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Wessels, André: Suid-Afrika se Vlootmagte, 1922–2012 (Bloemfontein, 2017), 290 pp., isbn 978-1-928424-04-8.

South Africa’s Naval Forces 1922–2012

On three sides South Africa borders on oceans, and in that sense, the country is a large peninsula. It has a coastline of some 2,800 kilometres; approximately 90 per cent of its imports and exports are handled by its ports, and therefore it is a maritime country. Consequently, its navy should form an important component of its defence force.

Although the term South African Navy has only been in use since 1 January 1951, the history of the country’s naval forces goes back at least to 1922. Not much has thus far been published on the history of the South African Navy and its predecessors. To a large extent this gap is filled by Wessels’ book.

In the first chapter the South African naval history from 1922 until the end of the Second World War in 1945 is discussed. The following eight chapters are each dedicated to the role played by one of the various kinds of warships in the country’s naval forces since 1945, namely: frigates; destroyers; minesweepers and minehunters; patrol ships; hydrographic survey ships; combat support ships; submarines; and other vessels, including boom defence ships, tugs, and search and rescue craft. In the final (tenth) chapter, general conclusions are drawn and guidelines with regard to the ideal navy of the future are provided.

The author conducted many interviews, consulted a large volume of archival sources, as well as many other relevant sources. Throughout the publication he evaluates the role of South Africa’s naval forces against the background of political developments in South Africa and events in the international arena. The role the Navy played during the years of conflict in Southern Africa, especially in the years 1975 to 1988, is discussed, including the Navy’s indispensable support provided to Special Forces (“recces”). The peace-time role of the Navy is also discussed, including its diplomatic role (deploying its ships as “grey” diplomats on flag-showing cruises), and the humanitarian support missions that it has undertaken.

The book makes a noteworthy contribution towards the (neglected) South African maritime (and in particular naval) historiography.

Winfried Heinemann

German Commission of Military History


Dionysopoulos, Christos D.: The Battle of Marathon: An Historical and Topographical Approach, transl. Nicola Wardle (Athens, 2014), 272 pp., isbn 978-960-6878-08-04.

Marathon is the first battle of the so-called western canon of battles for which a reconstruction might be possible, since the historian Herodotus – our main source for the campaign – supplies quite a few details. Despite this, though, as well as the fact that modern historians have studied the battle to its minutest detail, it is still impossible to reconstruct the battle in a coherent way. Indeed, some pessimistic historians have despaired that such a thing might be possible in the foreseeable future. One of them recently stated bluntly that: “In my view, the battle of Marathon cannot be reconstructed”. 1

Christos D. Dionysopoulos obviously does not concur with this view and wrote the book under review to present a definitive account of the battle of Marathon. He is by training a classical philologist, but his book – as the subtitle suggests – contains much more than a rehashing of the classical sources concerning the battle. Indeed, it uses Dionysopoulos’ broad knowledge of the geological, topographic and archaeological factors pertaining to the battlefield and hence to his preferred reconstruction of the battle.

The book is divided in eleven uneven chapters. The first seven are being used to set up what is the focus of the book; chapter 8: ‘The Battle’. The last three chapters round up the book with the author’s afterthoughts and conclusions. Each and every chapter contains extensive discussion of both the sources and secondary bibliography, with the author choosing what he considers the most likely course of events from among the theories offered by the scholars of the last two centuries, although he does not take fully into account the numerous books and articles published around the battle’s 2,500th anniversary in the year 2010.

Chapter 1 is a short overview of the campaign. Chapter 2 is a brief description of the main ancient roads in Attica, including the possible routes of approach that might have been used by the Athenian army to reach the plain of Marathon. Dionysopoulos curiously favours a rough path that runs to the north of the main road, through the modern village of Dionysos, and reaches the plain at a place called Vrana. Chapter 3 describes the opposite armies and discusses analytically the possible composition of the Athenian army. Contrary to recent propositions (as expounded among others by Peter Krentz and Hans van Wees) Dionysopoulos believes that no light troops accompanied the hoplites, and that the latter were composed of rich citizens and recently freed slaves—the author does not allow for low-income free citizens (thētes) to have accompanied the army, much less to participate in the battle in any capacity. Chapter 4 discusses at length the date of the battle and its timing. Dionysopoulos believes that the battle took place in the late afternoon of 12 September 490 BC. Chapter 5 convincingly places the battle in the south-western corner of the plain of Marathon. Chapter 6 discusses the positions of the respective camps and battle lines. Chapter 7 gives general information and topographic details of all the monuments (trophies, tumuli, stelae etc.) that the victorious Athenians erected after the battle. Finally, Dionysopoulos uses the information garnered from the previous chapters to present his preferred minute-by-minute description of the battle in the climactic chapter 8. Overall, the book is obviously a labour of love and much effort has been put in it by the author. It is lavishly illustrated with lots of maps, plates and tables. Despite this, the book is neither for the novice nor for the casual reader. In fact, to fully make use of it, one needs to be at least broadly familiar with the battle of Marathon and its problems. Therefore, this book is definitely reserved for an informed audience of academic historians and archaeologists.

Dēmētrios N. Christodoulou

Hellenic Commission of Military History

Middle Ages

Neuding Skoog, Martin: I rikets tjänst. Krig, stat och samhälle i Sverige 1450–1550 (Lund, 2018), 584 pp., isbn 978-91-85301-19-5.

In the Service of the Realm: War, State and Society in Sweden 1450–1550

The early modern Swedish national state was created between the 1520s and 1550s during the reign of Gustavus I Vasa and after the final collapse of the Scandinavian union between Sweden (including Finland), Denmark and Norway in 1521–23. The absolute monarchy, like its contemporaries Francis I of France or Henry viii of England, developed rapidly during the reign of Gustavus (1523–60). It included the crown’s support for the reformation and suppression of the Catholic church. The traditional view among historians has been that the main army reforms took place during the 1540s, after the suppression of a large peasant rebellion in 1542–43.

But with this book (which began as his dissertation), the Stockholm historian Martin Neuding Skoog has tried to trace the deeper development, and the interaction between war and state formation. He starts with a study of how military organisations on land worked in the Late Middle Ages with a very weak central power. He analyses the different kinds of military organisations: the armed forces of the nobility, of the Catholic church as well as of the burgers in the rather small cities and the forces formed by armed peasants.

He discusses the political effects which the centralisation of military resources during Gustavus I resulted in. He also studies the development, from the 1450s onward, of the military resources and organisation of the state, both of the King and the non-royal regents. An important part of his study looks into the recruitment and use of mercenaries in the Baltic Sea region in general and in Sweden in particular.

On the basis of vast source material, Martin Neuding Skoog manages to show how a complex situation with different military organisations developed into one single army of the early modern state and the monopoly of violence of that state.

Lars Ericson Wolke

Swedish Military History Commission

Early Modern Period

Münkler, Herfried: Der Dreißigjährige Krieg. Europäische Katastrophe, deutsches Trauma 1618–1648 (Berlin, 2018), 974 pp., isbn 978-3-87134-813-6.

The Thirty Years’ War: European Catastrophe, German Trauma

The war that started in 1618 with a defenestration in Prague, and soon expanded into a European catastrophe, has incited historians to produce a multitude of analyses and comparisons. Herfried Münkler takes about 1,000 pages to describe the complex web of dynasties in Germany and central Europe during the first half of the 17th century. More than one hundred years after the Reformation, Central Europe presented a colourful pattern of diverse denominational entities. But it was not only religion that spawned inter-state conflict. Münkler’s forte is his gripping account of dynastic, hegemonic, economic, religious and political interests and divergences, and of diplomatic efforts and battle achievements alike. What we today perceive as a continuous long war erupted in various places. Münkler, as a political scientist, does not succumb to the temptation of simplifying motives, nor does he shy away from comparisons with the 20th and 21st centuries. Some of the individual conflicts of the Thirty Years’ War are interpreted by the author as forerunners of the new, asymmetrical wars of today. It is not just for positivist purposes that he traces the campaigns in such detail: what Münkler wants to show is how the progress of the war led to new military, political, and dynastic constellations which rendered stringent political planning almost impossible. Chance and surprise, as much as strategy and tactics, are the stuff history is made of.

