Blitzkrieg: from the rise of Hitler to the fall of Dunkirk - 1979

Military History

Summary

Part of the same planned series as Fighter, this looks in real detail at the Wehrmacht’s plans for European invasion and contains some wonderful illustrations by Deighton of battle formations and military hardware (his speciality as a military historian) as well as numerous photographs of the armour, the battles and the generals and commanders crucial to the German's initial winning strategy.

Deighton retells well the squabbles and jealousies in the German High Command as the move to war developed, and how subsequently individual generals were outwitted by the Nazis and has to submit to the will of Hitler as commander in chief who, thanks to the Blitzkrieg tactic, seemed to be a commander without peer.

As well as the battle itself, Deighton demonstrates his wider understanding of the Nazi state by retelling the story of the rise to power of Hitler in the 'twenties and 'thirties, illustrating how the German people - shattered by the loss of World War One - invested all their hopes and fears in Hitler, with the obvious consequences thereafter

Why it's interesting

It’s an accurate and detailed account and this is attested to by the fact that General Guderain’s chief-of-staff, General Nehring, provides the foreword and is most complimentary about Deighton's historical knowledge. He writes: "As Deighton's book clearly demonstrates, [Hitler's order to halt the German army advance on Dunkirk in 1940] was the crucial and fundamental turning point in the war between Britain and Germany." This foreword, then, is an endorsement of the quality of Deighton's analysis and evidence of his position at the time as a pre-eminent modern military historian.

Sample text

'The word 'Blitzkrieg' has been attributed at different times to Hitler, Time magazine and Liddell Hart. Guderain's chief of staff is sure that the word is not of German origin. Whatever its etymology, the ideas behind the word are certainly German. Lightning-fast war had been as essential part of Prussian military thinking since long before Bismarck. It arose from the fear that if Prussia engaged one enemy in a lengthy war, other enemies would have joined in. A fast decision avoided this danger.'

Related fact

In 1987 Len Deighton's Blitzkrieg computer game was published by Ariolasoft for the C64, as a semi-official tie-in. The game was designed by John Lambshead and Gordon Paterson and programmed by Gary Yorke and James Poole.

When the book came out the publishers made available A3 posters of the visual representations of the German panzer divisions which are on both endpapers; these were designed by Deighton.

IMG1670

Blitzkrieg, UK first edition, 1979

Badge of dishonour?

The symbol on the front cover of the book is the 'Totenkopf' [Death's Head], which was worn by all members of Panzer Units. It is not to be confused with the insignia worn by SS units during the War.