4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
How Hitler's irrational mistakes impacts the war effort,
This review is from: Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic (Kindle Edition)
I see this book differently than two earlier reviewers. I'm clearly not as impressed with it as SanFran JT but I liked it better than T. Kunikov and thought it easier to contextualize and follow though I wouldn't refute the position that the author duplicates some material from his previous book or experienced students of the war will find little to gain from the reading. I believe causal readers of the war who have a real interest in the subject should have a generally positive experience.
The book which is German centric begins with a profile of Hitler and is the foundation for the rest of the book. It explains the dictator's obsessions and fanatical, outdated views, influenced partly by his experience in the First War, concerning rigid defenses, fortress cities and not willing to give up any ground, no matter the cost. In addition to explaining these personal views the author also includes the importance of controlling the Baltic countries and their neighboring sea, having Finland as an Ally as well as leveraging Scandinavia's prime geographic location and resources to his advantage. Many of Hitler's military decisions were based on the impact they would have on the trading and political partners to the north.
Later in the book, Mr Lunde who is a veteran with a distinguished career, also includes coverage of the influence Hitler's super weapons like his new submarines and V rockets had on his battlefield decisions and his need to prolong the war to allow these weapons to mature. The author correctly points out that these weapons even if they were further along than they were, could not be built in sufficient quantities to defeat the Allies and that human and material resources would have been better invested elsewhere like tanks, planes or even synthetic fuel plants.
After Hitler's characterization, a summary of the war shows the deteriorating battle conditions caused a similar deteriorating of relations between Germany and Finland. The author then describes all the attempts by Hitler to save the relationship despite the cost to his Army Groups. The author, who is very critical of the dictator's position, explains why Hitler made the decisions that he did as the progression of the war is followed. The overall presentation was adequately convincing but there were several aspects of this summary that I thought were especially interesting and useful in explaining why the war, despite a successful beginning against an unprepared enemy, turned against Germany. The first of these influences is the deeply flawed planning stage of Operation Barbarossa, its subsequent poor execution and the lack of consistent strategic planning that grew out of it by Hitler and his OKH for the rest of the war. The Barbarossa plans were quickly scrapped and with Hitler at the helm, his Army Groups quickly go off course, lose solidarity of purpose and eventually become vulnerable against a larger, determined enemy that survives the initial blast, regroups and finally goes on the offensive.
Another aspect that plays an important part in the presentation concerns the poor negotiations with Finland that neglected to achieve a true steadfast relationship or understanding about motives and responsibilities between the two countries and that when Finland achieved her war aims, started backing away from Germany when she was needed the most. If Finland had continued full effort against the Leningrad perimeter in late 1941 when AGN and elements of AGC armor was trying for a complete encirclement of the city, it might have been successful. If the Barbarossa plan progressed as expected, Leningrad would have fallen with the help of the Finns, the bulk of AGN could have then contributed in the assault of Moscow. With two Army Groups attacking the Moscow sector, its encirclement might have been successful but Finland didn't whole heartedly contribute to the Leningrad encirclement, the city didn't fall and AGN was stuck at Leningrad, Moscow was never encircled and the rest is history.
The last aspect of the book to be mentioned that reinforces the author's position that Hitler's strategy was flawed is the coverage of Operation Bagration. This Soviet offensive is the perfect example that shows Hitler's fortress concept was outdated and counter-productive against a larger, more mobile enemy. Though only a battle summary the author does a nice job in describing the Soviets's offensive that quickly overcame the Germans' flawed, rigid defensive, surrounding and then destroying much of AGC in the summer of 1944 and led to the isolation of AGN. Hitler didn't try very hard to repair the gaps between his Army Groups or to recall his AGN believing that his fortress concept in its ultimate rendition would ultimately draw off more Soviet Armies away from Germany allowing AGC to stop the Soviet juggernaut at the Oder.
The author's prime coverage is however in AGN sector and emphases the Soviet breakout of Leningrad and advancement to the Panther line and the eventual pushing of AG Courland back against the Baltic Sea and why Hitler, despite the many attempts of his commanders to persuade a pull back, favored the separation of the two Army Groups all the way to the end of the war. The advance of Zhukov and Konev through Poland to the Oder River by early 1945 is also discussed.
In conclusions, the author summarizes Hitler's motives for desperately trying to impress and keep Finland in the war, keeping Norway and Sweden trading partners, controlling the Baltic Sea and keeping as much conquered territory as possible etc. By war's end, Hitler's decisions stranded hundreds of thousands of men in Scandinavia and the Batlics that could have been used to defend the homeland. Some may say it was part of Hitler's fanaticism in wanting to place his troops in an impossible position where they would have to give their all to stay alive but by 1944 when the Luftwaffe was incapable of resupplying these fortresses and the Soviet Army too large and too mobile to be stopped by this concept of rigid defense, Hitler should have changed his strategy.
Decent notes and a bibliography are provided if further study is desired. A few simple maps that were short on details and photos are also included. Though the author had some minor miscues that weren't caught in the final stage of review before printing, the overall composition is sound.
If you're interested in learning about Hitler's defensive war philosophy, command decisions and motives, Finland's role in the war or a battle summary of AGN, AGC in their desperate struggle to obey Hitler's misguided orders while trying to survive the Soviet onslaught then this primer should be helpful and if you want to go beyond this study then the Bibliography contains excellent choices.