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Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

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Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Marcus Wendel on 11 Apr 2008 22:21

A review of "Blitzkrieg Unleashed" by Richard Hargreaves has been added to the site.
http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=9082


btw. The idea with these threads are to encourage discussions on the books reviewed so they can be an addition to the reviews on the site.

/Marcus
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Richard Hargreaves on 14 Apr 2008 19:15

Many thanks Marcus/Andreas. Just to let people know it's not on sale in the UK until September 18 2008.
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Dan W. on 15 Apr 2008 04:29

Sounds intertesting. I've recently developed a greater interest in the inter war period and the lead up to Sept. 1939, this one is on the list for sure. Too bad its not out till late summer
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Andreas on 15 Apr 2008 11:06

It is worth waiting for, in my opinion.

All the best

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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Richard Hargreaves on 04 Sep 2008 22:40

Blitzkrieg Unleashed is now, er, unleashed. My copies turned up while I was away in Wroclaw, which was a nice surprise when I got back. :D

First impressions. Looks good, photos have come out well I think; P&S heeded my advice and blew the maps up (but I will admit it's still a little tricky reading them). It's only now that I realise how many words went into it, because it looks rather dense. But I'm sure you'll get around that and dig in...
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Richard Hargreaves on 14 Oct 2008 13:14

Anyone read this yet? I'd be interested in feedback as I've not had a single review yet, apart from Andreas'. Preferably favourable, but I also have to take it on the chin if people didn't like it...
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby William Russ on 14 Oct 2008 22:46

Hi Richard,
Well, I would love to do a review, but us chaps across the Atlantic are waiting for the books release on October 19. I am surprised no one 'over there' has not made a comment yet since the book is already on sale in England.
On my part, I will try and make a stab at a review as soon as I get my hands on a copy. Of course I'll read it first :wink:

best regards, Bill
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Richard Hargreaves on 15 Oct 2008 06:58

Cheers Bill! It's still not out in the US? Blimey. They've obviously shipped it on HMS Victory. :D

It's funny, I've noticed this before. Brits are rubbish at doing reviews - compare the US and UK versions of Amazon. The American site is bristling with reviews, the UK one is rather spartan. There are, of course, a lot more of you chaps, but there's also, I feel, that British malaise of 'can't be arsed' at play...
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby FalkeEins on 28 Oct 2008 16:29

Hi Richard

..got a copy on the go currently as I mentioned on another forum. Not normally a subject area that I would particularly seek out, so that's a positive to start surely..
Prologue drew me in nicely, first chapter almost lost me - difficult to follow who is who and doing what to whom - while with the second I'm back on slightly more familiar territory (development of the Panzerwaffe and Luftwaffe). Currently on chapter 3, so while this is hardly a review, initial impressions are very favourable. Deeply researched, very well written, loads of rare personal accounts, excellent P&S production - congratulations all round !

cheers

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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Richard Hargreaves on 04 Nov 2008 17:28

Hi Neil,

Glad you're enjoying it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears (and money) went into it. I must admit a dramatis personae never once crossed my mind. Bloody good idea. One to remember for book three. :)
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Peter K on 11 Oct 2009 02:33

Definitely worth reading it. :idea:

Recently the Polish edition was published, however I don't regret that I bought yet the English one.

But the author used to complain a bit that some reviews call it "controversial" (or at least he thinks so) :wink: :

I keep reading elsewhere that the book is 'controversial'...


They only write that it is "controversial" because you base almost entirely on German sources (including German accounts), and some of these German sources (especially accounts) are controversial, namely - Nazi or Nazi-like. But the fact that you based your book almost entirely on German sources is only the fault of the Polish side. There is simply a very minimal amount of valuable Polish works on the Defensive War of 1939 translated into foreign languages, so far. There is even a nice conclusion somewhere in these links to reviews (Histmag probably): "we should concentrate on promoting Polish works on this aspect abroad [...], otherwise we will only have fairy tales about Spartans near Wizna". I would only add to this that Poles don't even have fairy tales about Spartans near Wizna because it is Swedish.

