- Paperback: 275 pages
- Publisher: Hero Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0963869213
- ISBN-13: 978-0963869210
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,244,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945 Paperback – January 1, 1995
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An invaluable approach to comprehending German military power. -- The Washington Post, August 11, 1985
Since the Prussian armies of Frederick the Great achieved their amazing victories in the mid-18th century, the Prussian and German armies have established the standard of military excellence against which the performance of all other armies has been measured. This widely acclaimed book explores the reasons behind th e excellence of German fighting forces, and attributes much of this skill to the Prussian and German General Staffs. The author 's hypotheses are substantiated in brilliant analyses of German performance in victory and defeat. -- From the Publisher
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I would argue that this book is not so much about the General Staff as about the relationship between the Staff and the political leadership of Germany/Prussia from 1815 to 1945. There are short vignettes of most of the General Staff leadership, and much of the book is taken up describing the political machinations between the military and political leadership. The strongest parts of the this book are the discussion (and consequences) of the loss of civilian control of the German military after the Franco-Prussion War, and the confused political and military maneuverings after the defeat of Germany in WWI. If one is truly interested in learning about the General Staff, this is not the best choice. This book does not describe the General Staff as an institution (i.e. the details of how it functioned). Better references are listed by some of the other reviewers. Overall, an interesting and easy read, but it misses it's stated mark.
My strongest impression after reading this book is that English language biographies of Scharnhorst and Halder need to be written.
There seems to be a general consensus among many military historians that the German army in the last two centuries was the most efficient army in Europe; many even believed it was the finest in the whole world! The author of this book deals with this issue in great details basing his opinions on extensive research.
What became evident in the development of the German army ( known previously as the Prussian army) was an emphasis on what they called the "General Staff". This group of officers is situated between the high command (the king, emperor, commander in chief...) and the lower fighting regiments. These officers were carefully screened and selected from the most intelligent candidates, and then trained meticulously for war. They became the elite of the army - sharp, sophisticated and ruthless in battle. The emphasis in training was on planning, strategy, mobilisation, and speed; this speed was clearly evident in their "blitzkrieg" shock attacks which terrified and confused the enemy. The so called father of this training was a shrewd officer, Scharnhorst, whose teachings became a reference book for the German devastating "war machine". Of his renowned students was the Staff General Moltke. It is said that in his attack against the French in 1970, he decimated the French army ( led by Napoleon lll) and turned the battle into a total humiliation of the French. He was swift, precise, and merciless.
By the 20th century, the mighty German army reached such a high degree of refinement that it threatened, and was feared by, most European states. From its war system emerged such effective generals that some historians considered almost comparable to the world legends, like Napoleon, Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Julius Cezar and Genghis Khan. Outstanding amongst these generals were Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Himmler, Rommel, to name a few. The German War system was so admired that other countries were anxious to emulate it.
But given that the German War Machine reached this stage of perfection, how could we explain its failure in two World Wars? Where and how did things go wrong - not once but twice? Historians differ, but what is generally accepted as the cause behind these failings are: a) underestimating the Allies' navy and sea powers (German war experience was mostly "land-minded"); b) not accounting for the potential power of the Americans; and c) the German experience was geared to wars of short durations, unlike the extended world wars.
Overlooking all these issues, the reader cannot help but wonder about one over-riding question: Of what benefit is this extensive, and expensive, research carried out by the author? It is hardly conceivable that modern militarism today would learn anything valuable from this research. We know well that wars in the 19th and 20th centuries were mostly land wars. Today, we hear and read about atomic bombs, nuclear weapons, long-range ballistic missiles, drones and other sophisticated weapons. Some wars are even fought without traditional weapons. The latest are "economic wars", where the enemy is made to kneel and beg while it is totally subdued without even shooting one bullet. (See for example John Perkins' book " Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man"). Here, sanctions, restrictions and financial alliances replace hard weapons but remain equally deadly.
If this book is not beneficial to modern militarily life, and if the author's main focus is the excellence of the "general staff", perhaps then we are overlooking a most crucial issue. The question a thoughtful reader should be asking is : What have these war geniuses really bequeathed to us - other than the awesome devastation, misery and the death of over fifty million people? True, it was done effectively and... "beautifully", But, what a wasteful and awful use of the rare gift of genius!!
Fuad R. Qubein
Most recent customer reviews
can't think of a reason why i finished it.