The best passages are those in which he explains how images form our perception of history, and for what political purposes it can be instrumentalised. Reading this book helps to understand why some call this conflict of incredible brutality the true first world war.

Gabriele Bosch

German Commission for Military History

Perlestam, Magnus: Det lilla kriget. Skärmytslingar och kommenderingar under stora nordiska kriget åren 1702–1709 (Lund, 2018), 184 pp., isbn 978-91-88661-61-6.

The Small War: Skirmishes and Commandos during the Great Northern War in the Years, 1702–1709

As almost every military historian knows, the great battles in history were rare, although much of the focus in research and writing has been on them. Yes, this has begun to change, thanks not least to historians like Martin van Creveld and John Lynn. Still, there is an imbalance between the studies of battles (and sieges) and the daily routines of campaigns.

The Swedish historian Magnus Perlestam has in his latest book studied the skirmishes and commandos during the first half of the Great Northern War, with emphasis on the Lithuanian and Polish campaigns of the Swedish army under Charles xii. Some of this small war fighting took place when Swedish patrols or messengers were attacked by bands of armed peasants or regular troops from the Polish and Saxon army.

The threat from smaller or larger units of regulars or irregulars resulted in the composition of rather large units sent out looking for provision or forage. Sometimes hundreds of soldiers, mostly cavalry, were sent on such missions. Any attempt by the local population to hide their cattle or harvest was punished, and several clashes between armed farmers and Swedish soldiers are mentioned in the sources.

When Swedish soldiers were found killed in the woods, the revenge was severe, or as one officer writes in his diary: “When we discovered how our fellow soldiers had died, then they [the perpetrators] were well and plentiful retaliated as much as they deserved.”

Many of the small war incidents or skirmishes were hardly mentioned in the official source material, especially when it comes to revengeful attacks on prisoners-of-war or the civilian population. But Magnus Perlestam has spent a lot of time trying to find private diaries or letters mentioning these kinds of events, and thus been able to reconstruct this very important part of the military campaigns of the early modern era.

Lars Ericson Wolke

Swedish Military History Commission

Kronberg, Klas, and Anna Maria Forssberg (eds.): Minnet av Narva. Om troféer, propaganda och historiebruk (Lund, 2018), 240 pp., isbn 978-91-88661-57-9.

The Memory of Narva: On Trophies, Propaganda and the Use of History

The battle of Narva on 20 November 1700 marks the beginning of the Great Northern War, as well as Sweden’s most formidable victory during the war, which lasted 21 years, when the Russian army was crushed outside the then Swedish city of Narva.

In traditional Swedish historiography this victory has been regarded as one of the most important in Swedish military history, but although it was important, it did not end the war. Peter the Great escaped and managed to rebuild and modernise his army, with a similarly important result nine years later at the battle of Poltava.

In this book (which is also the yearbook of the Army Museum) the two editors, who both are with the Army Museum in Stockholm, gathered seven papers dealing with different aspects of the battle and especially how the battle has been viewed and used later in history.

One paper sees the battle from the ordinary soldiers’ perspective (Oscar Sjöström, Swedish Defence University). Another describes how the Russian flags and standards (170 of them), as well as guns and kettle-drums were used as trophies and how the victory parade in Stockholm was held (Karin Tetteris, Army Museum). Other papers discuss the music during the victory parade of 1701 (Mikael Alm and Maria Schildt, Uppsala university), or how the battle was used in contemporary propaganda (Anna Maria Forsberg, Army Museum) and later in history (Magnus Rodell, Södertörn University) as well as those left behind at home, the soldiers’ wives (Marie Lennersand, National Archives).

