Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Armageddon by Max Hastings

Hasting's excellent portrayal of the fall of Hitler's Germany makes for compulsive reading. The sheer scale of the warfare has never been equaled.

While Hastings endeavours to give a flavour for what it was like for the men women and children caught up in the maelstrom of war he also has plenty to say about the conduct of the politicians, the generals and the armies they commanded. Those addicted to glorious portrayals of the allied landings on Normandy's beaches might be upset at Hasting's dismissal of the Western allies poor soldiering later in the campaign. Nevertheless the lacklustre performance of the American and British armies compared to the Nazis they faced and compared to the unstoppable Red army in the East is widely enough acknowledged to remove the taint of controversy from Hastings work.

It must be said that while he may praise their soldiering Hasting's pulls no punches in highlighting the depravity and brutality of both the Nazis and Stalin's forces. Indeed one of his central themes is that it is the very brutality of their regimes that made them so good at warfare. This brutality allowed Stalin's generals to make bold thrusts heedless of the enormous cost in human life, that inspired German teenagers to fight to the death in the ruins of their cities.

The fact that depraved men make better soldiers is somewhat depressing and suggests that Tyrants will always prosper but some hope can be gained from the fact that the miracles of production in American factories were at least as important as the blood sacrifices of the Red armies in overcoming the evil of Hitler's regime.

No comments: