The Smoke and the Fire: Myths and Anti-myths of War, 1861-1945 Paperback – 14 Sep 1993
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Top Customer Reviews
The main myths were: that a whole generation of men had been lost; that the Generals could have avoided this bloodshed if they had tried an indirect approach, rather than hammering away on the Western Front; that the machine-gun was responsible for more deaths than any other weapon; that tanks could have won the war with far fewer casualties; that the British troops were `lions led by donkeys'; and, perhaps most widespread of all, that the War was in any event `futile'.
Terraine demolishes these in turn, often by reference to hard statistics. He shows that the mortality, while devastating, was not catastrophic; that the only way to defeat the German Army was to deploy an army of similar size against it, which the British were unable to do before 1916; that shellfire was more lethal than the machine gun; that the tanks available were primitive beasts, few in number, very slow and extremely vulnerable; that the British generals were as good as any and better than most; and that a War which defeated Germany and liberated Belgium and North-Eastern France could hardly be said to be pointless - especially when one compares the outcome in the West with the kind of peace which the Germans dictated in the East, where they were victorious.Read more ›
Terraine is an admirable writer, easy to understand with excellent use of supporting quotations and statistics. The occassional bit of anger or irony breaks through to emphasize certain of his thoughts or conclusions and underline his passion for the subject, if not his academic detachment. He is never obscure or convoluted. The combniation of the convincing arguments and the clear writing make this an easy book to recommend to anyone interested in the military and/or strategic history of the period.
This isn't a place to start - it is a place to go to after reading a general history of the conflict or after reading something like Winston Churchill's The World Crisis 1911-1918 (Penguin Classics) or Alan Clark's The Donkeys: A History of the British Expeditionary Force in 1915.Read more ›
Interestingly, he spans not just the wars of the 20th century but also those in the previous period which set the scene for all modern "industrial wars". So he is able to show how the US civil war foreshadowed much that was to happen a few decades later.
I have always been intrigued by the way that the reporting of wars colours the way those conflicts are viewed by future students. What was once half-seen or even imagined in the smoke of battle, becomes publically accepted and regurgitated in our folklore. As he so cogently reveals, this is not only obscures the truth but prevents that truth from being seen and acted upon in future wars.
Reading it made me reappraise my views of these wars and want to read more of his books. I read the Thin Blue Line a decade ago and was similarly made to think - and feel not a little sorrow for those brave people.
What would be nice to see is his view of the last "great wars" of the 20th century - Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. I suspect it would be only to say history and its myths constantly repeat themselves.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beginning with a rather threadbare, dictionary-based distinction between ‘legend’ (harmless) and ‘myth’ (pernicious), this book is very readable and raises a number of interesting... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Rod Beecham
A book that has to be required reading this centenary year. Documentation first class. Arguments about soldiers and politicians well presented, even if you don't agree with himPublished on 8 Mar. 2014 by Mr. Eric J. Locke
Well scripted description of what the situation was really like in the first world war,would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in knowing the truthPublished on 11 Feb. 2013 by William B. Ward
This is perhaps the most enlightening book I have read on war, and the World Wars in particular. It is exceptionally clear and concise giving one an understanding and perspective... Read morePublished on 27 April 2010 by Klaatu