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Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 (Contributions in Military History) Paperback – June 30, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0313091575 ISBN-10: 0313091579 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews


"Martin van Crevald has produced yet another provocative book that … is bound to stimulate discussion. … With the aid of almost sixty tables and figures van Crevald conducts a sophisticated analysis of measurements and calculations, juxtaposing the Wehrmacht to the U.S. Army in order to establish where the secret of the former's superior efficiency lay in scoring more kills than the enemy. …van Crevald proceeds in a more sober and systematic way to look into a wide range of categories: social status, structure and mobility, army organization and administration, rewards and punishments, and the role of noncommissioned officers and of the officer corps."


American Historical Review

"In this study, Van Creveld analyzes the ways in which the WWII German Army developed the fighting power that allowed them to achieve a number of military victories even when outnumbered and using outdated equipment. He compares and contrasts the Germans with the U.S. Army, which developed a different style of war based on superior economic and technological resources. Coverage includes organizational elements such as principles of command, assignment of manpower, and indoctrination of troops. This is a reprint of a volume originally published in 1982."


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Product Details

  • Series: Contributions in Military History (Book 32)
  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger; Reprint edition (June 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313091579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313091575
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 87 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on November 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a pretty expensive book but its well worth reading and owning if you are a serious student of World War II. To a serious student, its a well known fact that the quality of the German army was much higher then our's. We had quantity in terms of material while they had quality in terms of men. Much of this had a lot to do with difference of training, troop assignments and relationship between each other. The author explained this in a clearest way, why the Germans were able to maintained that quality in the mist of defeats while Americans were not able to catch up even while we were winning. I think what will amazed any reader is how well the German military actually took care of their troops - in terms of support and morale. Fighting against the Hollywood image mode, the author make it clear that the German army was actually bit more caring then the American army in the way they treated their soldiers. How the Germans maintained their esprit de corps will be an eye-opening reading experience, even for American WWII veteran who may wished that they were also treated as such. Author compared the two armies putting out the pros and cons of their methods. But book clearly show that the best army always don't win the war and quality of troops, never how high, cannot win victories if everything were stack against them. There is a lesson to be learned here even today as our highly trained and high tech army cannot secured a defeated nation. This book belonged in every World War II reader's library and it should be reread every couple of years. Don't let the price scare you.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on October 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book assumes that the German army performed better in WW2 than the United States Forces. It tries to workout why. Despite the fact that one would expect that an authoritarian country like Germany would have a system of blind obedience the opposite was the case. The key to how their army worked was the devolution of authority. Commanders would be given a general objective but they could pursue it as they liked. Individual initiative was encouraged, as was audacity. The United States on the other hand was the country of Taylorism. A management culture that did not trust those lower down in the hierarchy and broke work down into simple components and expected blind obedience.

To make matters worse the techniques of allocating recruits in the United States Army was based on previous work experience. Those with any qualification or training were placed in army jobs that were similar to those they had in civilian employment. This meant that those going to rifle divisions were the most poorly educated and problematic recruits.

The replacement policy and training of officers also created issues with the development of a team structure. Officers in the United States army were not allowed to fraternize with enlisted men. (They had separate facilities and were seen as remote by their men.) German officers lived with their men and developed close ties to them. The German's also tried to base their units on geographic areas. This was so that soldiers would have a shared history and ethos. Replacements came into units not as individuals but as groups of men who had trained together and built up bonds with each other.

Part of the problem of course was that the United States army was more or less built from scratch.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rafael G. on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book starts by noting about the empirical evidence and research done by Dupuy and others about the fighting power of the German army. He notes that in engagements in 1943 and 1944 the German army inflicted about 50% more casualties per soldier engaged than the allies, in other words, that the German forces were much more effective fighting organizations than allied formations. The author sets the question: How they managed to maintain such superior fighting power? And uses the rest of the book to gather evidence.

He compares the status of the army to the rest of the society, and shows that the German army enjoyed a higher social status than the American army, that meant that the German army could draw over the cream of society, while the US army drew mostly from the lower/less educated classes. Also, selection processes were more strict in the German armed forces than in the American, selecting only the most apt for the job. And even in 1944, the basic training of the German soldier was a bit longer than for the American soldier.

The problems of the US replacement system are analyzed: The US army replaced soldiers individually, putting men in the middle of the battle without any training experience with the soldiers in his unit. This resulted from ignoring the important psychological aspect of war. As result, American divisions with a lot of replacements started suffering higher casualties than fresher units. The German divisions by contrast, replaced their men by battalions of 500 men that trained together and went together to the front.

The differences also involved the focus of the respective armed forces: While the Germans focused on operations the American doctrine focused on the logistics of maintaining material superiority.
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Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 (Contributions in Military History)
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