One paper discusses the very concept of victory (Jan Ångström, Swedish Defence University). What is a military victory and what is needed for a number of tactical victories to result in a strategic victory? The answers to these questions are, of course rather complicated. A number of victories is not necessarily the sole path towards winning the entire war, especially not if you try to win without attrition tactics.

The last paper mentioned here (by Magnus Rodell) deals with the memorial lion statue raised at Narva in 1936. It was created in Sweden and is of course regarded as a symbol of the victory in 1700, but also as a symbol of the independent state of Estonia, and has as such been used as a tool in contemporary politics. During the great battle of Narva in 1944, the lion was destroyed, but in 2000, 300 years after the battle, a replica of the first lion was erected again in Narva.

Lars Ericson Wolke

Swedish Military History Commission

19th Century (1789–1914)

Gupta, Amit Kumar: Nineteenth-Century Colonialism and the Great Indian Revolt (New Delhi, 2017), 195 pp., isbn 978-0815376590.

Amit Kumar Gupta is Research Consultant at the Indian Council of Historical Research in New Delhi, India. The theme of this thought-provoking study is that until the middle of the nineteenth century, there existed in India an entente, “between the forces of capitalist development [Great Britain] and those of feudal underdevelopment [indigenous India]” (p. 5). This was characterized by one of the most successful imperialistic strategies of the period, mercantilism, in which India was made to export raw materials and foodstuffs and import manufactured goods in terms favourable to the British manufactures and investors. The author seeks to show that these unequal economic policies, coupled with political and agrarian policies, eventually “wreaked havoc, resulting in high land revenue assessment and its harsh mode of collection, rural indebtedness, steady immiseration of peasants, widespread land alienation, and suicide” (p. i). This caused, according to the author, the “Revolt of 1857”.

Gupta divides his monograph into six chapters to demonstrate the viability of each of the components of this thesis. Chapter 1, “For Bourgeoization”, highlights the role of the Industrial Revolution and the philosophy of Utilitarianism in developing the bourgeoisie, which in turn sought to reform the laws and educational system of India. He also describes the role of the British “benevolent despots” in improving the Indian infrastructure through the use of steam, roadways and railways, and posts and telegraphs. These challenged Indian feudalism, and Chapter 2 is “Against Feudalism”. Indian society contained aristocrats, landowners, and those who lived tax-free on land and collected revenue from the land. The British initiated a series of reforms, including land surveys, assessments, and appropriations, that reduced the power of the aristocracy and extant feudal system.

Indian agrarian society needed a system that fairly taxed the land and collected those taxes, and is covered in Chapter 3, “Rent Theory”. The misapplication of this practice resulted in an impoverished peasantry (Chapter 4, Against Peasantry), which in turn served as “a prelude to an upheaval” (p. 112). “The sepoys’ main grievances”, observes the author in Chapter 5, “For Confrontation”, “grew out of the dire financial straits they were subjected to” (p. 118). Moreover, in this chapter, other sources of friction are chronicled, including the “greased cartridges” that polluted and defiled both Hindus and Muslims, although religious aspects of sepoy discontent are downplayed. The book’s thesis is summarized in Chapter 6, “Against Qualitative Change”, and a “Postscript”.

“What the mutineers of 1806 sadly missed or lacked at Vellore, their counterparts in Meerut and Delhi [in 1857], however, received in abundance”, claims the author, “not only popular support but also the people’s participation on a large scale – the sublime magic touch that transformed dramatically a military mutiny into an uproarious violent uprising” (p. 125). This assertion, seemingly made through a Marxist lens, is not supported by a comprehensive and objective study of available relevant source material and is not convincing. The term “Indian Mutiny” remains the most accurate and prevalent name for this native Indian rebellion against its imperial British colonizers, and not the more neutral terms “Revolt” and “Rising”. Balanced and thorough research has shown the Indian Mutiny was not a pre-planned, cohesive, nation-wide “First War of Indian Independence”, since a presumed unity of purpose and pervasiveness did not exist during the conflict. Long-simmering grievances and misunderstandings, sparked by the “greased cartridge” issue, basically ignited the Indian Mutiny, which gained varying levels of support, but not massive popular backing, generally in the Gangetic plain area of northern India. More recently, research and viewpoints on the Indian Mutiny have matured and become more balanced.

