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Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton 2nd Edition

37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521546577
ISBN-10: 0521546575
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Editorial Reviews


"I recommend this work for every professional army officer, but particularly those in the operational field who are used to moving units with the stroke of a grease pencil." Major Michael D. Krause, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Book Description

Drawing on a very wide rang of unpublished and previously unexploited sources, Martin van Creveld examines the 'nuts and bolts' of war: namely, those formidable problems of movement and supply, transportation and administration, so often mentioned--but rarely explored--by the vast majority of books on military history. The result is a fascinating book that has something new to say about virtually every one of the most important campaigns wage in Europe during the last two centuries. Moreover, by concentrating on logistics rather than on the more traditional tactics and strategy, Dr. van Creveld is also able to offer a reinterpretation of the whole field of military history.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (March 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521546575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521546577
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 66 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
It has been said that armchair generals think of strategy, whereas professionals study logistics. If that is true, Martin van Creveld has written a book on logistics for armchair generals.

Those familiar with military history and strategic studies are likely familiar with Van Creveld and his proclivity for making bombastic and sweeping assertions on the nature of warfare. "Supplying War" is no exception. (By way of example, he labels Operation Overlord "an exercise in logistic pusillanimity unparalleled in modern military history.")

Originally published in 1976, "Supplying War" was the first book to directly address the critical, but often ignored issues of logistics in warfare with a primary objective of identifying key themes and trends across time. Even Van Creveld's most trenchant critics - and he has many in the academic community - concede that his work was original and reached a large audience, and has therefore largely defined the debate on the subject.

Van Creveld reviews seven historical case studies (17th century feudal warfare, Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the German invasion of France in 1870 and 1914, and Russia in 1940, Rommel's 1942 North African campaign and the Normandy invasion of 1944) and comes to the following general conclusion: In pre-modern military history food (including animal fodder) was the primary logistical concern and most armies were forced to keep moving to survive by living off the land; but the rise of the modern, mechanized army inverted the paradigm, as ammunition and fuel supplies became paramount and armies were increasingly tied to rear-area depots for their survival.

"Supplying War" is as interesting and easy to read as a book on such an inherently dull topic can be.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on March 8, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is really a number of books in one. It is not very long some 240 pages but it is easy to read and challenging. It is the first book that I have ever seen published on logistics and it is fascinating.
First and foremost it is a picture of the changing pattern of war. It describes in the first chapter the sorts of campaigns which were run until the time of Napoleon. In those days ammunition would be the most minor problem for an army. Most soldiers could carry enough ammunition in their back pack for a campaign and in a major battle they would fire perhaps twenty or thirty times. In a siege a cannon might fire four or five times a day. The major problem was the provision of food for men and horses. Generally an army could take from the country enough to feed itself. Problems arose if an army stayed in place for any time. A siege would have the power to destroy an area of country by stripping it of everything edible. For these reason there developed a system of magazine storage for siege campaigns.
The next chapter discusses the Napoleonic period and the failure to set up a logistics system in Russia despite careful planning. This led to enormous French casualties and the collapse of the campaign.
The rest of the book looks at the Franco-Prussian War, the Schlieffen Plan , the German operations on the Eastern Front in the Second World War, the African Campaign and the operations in France following the break out from the initial beach heads. In discussing these campaigns the author charts the gradual change in logistics. The development of railway systems and integrating them into providing supplies. The development of modern weapons and the increase in the demand for ammunition and for fuel.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Max Andrews ( on October 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Traditional books on military history provide only a superficial study of the role logistics played in history's most noted campaigns. In Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, Martin Van Creveld examines war from a much deeper logistical perspective, offering a fascinating new view on the lessons to be learned from these campaigns.
After an introductory chapter on the logistics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Van Creveld analyzes Napoleon's success against Austria in 1805 and his failure against Russia in 1812. This chapter explores the use of magazines and the common practice of "living off of the land." Successive chapters explore the use of horse-drawn convoys by the Prussians in the late 1800's, the use of trains by the Germans in World War I, and the "modern" logistical planning of the Allies in Europe during World War II. The common approach to each period is the attempt to determine how the success or failure of the logistics planning influenced the leader's ability to execute his strategic plan.
Most impressive about this book is the volume of detailed research that Van Creveld accomplished in preparing to write it. The bibliography documents the use of more than 300 sources, including original working papers and notes from the actual planning of the wars studied. The use of actual source documents allows Van Creveld to draw unique conclusions, unbiased by traditional military writings.
Supplying War appears on the Commandant's Reading List and other lists of recommended reading for military professionals. It gives leaders a solid historical perspective on the need to support the warriors they lead into battle. While it can in no way be considered "light reading", Supplying War is an essential part of any good military leader's library.
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