Tactical Genius in Battle - 1979

Military History

Summary

An analysis of the tactics employed by some of the most famous military leaders in history at some of the most spectacular battles, this book by military historian Simon Goodenough - edited and introduced by Len Deighton - includes analysis of the Duke of Marlborough's tactics at Blenheim and Colonel von Mannstein's use of Blitzkrieg tactics in 1940, as well as Hannibal's victory in the Alps.

By drawing together these disparate commanders and battles, the authors seek to throw new light on the battles by juxtaposing these examples, identifying the common threads which lead to success on the battlefield.

Why it's interesting

Some wonderful illustrations and graphics outlining each stage of each battle. Deighton's incisive commentary and his grasp of the increasing importance of technology in shaping battlefield tactics, comes across strongly in every chapter, even though he's not the primary author.

What works well is the juxtaposition of battles often centuries apart, because analysis of different battles by Goodenough and Deighton adds original analysis to popular military history. So the lesser known battles such as the Swedish victory at Wittstock offer as much insight to military strategy as do the analyses of Austerlitz or the Blitzgkrieg in France.

What is interesting is that Deighton's name is as prominent on the cover as Simon Goodenough's. This clearly is part of the marketing drive for the book which would have drawn upon Deighton's growing representation as a military historian and also his global fame as a writer; on the dustjacket flap, his biography is larger than Goodenough's.

Sample text

'Although battle is a confrontation of technologies, the skill of the general is not a science and certainly not an art. Generalship most resembles that curious game played by children of many nations in which two opponents extend hands that resemble flat paper, scissors or a fist of rock. Paper wraps, and so defeats a rock but is cut by the scissors; these in turn can be blunted by the rock. So battle consists of the skills and luck in bringing to the fore the weaponry that defeats the enemy. When history records an army unprepared, it seldom refers to a force unready for battle but rather to men who have prepared to meet some different sort of opponent.'

TacticalGenius

Tactical Genius in Battle, UK first edition, 1979

Tactical nous

On the battle for Alamein, German General Thome said:

"In the modern warfare the tactics are not the main thing. The decisive factor is the organisation of one's resources - to maintain the momentum"