Gupta’s well-crafted, albeit very expensive, volume contributes to the Indian Mutiny historiography by providing another perspective of the land and economic changes made by the British and the resentment and financial instability they caused upon Indians and the social class structure. This in turn led to the pivotal bloody and brutal conflict in 1857 that shook the British Empire to its very foundations and awakened a sense of identity among segments of the Indian population.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

Whitburn, Bill: Bright Eyes of Danger: An Account of the Anglo-Sikh Wars, 1845–1849 (Solihull, 2015), 327 pp., isbn 978-1909982215.

The Sikhs, members of a monotheistic reformist religion, lived in the Punjab area of India, between followers of Islam and Hinduism. The Sikhs rose as a political power in the void left by the collapse of the Mughal Empire, and developed a formidable army, which came to be called the Khalsa. This was the last significant threat to the British in India.

The First Anglo-Sikh War (the Sutlej Campaign), 1845–1846, and the Second Sikh War (the Punjab Campaign), 1848–1849, are frequently overlooked in British military history. They were the culmination of mutual suspicions and tension between the Sikhs and the expanding British East India Company (eic). The Khalsa attempted to bring order to the chaos in their homeland, the Punjab, and it was emboldened by the disastrous British performance in Afghanistan during the First Afghan War, 1839–1842. The British conquest of Sind in 1843 basically cut off the Sikh route to the sea via the Indus and encircled the Punjab, thus increasing Sikh concerns about British militarism and imperialism. As the Khalsa became more anti-British and bellicose, the British in late 1844 quietly made unobtrusive preparations to defend against an expected Sikh attack by reinforcing garrisons near the Punjab (Ferozepore, Ludhiana, Ambala, and Meerut). The Sikh Khalsa, reportedly concerned about these provocative nearby British troop movements, crossed the Sutlej River on 11 December 1845. This was considered a violation of the 1809 Treaty of Amritsar, and the eic declared war on the Sikhs two days later, thus beginning the First Sikh War.

There were four hard-fought battles of the First Sikh War, generally characterized by artillery duels, antiquated British leadership, and the use of cold steel by disciplined British and Indian soldiers. These battles were Mudki (18 December 1845), Ferozeshah (21–22 December 1845), Aliwal (28 January 1846), and Sobraon (10 February 1846). The British did not then annex the Punjab, and after a short time, squabbles broke out that involved the deaths of British officers. The situation deteriorated into a rebellion, and the British again sent troops to quell this unrest, which eventually started the Second Sikh War. Battles were bloody and at least one ended in a major stalemate. The British and Sikhs fought each other at Ramnuggar (22 November 1848), Chillianwala (13 January 1849), and Gujarat (21 February 1849). The British sustained heavy casualties fighting in their second conflict with the Sikhs, considered by many to have been the most formidable native foe in India. The Khalsa surrendered to the British and its soldiers were disarmed. The British annexed the Punjab as a result of their victory in the Second Sikh War.

The origins, battles, and leaders of the opposing forces in the Sikh wars are described chronologically in this conventional history. In addition to containing considerable detail, this volume also contains unsupported conjecture and an omniscient perspective that would not have been possible for the author to possess. Bright Eyes of Danger also contains many illustrations and plates (many of which are blurry), and ten generally adequate maps.

