- Taschenbuch: 352 Seiten
- Verlag: Cassell Lbs; Auflage: 2nd Revised edition (7. Oktober 1999)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0304352802
- ISBN-13: 978-0304352807
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 12,7 x 2,5 x 19,7 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 2 Kundenrezensionen
Nr. 926.084 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
- Nr. 10244 in Geschichte des 2. Weltkriegs
Desert Generals (Cmp) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 7. Oktober 1999
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The distinguished historian Correlli Barnett gives here a complete and full account of the Desert Campaign 1940-43, an epic story set in a wasteland where soldiers fought for victory in a tumult of mechanical warfare. But THE DESERT GENERALS is also the story of five men under the strain of command in battle, the commanders who successively led the Allied forces against first the Italians and then the Germans in the ebb and flow of the desert war, culminating in the myth of Montgomery and the battle of Alamein, a myth that Correlli Barnett sets out to expose as ill-founded. Brilliantly written, THE DESERT GENERALS captures at every level the intensity and human drama of a unique and compelling episode in the history of war and warfare.
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Correlli Barnett is the author of six non-fiction titles. In 1970 he won the Royal Society of Literature Award for Britain and her Army. He has been historical consultant to three BBC Television series, including The Great War (1964) which he part wrote. In 1980 he was appointed the first Defence Lecturer in the University of Cambridge.
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The Greek question was a major crisis in grand strategy; by his decision to intervene, the Prime Minister showed for the first time in the war that although he was a Churchill, he was not a Marlborough. Instead of his ancestor’s cold and long-sighted sagacity, he displayed emotional impulse; sometimes generous, sometimes ruthless, always overwhelming. Greece was the first occasion in the war that these impulses had worked disastrously. It was a mistake the more disastrous because of the alternative objective of Tripoli, which O’Connor believed he could obtain.
So what is good about this you ask? If you are a lover of the legend of Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps; if you ever begged your mom to allow you to stay up late so you could watch reruns of Rat Patrol in your pajamas; If your favorite war movie of all time was Patton and in your mind George C. Scott is Patton….than you will thank the PM for that stupid, stupid move of sending O’Conner’s best units to Greece, in a lost cause, only to become POWs when complete victory was in sight! If it wasn’t for Churchill the war on the African continent very well could have been over! Barnett’s book would have been a mere pamphlet!
There is another piece to this story. It is that of the UK’s self-proclaimed Messiah, Field-Marshal the Viscount Bernard Law Montgomery. Only about 20% of this book is devoted to Monty – the last 20%. The Desert Generals defrocks Monty. He was the original Desert Sloth who at best didn’t understand mobile desert warfare and at the worst was a braggart, a liar, and maybe slightly autistic with his habit of repeating everything he said twice! Everything he said twice!
There appears to be three Desert Generals that understood how to fight tank battles in the wide expanses of the desert: Erwin Rommel, Richard O’Conner, and Chad Auchinleck. O’Conner, by a bad stroke of luck, is taken prisoner by the Germans after making a wrong turn in the desert. Enter Auchinleck who appoints two unsuited candidates for command of the 8th Army prior to taking the job himself. Like O’Conner, Auk understands desert warfare or at least he “gets it” or is “getting it” prior to the 1st battle of El Alemein. After Auk saves the day the PM visits 8th Army and fires Auk and several members of his staff. Again, looking at this in a positive light, Having Monty take the helm of 8th Army helped to cement Rommel’s reputation for an eternity. Had Auk been left in charge Rommel would have likely been a POW.
I think you will love Correlli Barnett’s writing style. He splits the Desert War into six parts and after each part Barnett adds a commentary section during which he critically analyzes the actions of each of the desert Generals. I think even Monty would agree that this is a tidy way to keep track of everything. Tidy way to keep track of everything. Also, his sarcasm is very humorous at times.
The Desert Generals is packed with information but one fact stood out. At no time did Rommel have more than 4.5 divisions of Germans under his command. At the same time, the German’s had 190 divisions deployed in the East. The Desert War was in fact a side show of the big show. The author wonders what would have happened if Germany would have sent a few more Panzer divisions over to the desert rather than have them swallowed up on the Russian Steppes. Would things have been a little different?
In the end Monty had 2-3x more tanks, men, planes etc. than the Axis. If you just count German tanks Monty had about 6x more than Rommel…but who can forget the Italians…going to war without the Italians is like going deer hunting and not bringing along your accordion. Monty could do nothing because he never understood how to fight a tank battle in the desert. He could not think as fast as Rommel. He did not understand how to integrate tanks and infantry like the Germans did or like Auk. He attacked on too narrow a front and sacrificed too many tanks. He didn’t understand that putting infantry behind fixed fortifications was worthless….Oh Monty. Was he really that arrogant ass portrayed in Francis Ford Coppala’s Patton played by Michael Bates? Yes, according to Barnett, I’m afraid he was but he did help to propagate a legend.
This is a riveting book that I think would be an outstanding read for everyone from the WWII novice to an attendee of the US Army War College. I decided to download this book to my kindle when I read that The Desert Generals was one of British Historian, John Keegan’s top 50 favorite books regarding WWII and the only book of the 50 about the war in the desert. Also, Rick Atkinson quoted from this book in his masterpiece: Army at Dawn.