Moreover to compare the battle of Wizna to the battle of Thermopylae you would have needed to have a Polish Ephialtes - and there was no such a traitor there. :wink:

If it comes to some fragments of the book I don't fully agree with:

The war of 1939 was closer to the war of 1914 than the German propaganda machine would have the world believe.


But as well was the war of 1940 (during which armoured-motorized divisions constituted just 12% of German forces, while in Poland in 1939 - 26%, so over twice that percentage) and the war of 1941 in the USSR, where encircling enemy forces in pockets was practiced as well as in Poland but on a much bigger scale. And yet this doesn't mean that Blitzkrieg is a myth, as you of course noticed in your book, so I will not pick at it. :wink: Blitzkrieg was very real and very innovative, yet in 1939.

Even with no opposition, armies had never moved so fast before.


Oh, probably they did before (Mongols, for example). But certainly they did later. It is quite surprising that 1. Gebirgs-Division (not any Panzer division) was the fastest advancing division in Poland in 1939 (since 05.09.1939 until 12.09.1939 - when it was stopped by heavy Polish resistance near Lemberg, after the failed attempt of capturing it - it was advancing on average 23,6 kms per day). And I don't know if it is surprising or not, but in France in 1940 and in the USSR during the so called "fast part" of Barbarossa, German fast divisions were advancing much faster than in Poland in 1939. In Poland for example 1. Panzer-Division was advancing on average 16,5 kms per day in period 01.09.1939 - 07.09.1939 (later of course it was almost not advancing at all, as it was involved in combats near Warsaw and then in liquidating the Bzura pocket), speed of other armoured-motorized units oscilated between 16,5 and 23,5 kms per day (during the "fast periods" of the campaign of course - because later in the campaign almost all of these units were not advancing but were involved in heavy fightings liquidating pockets, resistance nests, etc.). The highest result - 23,5 kms per day - is Guderian (mainly 3. Pz.Div.) in period 09.09.1939 - 18.09.1939. While for example in France in 1940 Panzer Gruppe "Kleist" was advancing on average 27 kilometres per day (during the period 10.05.1940 - 21.05.1940). Hoth was advancing - shocking - 61 kilometres per day in period 13.06.1940 - 19.06.1940 (from the Seine river to the city of Brest). Guderian between 13.06.1940 and 17.06.1940 had got similar advances to Hoth - around 60 kms per day. At the section of 2nd Army (and there Germans had got mainly horse-drawn infantry) they were advancing on average 33,4 kilometres per day between 13 and 25.06.1940. In the USSR (22.06.1941 - 16.07.1941) Guderian and Hoth were advancing on average 30 kms per day - also faster than in Poland.

Theorists had always said that only infantry could take and hold positions.


Germans found the way how to - maybe not hold positions, but survive inside enemy territory - using armoured forces (namely - "fortified", well protected camps).
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Richard Hargreaves on 11 Oct 2009 10:01

The war of 1939 was closer to the war of 1914 than the German propaganda machine would have the world believe.


Having ploughed through a lot of German documentation, I stand by that assertion. :) I already knew the horse, not the panzer or motor vehicle, was the German Army's biggest means of transport but the greatest surprise for me researching the campaign was that armour plays a surprisingly small role. It cuts through Poland, e.g. the advance on Warsaw, the dash across the Corridor, it races towards Brest, but by far the bulk of the fighting and effort is made by infantry/Gebirgs divisions, e.g. Bzura, the advance on Lvov.

I think for too long we've rather been bedazzled by Blitzkrieg. That said, a punchy book title helps with sales. :D
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Peter K on 11 Oct 2009 13:08

I wouldn't agree with this theory. In all major (and the most important) battles of the campaign armour played the main and the decisive role. Bzura and Kampinoska Forest (1., 4. Panzer divisions, 2., 3., 1. Leichte divisions, 29. Motorisiert division), Piotrkow Trybunalski - Tomaszow Mazowiecki (1. and 4. Panzer divisions), Ilza - Radom - Kielce (1., 2., 3. Leichte, 29., 13. Motorisiert), Pszczyna or combats for Upper Silesia in general (5. Panzer division), combats for the Mlawa line and later for Rozan (Panzer-Division "Kempf"). Armoured-mot. forces also participated in the siege of Warsaw (for example the failed assault of 4. Panzer-Division on 09.09.1939) and in the siege of Modlin.

