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"Steel Fist" Nigel Cawthorne

Discussion in 'The Library' started by Ricky, Mar 8, 2006.

  1. Ricky

    Ricky Well-Known Member

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    I bought this book on a whim, from a Charity shop, and I must confess that I was mildly surprised to find that it was published in 2003.

    The full title is:
    "Steel Fist - Tank Warfare 1939-45"
    but this is very misleading. The 'blurb' on the back says 'Steel Fist looks at the development of the Panzer concept' etc etc etc, and generally makes it clear that this is a book about German tank warfare in WW2.

    However, this is not strictly accurate either.

    Te book opens with a brief outline of the develpoment and use of the tank in WW1 (almost exclusively focusing on the British efforts). It then moves on to the mid-war developments in the theory of armoured warfare, and introduces us to Guderian. We then learn how Guderian single-handedly created and molded the Panzer Divisions against a host of official displeasure, and how he and he alone was the reason they existed and the creator of their tactics (in fairness it is pointed out that he was simply creating a logical extension of previous mobile warfare tactics).
    We then move on to the German occuptaions of Austria and Czechoslovakia, in which the Panzers did not exactly distinguish themselves (It does give some interesting details of quite how chaotic these events were in terms of their planning and execution, like the fact that no petrol was issued to the tanks, and Guderian had to obtain some from a petrol depot at gunpoint).
    We then come to the actual war, with a good blow-by-blow account of the actions of the Panzer Divisions in both Poland and France. Again, we get a host of interesting little detail, including information on just how unprepared the Germans were for the success of their new tactics. Guderian emerges as the man who conquered France through his own initiative...

    We then move to North Africa, and after an incredibly brief mention of the British destruction of the Italians at Beda Fomm (using mobile armoured warfare...) we move on to Rommel, and the genius that he was. Interestingly though, iit does have one of the most sympathetic views of the British efforts in North Africa that I have ever read.

    Then we come to Russia. Throughout the book, we have had incidents where Guderian formally objected to declaring war on Russia, and now we have a lot more. We then have a good blow-by-blow account of the actions of the Panzer Divisions in Russia, again with Guderian being the only man who seems to have a good idea about how to win the war...

    And then, Guderian is 'retired'. Suddenly we stop looking at actual armoured warfare, and start looking at the politics surrounding the making of strategy etc (as this is what Guderian was now primarily involved in). From here on in, the most we learn of actual operational matters is that Germany is losing, and the Allies are getting better at mobile warfare. We do have Guderian painstakingly re-organising the Panzers into a war-winning weapon, but Hitler squandering them. We have Guderian being the only man who knew how to stop D-Day. In fact, we have Guderian being the sole critic of just about every 'mistake' that Germany ever made throughout the entire war.

    And that, in a nutshell, is the theme of this book - 'How Guderian could have won the war for Germany, if only they had listened to him'.

    I'm not sure whether to recommend this book or not. On the one hand, it has an interesting account of operational matters in the opening phase of the war, and on the other it is simply a Guderian fanclub.
     
  2. Boba Nette

    Boba Nette New Member

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    In your opinion,how accurate was the book?
     
  3. Ricky

    Ricky Well-Known Member

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    About the high-level tactical decisions, I'm not sure, and it strays away from making much comment on actual equipment. It does belittle the Sherman and state that the 17pdr was superior to the L/70 88mm...

    I'm not too convinced, but I'd need the opinion of somebody familiar with the German High Command at the time.

    I'm willing to post the book off to anybody who wants it.
     

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