This is author Bill Whitburn’s (a retired British Army officer) first book, his “retirement project”. While including an eight-page bibliography of published books, this monograph contains no footnotes that would permit the reader to verify sources and point the direction for additional research. It is disconcerting that the author lists two books that he “relied heavily” on when researching this topic, and another two books “[f]or the details and conduct of the actual battles” (p. xii). He later apologizes “for embroidering certain facts”. As a result, the prospective student of the Sikh Wars would do better to read Amarpal Singh Sidhu’s interesting and better-researched two volumes on these conflicts.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

First World War and Inter-war Years (1914–1939)

Preda, Dumitru: Sub semnul Marii Uniri. Campaniile armatei române pentru întregirea ţării 1916–1920 (Bucharest, 2018), 380 pp., isbn 978-973-27-2987-8; 978-973-32-1107-5.

Under the Sign of the Great Union: The Campaigns of the Romanian Army for the Reunification of the Country, 1916–1920

The year 1918 is a landmark in the history of the Romanians. Based on a rich and diverse bibliography, Dumitru Preda’s book is an excellent synthesis dedicated to the campaigns of the Romanian Army in the First World War and later on for the defence of the independent state accomplished by the reunification of the old provinces.

The author presents the political and economic-military preparations during the period of neutrality (1914–1916), which preceded Romania’s entry into the Great War (August 1916). Then he highlights the main battles of the 1916 campaign against the Central Powers coalition, and their characteristics, with comments on the organisation and tactics, development of manoeuvres and battles. Despite the strong general offensive of the Central Powers and their allies (“Die Strafexpedition”), the lack of war experience, and mistakes of command, Romania – the author stresses – was not knocked out of the war. The enemies achieved only the occupation of Bucharest (6 December 1916), and the displacement of the Romanian Army north-eastwards into Moldova (the Siret-Danube line).

In this context, Preda evaluates the relations with the Entente allies, especially with Russia, the role of the French mission of General Berthelot, and then the place and international importance of forgotten great battles on the Romanian front during the summer of 1917. A separate chapter relates the 1917–1918 Romanian campaign, in the context of the radical transformations of the former Russian Empire. All this led to the political and military isolation of Romania, obliging its government to accept the Peace Treaty of Bucharest (7 May 1918), after the re-unification of Bessarabia (27 March 1918).

Much space is devoted to the analysis of the 1918–1919 and 1919–1920 campaigns, with new data and appreciations on the re-entry of the Romanian Army into the war, on 10 November 1918. Thereby, the author emphasises Romania’s relations, particularly in operative terms, with the Entente Powers around the opening of the Paris Peace Conference (January 1919). For over a year, under complex international conditions, amid the conflicting interests of the Great Powers in post-war reconstruction, with part of the national territory still under foreign occupation, Romania was faced with a permanent aggression of Bolshevik forces in Budapest, Kiev and Petrograd. The Romanian Army, as the author states, acted in legitimate defence following the Hungarian Soviet Republic’s attacks (April-May and July-August 1919), occupying Budapest (3–4 August 1919).

The objectivity and the equilibrium with which the related issues are dealt are noteworthy, including the temporary military occupation of Hungary by Romanian troops, as well as the author’s conclusion on the European dimension of the last campaign, in which the Romanian Army blocked the Bolsheviks’ offensive on the continent.

Adrian Pandea

Romanian Commission of Military History and Director, Editura Militara, Bucharest

Telo, António José, and Nuno Lemos Pires: A Grande Guerra em África. Os que inovam, os que se adaptam e os outros (Lisbon, 2018), 298 pp., isbn 978-989-8647-88-3.

The Great War in Africa: Those Who Innovated, Those Who Adapted, and the Others

The Portuguese army’s involvement in Africa is one of the understudied campaigns of the First World War. It has been seen as something of a sideshow and the books written about the African campaigns tended to do it from a very narrow and national perspective. With this book, the authors, Professor António Telo and Colonel Dr Lemos Pires, both teachers of History and Military History at the Portuguese Military Academy, aimed to provide a wider and global view of the Portuguese commitment in the African theatre of operations.

