hastings, unashamedly reserves first spot on the podium for the forces of Germany, especially, elite groups such as those of the Waffen SS, panzergrenardiers and heavy armoured units. That is not to say that he ignores, or in the least way excuses, the accompanying atrocities they and the ordinary divisions of the Wehrmacht were sometimes guilty of and the sickening minutiae of these and those of the Red Army are outlined in all their horrific detail. The only units of the Western Allies that, in his opinion came close, were elite units such as the British Commandos and the American Parachute regiments, such as the 506th of the 101st Airborne Division, the so-called `Screaming Eagles' made famous by Stephen Ambrose in his sometimes, less than `even-handed' book, Band of Brothers.

This explains he says, the reason why, particularly by comparison to the Red Army, the Allies were decidedly sluggish in terms of the progress they made following the first few weeks after establishing the Normandy beachhead. But he tempers this view by comparing the armies of the Western democracies with those of the totalitarian Nazi and Soviet states who were not so squeamish when it came to killing. Equally, Nazi and Soviet commanders were not `hampered' by the demands of domestic public opinion having nothing with which to comply but the exorbitant and sometimes manic demands of their despotic rulers.

Although the reader is given an outstanding `birds-eye' view of the broad sweep of events the individual's `worm's-eye' view is always also provided by first-hand witness accounts from individuals on all sides of the conflict from fanatical Nazis and Russian peasants to American G.I.s from middle America.

There is one slight caveat: Hastings seemingly dismisses any French involvement in the liberation of their own country and while this was, admittedly, comparatively minor, it still seems to brush aside LeClerc's 2nd French Armoured Division's crucial contributions under the command of Patton, Patch and Hodge at various times. Thus, only 4 stars, I'm afraid!

Otherwise, thoroughly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars V Good, 22 Jun 2013
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Very good book regarding last year of Second World War in Europe, lots of personal stories entwined into the high level of war operations. Especially recommended to have an insight into the dreaded Eastern Front. Very cheap for the value, quickly delivered
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 7 Feb 2013
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Hastings at his best. I was totally hooked from the start. Part on East Prussia was most informative. Loved it.
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43 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 5-star book marred by bad editing, 27 Nov 2004
By A Customer
This gives a riveting account of the last year of World War II in Europe. Combining 'macro' accounts of the main battles with comments and experiences of the participants both high-ranking and humble, Hastings has brilliantly melded his dual talents as journalist and historian. Sadly his book is tarnished by inexcusably poor editing, the pages being littered with typographical errors. One has the impression that it may not have been proofread at all. The all-important maps appear to have been dredged up from somewhere because they were available rather than being closely linked to the text - frequently, important place names discussed in the text are not to be found at all, on the maps.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One theater, two wars., 16 Dec 2008
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
"American and British officers knew that their citizen soldiers were attempting to fulfil tasks which ran profoundly against the grain of their societies' culture. The Germans and Russians in the Second World War showed themselves better warriors, but worse human beings. This is not a cultural conceit, but a moral truth of the utmost importance to understanding what took place on the battlefield ... If American and British soldiers of 1944-45 had matched the military prowess and become imbued with the warrior ethos of Hitler's armies, it is unlikely that we should today hold the veterans of the Second World War in the just regard that we do. They fought as bravely and as well as any democracy could ask, if the values of civilization were to be retained in their ranks." - Author Max Hastings in ARMAGEDDON

"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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars nagging doubts............, 29 Mar 2012
By 
D. Darkin (Tokyo Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a great book on many levels and filled with interesting information on many neglected parts of the 1944-45 story. I heartily recommend it to anyone.

One point I must make. I did come away filling slightly uneasy on what I read as Max Hasting's views on the Germans and the Soviets. He does make reference back to the terrible things that the German forces carried out within the Soviet Union, but always follows it with a comment about what Stalin did to his own, as if to somehow reduce the impact. I began to feel that Mr Hastings has a grudging respect for the German forces, and sees the Soviets forces as bringers of destruction and barbarity. I found that disturbing, and feel that he really did not spend enough time explaining the context of the final year of the war in the East. Just taking a simple example of the Ukraine, he could have easily talked about the state of the region pre Barbarossa and after. Once a reader has that in their minds, what horrors happened in Prussia and other parts of Germany can be seen in the context of the horror of the eastern front. What happened in Prussia cannot be viewed in isolation.

In no way am I making excuses for the Soviet actions, the same as the actions of the Germans in 1941-44 cannot be excused. It was a war of annihilation, where rules of war no longer existed.

I really feel that Max Hastings has to now write a book on the German-Soviet War and confront the horrors visited on the USSR by the German forces which were on a scale hardly imaginable for those of us who read about the war in the West. I really look forward to such a project as I find all of his work readable and of great quality.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine study of the last years of World War Two in Western Europe, 23 Sep 2009
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
For this outstanding book, military historian Max Hastings researched in the archives of four countries and conducted 170 interviews with survivors of the war. Brilliantly written, it conveys the horror of war, without idealisation. Throughout, he makes realistic judgements.

