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Book Review: Germany and the Axis Powers: From Coalition to Collapse, University Press of Kansas, 2005.


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#1 dgmitchell

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 01:36 AM

Book reviewed by Steven Douglas Mercatante.

Website Link: http://globeatwar.com/


Richard Dinardo’s Germany and the Axis Powers fills an invaluable niche in the literature currently available on the Second World War’s European Theater. In particular, Dinardo has focused on Germany’s relationship with Finland, Hungary, Italy and Romania; producing a concise but revealing analysis into the numerous problems that derailed the Axis coalition.

In Germany and the Axis Powers Dinardo has produced a book not only examining how dysfunctional the Axis alliance really was but, more importantly, why the Axis failed to come anywhere near the level of cooperation and success forged by the Allied alliance; a coalition featuring arguably far greater handicaps in a membership consisting of the most powerful capitalist democracies coupled with Josef Stalin’s dictatorial communist empire. In spite of the obvious comparisons that can be made between the Axis and the Allies however, Germany and the Axis Powers focuses its attention upon the inner workings of the European portion of the Axis alliance.

Dinardo begins his book by putting Germany’s Second World War approach to coalitional warfare in the historical context within which Prussia and Imperial Germany traditionally operated in regards to partnering with other nations during times of war. The remainder of the book builds upon Germany’s historically inadequate approach to coalitional warfare and thoroughly explores the strategic level diplomatic failures, and infrequent successes, defining the Axis alliance’s record. Dinardo also deftly interweaves operational level examples from combat occurring on the ground, at sea and in the air. One of the great strengths of Germany and the Axis Powers is Dinardo’s work in avoiding an oversimplified approach to Germany’s interactions with each of its allies and in how Dinardo breaks down the varying levels of success found by some service branches within the Axis while describing how other service branches failed miserably in their attempts at collaboration. The range covered by Germany and the Axis Powers is all the more remarkable considering the book wraps up in under 300 pages but reveals quite a bit of the often times only marginally explored issues going far toward explaining why the War ended as it did. In particular, Germany and the Axis Powers covers in detail the problems plaguing the relationship between Germany and what should have been a potent Italian ally.

I recommend Dinardo’s book without hesitation, nevertheless it is perhaps in the time he spends on the Italian and German part of the Axis alliance that is this book’s greatest weakness. There is little doubt as to the fascination with which a reader will devour Dinardo’s description of the sheer ineptness and self-interested single-mindedness with which Hitler and Mussolini mostly independently waged war. There is also little doubt as to how important such an analysis is toward explaining Axis failure in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, Germany and the Axis Powers is a book marketed and packaged as one covering not just the relationship between Italy and Germany but also Germany and Hungary, Germany and Romania, and Germany and Finland – with the bilateral approach taken here to listing these relationships entirely indicative of how far from a true coalition the Axis truly was. Given Dinardo’s obvious skill as a researcher and writer this reader for one would not have been at all disappointed had Germany and the Axis Powers come in closer to 400 pages and more thoroughly covered the contributions made by Finland, Hungary and Romania to the Axis alliance. In particular even a modest dip into the operational military history would have been rewarding especially in regards to the German/Hungarian defensive efforts in Hungary during 1944/45 and the German/Romanian success in stopping a major Soviet offensive into Romania during the spring of 1944. In addition, it would have been of great interest to read a description of the Romanian role in buttressing the Soviet Fronts deployed within Hungary following Romania’s capitulation to the Soviet Union. Finally, a few more maps would have helped greatly in following events described in Eastern Europe.

Although a highly specialized book, Germany and the Axis Powers is organized well, is an enjoyable read and is a great secondary source for any Second World War researcher. It is not however, for the person with only a passing knowledge of the War. Nevertheless, if you are already more than a little familiar with events in Europe during the Second World War and are seeking an introduction into how and why the Axis alliance failed to effectively compete with the impressive Allied approach to coalitional warfare then this book is for you.

Author bio: Steven Douglas Mercatante is the founder and editor of The Globe at War, a website dedicated to exploring the past one hundred plus years of global warfare. Found at http://globeatwar.com/. In addition Steven has recently completed a manuscript examining why Germany came far closer to winning the Second World War in Europe than previously thought and re-examining why Germany suffered catastrophic defeat; a manuscript stemming from over two decades researching and studying the Second World War.
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