The authors argue that any analysis of the Portuguese commitment in Africa during the Great War needs to put in the foreground the very particular political situation in the country at the outbreak of the war and during its four years, otherwise it is doomed to fail. The political instability due to fratricidal different postures among politicians and militaries alike, fed an intermittent civil war that undermined any serious attempt to mobilize and deploy to Africa cohesive, well trained and well-led army units. With this framework, neither innovation nor adaptation were within the range of the Portuguese political and military leadership, in clear opposition to the allies, mainly the British, who were able to adapt, and the enemy, the Germans, who the authors highlight as the only ones able to truly innovate, namely Lettow Vorbeck in East Africa.

The authors’ conclusions provide a synthesis of their major arguments on the nature of the Great War in Africa and, in particular, the role of the Portuguese political leadership and the operational performance of the Portuguese military units that, alone or in coalition with the British and South Africans, fought the Germans in Angola and in Mozambique.

The book provides a historical narrative associated with the authors’ many insights, which require careful reading and reflection to fully appreciate them. Reading it sparks questions about the role of political meddling on the conduct of military operations, and the pernicious impact, which stemmed from the choice of military commanders sympathetic to the acting government, regardless of their lack of military experience in Africa. To build their argument Telo and Lemos Pires relied mainly on primary sources from the Portuguese, British, German and South African national archives, an endeavour worth mentioning and without which it would have been impossible to have a clear image of the allies’ perceptions regarding the Portuguese people. Problems with discipline, corruption and poor organization together with the lack of initiative and resources led the Portuguese military leadership to be unable to learn from its own mistakes in time to make a difference, at least on the lives of the serving men.

There is one thing that disappoints in the book: in some instances the authors wrote their argument as if they were the only ones with a real and clear view of the research on hand. The breadth and volume of the narrative used to support their arguments is at times too eager, somewhat affecting coherence and leaving little space for the reader to make their own analysis and judgement. The book could also benefit tremendously from the inclusion of an index. It should have been a must for such a dense and resourceful book.

The importance of this book goes well beyond a purely Portuguese historiographical interest, because it analyses the role of a small European country, yet a big colonial power, due to the size of its colonies. The relationship between Portugal and the larger colonial powers, while managing a war effort on the Western Front and dealing with an intermittent civil war at home is worth reading by military and civil officials alike.

Miguel Freire

Portuguese Commission of Military History

Preda, Dumitru, and Costică Prodan: Rumania en la Guerra de Unidad Nacional 1916–1919 (La Habana and Bucharest, 2016), x + 227 pp., isbn 978-959-06-1682-2; 978-973-32-1023-8.

Romania in the War for National Unity, 1916–1919

Romania’s role in the First World War, with few exceptions, such as Glenn E. Torrey, has been rather consistently ignored or relegated to a footnote. The authors, two well-known Romanian specialists in the field, remedy that neglect in this book. This is the first Spanish-language monograph, and it provides a detailed and insightful operational history of the Romanian campaign and at the same time places it within the strategic, diplomatic and political context of the war. So, this volume could be considered as an essential overview of the subject.

Allied political and military leaders fervently sought the entry of Romania into the war. The Entente leaders consistently over-estimated the number of German casualties on the Western Front, and were desperately seeking the straw that would break the back of the Central Powers. Romania was the key to this outlook. It was hoped that the entry of Romania in combination with the initial success of Russia’s offensive in the summer of 1916 would have a decisive impact on the course of the war. The Romanian figures appeared impressive. That, coupled with perceived German weakness and over-extension, would hopefully have a decisive impact. Unfortunately for the Romanians, the Allies had vastly over-estimated German vulnerability. They also over-estimated what was happening on the Eastern Front. Rather than the initial moves of the Russian steamroller, the Brusilov offensive proved to be the last gasp of a Russia collapsing towards revolution and defeat. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, though a spent force, could still be propped up by the Germans. Contrary to allied assumptions, the Bulgarians could and would effectively fight against the paltry Russian forces sent to assist the Romanians.