Even during the battle of Lwow (and battles west and north of Lwow), German 5. and 2. Panzer divisions participated.

In almost all of these battles mentioned above, armoured-motorized forces were the decisive factor of victory.

Armoured and motorized divisions also suffered heavy casualties in comparison with casualties suffered on average by each of infantry divisions. In general armoured-motorized (fast) forces suffered 29 - 30% of Heer human casualties in Poland as well as 100% of German armoured vehicles casualties in Poland, while being "only" 25% of German forces.

10. Army was the most important German army during the Polish campaign. It consisted of 14 divisions including as many as 7 armoured-motorized divisions, concentrated in three armoured-motorized Corps - XVI., XV. and XIV. - which used to cooperate with each other. And around 50% of men casualties of this army were suffered by fast forces. At the same time 10. Army was the army which suffered the heaviest men casualties out of all German armies involved.

but by far the bulk of the fighting and effort is made by infantry/Gebirgs divisions, e.g. Bzura, the advance on Lvov.


During the battle of Bzura infantry played an important role, here I agree. But the decisive role was once again played by armoured divisions, mainly 1. and 4. Panzer (but also during the later phase of the battle - 1., 2. and 3. light, 29. mot.). It was the German armoured assault on 16.09.1939 and 17.09.1939 which, despite being a failure, caused the decision of gen. Tadeusz Kutrzeba to stop the battle and withdraw behind the Bzura river to the Kampinoska forest.

the bulk of the fighting and effort [...] e.g. [...] the advance on Lvov.


The German advance on Lvov - as well as its alleged importance - is mythologized by German sources.

During the advance on Lvov German 1. Gebirgs-Division almost didn't encounter any resistance because simply it didn't have any strong Polish units in front of it (only when it reached Lwow, hell started). But during the same time other forces of the German 14. Army (including 2. and 5. Panzer division as well as 4. Leichte division) were involved in heavy purchase (from the German point of view) and slowing down (from the Polish point of view) fightings, including combats against Polish 10. Motorized Brigade of colonel Stanislaw Maczek. Later 2. Panzer & 4. Leichte divisions were involved (and played an important role) in the 2nd biggest battle of the campaign - Tomaszow Lubelski.

the dash across the Corridor


The dash across the Corridor was not only the dash but also a battle, a quite important battle because as the result Poland was cut off from its only access to the Baltic sea and from its only important port - Gdynia. Also after the dash across the Corridor Guderian's XIX. Panzer-Korps was involved in heavy fightings in North-Eastern Poland (Lomza, Wizna, Andrzejewo, Zambrow, Fortress Brest-Litovsk, Wlodawa, Kobryn, finally a failed attempt to capture Chelm Lubelski). As the result Guderian's XIX. Panzer-Korps suffered heavy casualties, especially 20. Motorisiert-Division.

Only on 15.09.1939 and 16.09.1939 during combats on the section of the Northern Gate of Fortress Brest-Litovsk, 20. Motorisiert-Division lost 134 KIA (including 7 officers KIA) and 240 WIA. During the whole campaign in Poland this division lost at least 24 officers KIA, thus I estimate its casualties as at least 455 - 460 KIA and 815 - 825 WIA.

e.g. the advance on Warsaw


But this advance on Warsaw was full of battles, very important battles. The most important of them was the battle of Piotrkow Trybunalski - Tomaszow Mazowiecki (04.09.1939 - 07.09.1939), during which German forces (XVI. Panzer-Korps - two armoured and two infantry divisions) broke through the positions of Polish 19., 29. and 13. Inf.Div.

