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Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1918-1945 Paperback – May 29, 2007


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Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1918-1945 + The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II + The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mosier is a professor of English who has developed a second career writing on the world wars (The Blitzkreig Myth). Here he credits the German army's operational effectiveness in two world wars to leadership, doctrine and, above all, institutional memory. The Germans addressed many of modern warfare's fundamental problems in WWI. They built on their experience during the years between the wars, integrating new technologies as they emerged. Quickness of reaction and speed of execution in a framework of combined arms tactics gave the Wehrmacht temporary mastery of Europe in 1939–1942. Though the overall thesis is less original than Mosier recognizes, he presents it in smooth, economical prose, incorporating a number of thought provoking insights and hypotheses. He challenges the familiar allegation that the Wehrmacht neglected logistics and, conversely, demonstrates that German technological superiority is a myth. He credits Hitler's "evil genius" with providing the political and strategic insight that structured Germany's victories until his audacity devolved into randomness. Mosier pitilessly establishes the Wehrmacht's comprehensive complicity in the Third Reich's crimes, but is better at describing than explaining it. Within its limits, this is a stimulating overview of a war machine incorporating both outstanding capacities and tragic flaws. (June 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mosier is a literature professor and film critic who has dedicated much of his career to analyzing the military history of World Wars I and II. His books, The Myth of the Great War (2001) and The Blitzkrieg Myth (2003), challenged conventional assessments of German technological and tactical success in those wars. Targeting the mythology surrounding the Wehrmacht and the officer class, Mosier now continues the myth busting even as it strays into a historical minefield or two. Locating the effectiveness of the German army in its "institutional memory"--its ability to quickly adapt to new technology and, particularly, learn from tactical mistakes made in World War I--Mosier advances what is essentially an information-science approach to military history. Combined with Mosier's willingness to boldly charge down prevailing assumptions, this approach to the tactical side of World War II is both a provocative argument and a lively read. Mosier occasionally gets into trouble, however, with secondary incursions into profound questions, such as whether the Nuremberg trials achieved justice; by casually weighing in on such matters, Mosier threatens to discredit his more central thesis. At least as controversial as his earlier works, this book will further cement Mosier's position among military historians. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805083219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805083217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is an excellent, thoroughly researched book.
Jason L. Stine
This book would be excellent reading for a university level course on World War II.
C. M Mills
I regret buying this book and had to force myself to finish it.
R. A. Petro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mosier's book is an analysis of German military power from World War I, through the interwar years, to the end of World War Two. The study combines psychology, cultural studies, and military history to arrive at fresh and novel conclusions regarding the Wermacht, and Mosier will stir up debate on the issues he explores.

Mosier attributes Germany's military successes at the outset of World War Two to a proficient, highly trained officer corps that could integrate the new combined arms warfare into its tactics - as well as successes due to the sheer ruthlessness of Hitler's strategies against conflict-averse opponents. More specifically, the superiority of the Wehrmacht was due to its institutional memory. In World War I it had mastered many of the problems of modern warfare. The advantage came not only through superior training, and certainly not of superiority of equipment - it was a conceptual advantage, that of speed and integration of tactical forces.

The Wermacht also had severe limitations. Mosier is most interesting in his descriptions of how the Nazi ideology severely limited the German ability to wage war - for instance its struggles to create the modern equipment of warfare (for which the Germans were woefully deficient in many respects) -- the infighting of the Nazi leadership led to fiefdoms preventing real insights to develop strategic bombing forces or ground armor that could match the Allied weaponry. German design tended to be over-engineered, mechanically unreliable, and underpowered.

Mosier sees Hitler as a much cannier strategic actor than other historians, essentially agreeing with the logic of such gambles as the Ardennes offensive.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Johannessen on June 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In "Cross of Iron", John Mosier essentially continues where he left in "Blitzkrieg Myth", except that we get a continuous story about the German Armed Forces from 1918 to 1945 in addition to a deeper explanation of why much of what is written about it and its methods in WWII is partly distorted from reality. WWII is a big subject, with the Wehrmacht as one of the very most central components. As concluded in his last book, the training and institutional memory were key factors in the Wehrmacht's successes on the European battlefields. In this book he elaborates extensively on this subject, drawing to attention several issues like:

* The selection process of the Weimar Republics officers, and how this 100 000 man army consisted mostly of officers and NCO's.

* The training of Germany's officers, and its military education

* Jewish officers in the Wehrmacht

* Psychology in the general staff and among senior officers. Mosier's elaborations and conclusions here are interesting and it seems like he has hit another issue right on spot.

More to do with Germany's arms industry, he further discusses its ridiculous wartime production, although increased sharply under Albert Speer's governance, was still lagging far behind its enemies'.

A chapter about the personalities and planes of the Luftwaffe gives a deeper understanding of why Germany chose the air strategy that it did, and partly why it was simply unable to design good enough airplanes during the war. Some of these explanations also applies to other products of war, such as tanks. "Paper Tigers: Hitler's Tanks" is a chapter with quite a self explaining title. Yet again, our (created) illusions about Germany's armored and mechanized capabilites are thoroughly broken down.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Gilberto Villahermosa on October 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Cross of Iron" is John Mosier's best book to date!

Having debunked the myths of World War I in "The Myth of the Great War" and the German Army in World War II in "The Blitzkrieg Myth", controversial historian John Mosier once again turns his thoughts to the Wehrmacht in "Cross of Iron. The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine 1918-1945".

"Cross of Iron" is as well written and powerful as Mosier's previous books, but much better researched and with fewer unsupported allegations or assumptions.

Anyone who has spent time working with primary sources relating to the Second World War knows there is still a great deal to learn about the German armed forces of World War II. Indeed, much of what we think we know are myths - embedded by either the defeated Germans or the victorious Allies to further political or military agendas or to simply hide the truth about the war from the general public.

This has been Mosier's underlying thesis in each of his books and the author takes great delights in addressing these myths and debunking them one by one.

In "Cross of Iron" the author asserts that the superiority of the Wehrmacht - the German armed forces of World War II - lay in its institutional memory, or doctrine. "The Germans had mastered many of the problems of modern warfare, and they preserved the essentials of what they had learned as they integrated the technologies that emerged in the next decades," notes Mosier. "Their advantage in combat thus was not a function of equipment or even training: it was conceptual, and the two key concepts were speed and integration."

There is little here that is new to anyone who has read indepth on the Wehrmacht.
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