For example, he writes of the Warsaw uprising, "the Polish commander wanted it both ways: the success of his revolt hinged upon recognising Russian military support, while its explicit objective was to deny the Soviet Union political authority over his country."

Hastings asserts, "the British Joint Intelligence Committee had concluded that, if the Poles carried out their long-planned uprising, it was doomed to failure in the absence of close co-operation with the Russians, which was unlikely to be forthcoming. It seems lamentable that, after making such an appreciation, the British failed to exert all possible pressure upon the Poles to abandon their fantasies."

He points out, "Despite some historian's idealisation of those who were ruthlessly returned to Stalin, the murderous record of Cossacks who served the Wehrmacht in northern Italy and Yugoslavia deserves more attention than it has received."

He observes, "Stalin's people were overwhelmingly responsible for destroying Hitler's armies." He cites American historian Forrest Pogue who wrote that the Soviet forces "broke Germany and made the [D-Day] landing possible." Hastings judges, `the single most impressive ground operation of the war' was Operation Bagration of July-August 1944, and Stalin was `the most successful warlord of the Second World War'.

The key dilemma at the end of the war in Europe was whether the Anglo-American forces should try to take Berlin, which was a hundred miles inside the agreed Soviet occupation zone. Hastings applauds Eisenhower's decision not to try, and shows that no Anglo-American action in spring 1945 could, or should, have undone the agreements reached at the Teheran and Yalta conferences.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Narrative, 20 Jun 2008
This is a superb book, and I can really appreciate the level of knowledge about the war in 1944-45, and the personal quotes and insights into the conflict at the time that he has brought into the book.

Highly recommended, especially the lesser parts of the campaign he covers, such as the annihilation of East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia, and the moving of borders and people westwards.

I'd highly recommend anyone read this to gain insights into this tumultuous time and help them see how a modern, civilised, Western European civilisation can descend so quickly into chaos, brutality and destruction. One is left pandering for a visit to pre-war europe to see what Dresden and Warsaw used to look like.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars European Tragedy, 15 Dec 2004
Max Hastings has created a well researched and detailed epic of the final stages of World War 2 in Europe. 'Armageddon' is both long and harrowing, but the quality of Hastings' research, analysis, and narrative makes this book a lucid and compelling read for those interested in the subject.
Many of the book's eyewitness accounts are heart-rending - the merciless sufferings of civilians, PoWs, and soldiers reinforces the view that Hitler and his followers needed to be destroyed as rapidly as possible. Imparted throughout this book is the over-cautiousness of Allied high command, which combined with the childish ambitions and personal feuds of some Allied commanders, unfortunately delayed the end of World War 2 in Europe. At the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb piece of military history and analysis, 5 Dec 2004
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Max Hastings is probably vying with Antony Beevor as the best contemporary writer on military history (in fact, Beevor's "Fall of Berlin" is the perfect complement). Both have their strengths, but Hastings does, at times, seem to invoke a greater empathy with some of the participants ... and to be slightly more detached in judging others.
His account of the battle for Germany and the last year of the war is an epic piece of work. This is war on a continental scale, fought on two fronts, as the American-led Allies advanced from the West, and the Soviets invaded from the East. The subtext in this final year was to be the US vying to ensure that the Soviets remained an ally in name only - by 1944, the cold war was already pencilled into the future diaries.
In many respects, the battle to occupy Germany became the bloodiest, most atrocious period of the war. The generals involved were single-minded in their determination to emerge as victors and to secure their places in history. Defenders and attackers alike were capable of desperate acts. After the breakout from Normandy, there were many who thought the war must end rapidly. The Nazis, however, clung on to power doggedly, and the German troops proved a resilient and resourceful enemy, despite the inevitable.
Hastings portrays both the big political picture and the frontline reality well, though he is perhaps a bit disparaging of many of the Soviet troops - who admittedly knew a little about visiting atrocities on Germany and its civilian population. Hastings recognises that much German resilience was instructed by the need to avoid capture by the Russians.
Hastings emphasises that America's real baptism in European fighting occurred at Bastogne, as the Germans tried to reassert themselves and reconfigure the course of the war in the Battle of the Bulge. Bastogne was a lesson. Thereafter, the US provided the greatest number of frontline troops ... and took a more sanguine approach to the task of conquest.
This is a first-class piece of history and analysis. Hastings offers an incisive, accessible, and stimulating analysis of the last year of war. It is not a book you can lightly put down. There does seem to be some need to tighten up on typographical errors, though these won't reduce your enjoyment of the book (and a paperback copy is due out next year). Excellent piece of history and military analysis.
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