You will enjoy the book. Enjoy the book. Oh shut up Monty
The first chapters deal with the opening of the desert war and the initial victories of Field Marshal Wavell and General O'Connor over the Italians. Beda Fomm was O'Connor's brilliant victory, but today it is overshadowed by Rommel's battles. Despite the extent of these victories, the victors were soon forgotten: O'Connor was captured in the initial attack of the German Afrika Korps and Wavell was relieved by Churchill. Although this was an interesting phase of the war for the British, these chapters lack the dynamic quality that the rest of the book has.
General Sir Alan Cunningham, a hero of the campaign in Ethiopia, was sent to replace O'Connor. He was the first British general to face Rommel on even terms, but he lasted in command for only three months. When Cunningham took command, the British were still reeling from Rommel's first offensive and desperately attempting to raise the siege of Tobruk. Cunningham presided over the premature Operation "Crusader" to relieve Tobruk, constantly goaded by Churchill to strike at once. Barnett's portrait of Cunningham is interesting in two respects. First, as a successful colonial soldier suddenly thrust into command of a large mechanized army, Cunningham fumbled Operation Crusader (although more for non-technical reasons, like failure to achieve mass at the decisive point or maintain unity of effort). Cunningham was able to recover and muddle through to a victory of sorts, but suffered a loss of confidence that was fatal to his continued command. This is Barnett's second interesting point, on the strain of battle command upon the commander. Ostensibly, Cunningham was relieved due to "battle fatigue" but the erosion of his command authority and confidence was closer to the truth.
General Auchinleck, the British Commander-in-Chief in the Mideast, then made a disastrous choice in selecting General Ritchie to temporarily command the 8th Army. Although Operation Crusader had forced Rommel to abandon the siege of Tobruk and pull back, Ritchie took over command as the Germans swept back up to the Gazala line outside Tobruk. Ritchie was well-connected politically and he possessed a soldierly image but unfortunately, his professional abilities were modest. Ritchie was unimaginative and indecisive - fatal attributes when faced by an adversary like Rommel - and his static defense and piece-meal use of armor resulted in the 8th Army's greatest defeat. After Tobruk was lost and Rommel pushed into Egypt, Auchinleck decided to relieve Ritchie and take over command of the 8th Army himself.
Barnett's portrait of Auchinleck and his chief-of-staff Dorman-Smith is intended to vindicate these men as the true saviors of Egypt and British military fortunes in Africa. The case is persuasive. Although only in command for a few months, Auchinleck stopped Rommel at the First Battle of El Alamein and began the process of re-organizing the 8th Army into a more effective force. Dorman-Smith was a military intellectual, and he accurately predicted Rommel's likely course of action and advised Auchinleck on British dispositions. Unfortunately, Churchill visited Egypt right after 1st Alamein and Auchinleck and Dorman-Smith were relieved. The reasons are ambiguous, but the purge was due to political and personal reasons much more than military factors. The benefactor was General Montgomery, who became the new commander of 8th Army.
Barnett's portrait of Montgomery is even more unflattering than most American portrayals of this controversial general. I was unaware, for example, that while at Sandhurst Montgomery has set another cadet on fire as part of a hazing incident (and even recounted it in his memoirs). Montgomery took command when the British were finally receiving massive reinforcements in Egypt and Rommel's forces were at their weakest. Engima decryption also gave Montgomery valuable insight into the enemy's strength and weaknesses. Nevertheless, Montgomery's set-piece Second Battle of El Alamein was nearly a failure. The breakthrough battle was a muddle that nearly foundered on Rommel's minefields and anti-tank barriers. When German supply difficulties finally helped to turn the battle his way, Montgomery clearly fumbled the pursuit and allowed the Afrika Korps to escape. However, Barnett cites the creation of the Montgomery Myth - that his battles all went according to plan and that he was invincible - as necessary to restoring bruised British military prestige. In these pages, Montgomery is clearly labeled as a vainglorious liar of limited military capabilities, but with a keen eye for public relations.
This book is an excellent study of command. For these readers who believe that Hitler interfered with the German war effort, this book is valuable for showing how Churchill also interfered. Churchill's Greek adventure in 1941 weakened the British in North Africa at a critical moment, as well as his diversion of forces to the Far East in December 1941. Likewise, Churchill's insistence on holding indefensible Tobruk in 1942 led to a great British disaster. Furthermore, Churchill was constantly badgering his commanders to attack which reduced the amount of time they had to learn their commands and build up their forces.
There are only two areas I can fault in this book. First, the sketch maps are absolutely awful. The reader will need to find other campaign maps to support the text because these are crude in the extreme. The second area is on the strategic impact of the war in the desert. Several times, Barnett makes the assertion that the war could have been lost if the Germans had broken through at El Alamein. Of course, Barnett is British and the British would like to have everyone believe that the British Army won the Second World War (or at least prevented it from being lost). Barnett also parades "what if" fantasies about German troops reaching the Persian Gulf in a month or even going on to India. This is nonsense, even without hindsight. Rommel's logistics were stretched to the breaking point getting to El Alamein but Barnett makes it sound like going an extra 1,500 miles would be easy. The book lacks balance in placing the Desert War in its proper historical perspective: it was a sideshow for the Germans and a valuable training ground for the British, but the war was decided elsewhere. Loss of Cairo did not equate to loss of the war. Barnett might have done well to remember that Napoleon's conquest of Egypt under similar circumstances (British naval superiority) did not produce any great strategic result for him. It is hard to see how Rommel's handful of troops and tanks could have done much beyond taking Cairo and even harder to see how holding Cairo would have saved Hitler's empire.