Piotrkow - Tomaszow is often considered by Polish historians as the most decisive battle of that campaign - not the battle of Bzura. It was also a very bloody battle for both sides. Germans lost over 130 tanks during that battle.

I already knew the horse, not the panzer or motor vehicle, was the German Army's biggest means of transport.


Even in German infantry divisions the horse was not the most important mean of transport, at least if comparing with Polish infantry divisions. In Polish active service infantry division there were 76 cars & trucks, 20 motorcycles and 6939 horses. In German infantry division - between 1009 cars & trucks (this includes 615 trucks and 394 cars - Personalkraftwagen) plus 527 motorcycles and 201 trailers in I wave division and 578 cars & trucks + 415 motorcycles and 168 trailers in III wave division plus also between 4842 horses + 919 horse waggons in I wave division, 4854 horses and 823 horse waggons in II wave division and 6033 horses + 1529 horse waggons in III wave division.

Polish historian and participant of the 1939 Campaign (chef of staff of Army "Cracow") - lt. col. Wladyslaw Steblik - writes in his monograph of Army "Cracow", that one of the most important advantages of German infantry / Gebirgs divisions, was the fact that they were always able to form a motorized Kampfgruppe or to quickly transport some of their forces (let's say one or two battalions, for example) by trucks to a certain place, if only it was necessary. And I fully agree with him, because I know that he experienced this and that there were such cases during the campaign.

I already knew the horse, not the panzer or motor vehicle, was the German Army's biggest means of transport


Even if we assume that the horse was more important than these hundreds of trucks, cars and motorcycles mentioned above, we still have to admit that this situation didn't change until the end of the war. Even in 1943, 1944 and 1945 the importance of horses in the Wehrmacht was exactly the same or even bigger than during the Polish Campaign.

For example on 12.01.1945 Wehrmacht had got 1,136,318 horses (including 923,679 in active frontline service) and only 10% of all German divisions were mechanized while the remaining 90% relied on horse-drawn transport. And here it's worth reminding that in Polenfeldzug 25% of German divisions were fully mechanized, which is 2,5 times more.

In fact the later in the war, the worse was the motorization level. In 1939 level of motorization was one of the best.

It cuts through Poland, e.g. the advance on Warsaw, the dash across the Corridor, it races towards Brest, but by far the bulk of the fighting and effort is made by infantry/Gebirgs divisions


It rather fits to the Westfeldzug in 1940 and later to the campaign in the USSR in 1941, than to Poland 1939. :wink:

During the Westfeldzug Panzergruppe "Kleist" only cut through France / Low Countries to the English Channel, but the bulk of combats was fought by infantry. During Fall Rot it is even more visible - then armour played a negligible role.
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Re: Review: Blitzkrieg Unleashed

Postby Peter K on 08 Jan 2011 04:06

Level of motorization of the Wehrmacht from 1939 was similar in 1940 and at the start of 1941. But casualties suffered in 1941 were replaced during the same year: in men in 50%, in tanks in 80%, in motor vehicles in 10%, in horses in 11%.

As you can see much more important than manpower and tank losses were losses in means of transport.

Pre-1941 level of motorization was never again achieved by the Wehrmacht (a German infantry division of 1939 - by the time of the Invasion of Poland - had 615 trucks, 394 cars and 527 motorcycles including 201 with trailers - and only 919 horse wagons; a German infantry division of 1943 had authorized strength of just 387 trucks, 147 cars and 171 motorcycles; while a German infantry division of 1944 had authorized strength of 375 trucks, 145 cars and 156 motorcycles).

In a German infantry division of 1939 there was 1 horse for each 3,7 soldiers while in a German infantry division of 1943 - 1 horse for each 2,7 soldiers.

In a German infantry division of 1939 there was 1 motor vehicle for each 11,5 soldiers; while in a German infantry division of 1943 - 1 motor vehicle for each 20 soldiers.

Casualties of horses were also heavy and in a German infantry division of 1944 there was still 1 motor vehicle for 19 soldiers but yet only 1 horse for 3,2 soldiers.
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