This book recounts and interprets the story of the tragedy and glory of the Romanian Army. Its soldiers fought on courageously against overwhelming odds. Preda and Prodan serve history and the memory of the Romanian Army well where they describe the valiant, if ultimately futile, resistance of the Romanians in Moldova during the desperate summer of 1917. Of particular significance was that the Romanian persistence prevented the Central Powers from moving troops to the Italian and Western Fronts. Deserted by their erstwhile Russian allies and largely forgotten by the West, the Romanians fought until their leaders were compelled to come to terms with the Central Powers in May 1918. It was only with the defeat of the Germans, produced as the Americans turned the numerical tide, that Romania was able to satisfy its national aspirations. The Romanian Army returned to the field just before the general armistice, and thus attempted to reclaim its role and rewards as an ally. After 11 November 1918, the Romanian Army occupied not only Transylvania, Bukovina, and the Banat, but moved into territory that would remain Hungarian. According to the authors, Romania, in destroying the Hungarian Soviet of Béla Kun in August 1919, stemmed the tide of Bolshevik expansion into Central Europe.

This synthesis could offer a more accurate story, a valuable reference capable also to stimulate the interest to develop researches on this subject. Because this struggle started in August 1916 produced a significant, if underestimated, impact on the course of the Great War, and for the next two decades, and was moreover of huge importance for the future of modern Romania.

Bernard Cook

Loyola University Chicago

Preda, Dumitru, and Nicolae Ciobanu: Bătălia de la Mărăşeşti: 24 iulie/6 august-21 august/3 septembrie 1917 (Bucharest, 2017), 272 pp., isbn 978-973-32-1060-3.

Battle of Mărăşeşti: 24 July/6 August-21 August/3 September 1917

This is a documented history of the greatest battle, by duration, proportions and intensity, on the Romanian front during the First World War – the “Romanian Verdun” as it was called at the time. Based on rich and rigorous research in various Romanian and foreign archives and libraries of both coalitions (Entente and Central Powers), the volume can be considered the outstanding contribution in the field for its comparative and detailed analysis, including new evidence and clarifications.

In July 1917, the Romanian front stretched for 560 kilometres, with a great concentration of men and means belonging to the Romanian-Russian and the Austro-Hungarian and German forces: nine armies (80 infantry and 19 cavalry divisions with 974 battalions, 550 squadrons and 923 batteries) combining approximately 800,000 soldiers on the frontline and 1,000,000 behind the battle lines and in reserve. While on the other fronts of Europe, the war of position was again the characteristic form of military operations, partially interrupted by bloody offensive actions of local dimensions – such as the attack by the British in Flanders (22 July) – the situation on the Eastern Front threatened to explode and take a very serious turn for the Entente, which could have as a direct consequence a perceptible change in the balance of forces between the two coalitions, maintained with difficulty until that date. As a result of their victories in Galicia and Bucovina, the leadership of the Central Powers felt that conditions were favourable for the elimination of Romania from the war.

Structured into an introduction and three chapters, the book presents the goals of the changing plans of operations on the Romanian front during the summer of 1917; how the operational mechanism of both Central Powers’ forces and Russian and Romanian allied forces were prepared, their mood and combat capability on the eve of the battle; the geo-climatic environment and its possible influence on the development of offensive and defensive actions.

The Battle of Mărăşeşti is detailed by its three phases: I (24 July/6 August-30 July/12 August); II (31 July/13 August-6/19 August) and iii (7/20 August-21 August/3 September); at the end, the authors review the results of the terrible confrontation (55,000 dead, injured and missing allied soldiers, and 65,000 for the Central Powers) and its echoes in the belligerent camps and neutral countries. The powerful Mackensen offensive, started with the main blow in the direction of Focsani-Mărăşeşti-Adjud to Iassy, had the German-Austro-Hungarian troops “slipping” to the left, as the Romanian divisions entered the fight replacing the majority of Russian units. