Blood, Tears & Folly, UK First Edition, 1993
Building on all his existing war history work, this is a massive volume which presents the middle of the war on a global scale, following his accounts of the Blitzkrieg and the war in the air.
It’s essentially a work of history, but is full of personal accounts - again, the theme of the impact on soldiery comes across - and is beautifully illustrated in parts by Deighton’s own illustrations, particularly on the endpapers. This is the story of the dark period from 1939 to 1943, when the axis powers swept all before them and western civilisation seemed in danger of imminent collapse. Deighton sets the drama of war on a world stage, reflecting the psychology of global conflict in moving individual accounts by participants at every level.
Why it's interesting
The detail. This is more than conventional history; it’s a gathering and sweeping up of all the technical factors and snippets which help the read make sense of this global conflict. In so doing, it demonstrates Deighton's long-held interest in the way in which technology and machinery has changed the manner of warfare and put undreamt of killing power in the hands of ordinary men.
Deighton shows he’s a military historian of impeccable pedigree and this book stands alongside many of the war histories which have been written by professional historians and ex-military men. Deighton is perceptive enough to not just focus on the history, but to draw lessons for the world after the recently ended Cold War on issues like racism, resources and the growing gap between rich and poor. Deighton writes in correspondence that he had initially intended simply to amalgamate Blitzkrieg and Fighter into a single volume on the year 1940. He then found he needed material about the Royal Navy during that period and very soon found he was writing a whole new book, quite different to the two previous ones.
'Almost all the generals regarded the Barbarossa plans with the same reckless optimism that their Führer showed. General Guderain said: "All the men of the OKW and the OKH with whom I spoke evinced an unshakeable optimism and were quite impervious to criticism or objections." As part of this self-delusion the number of Panzer divisions was doubled, but only by depriving the existing ones of half of their tanks and pressing into use tanks and guns taken from the French and Czech armies.
The tactical advantages claimed for this arrangement were problematic, it was a waste of headquarters staff and specialists, and the new divisions required almost as many trucks as the old ones had. But doubling the number of armoured divisions looked good on paper, and Hitler liked magic tricks that he though would dismay his enemies.'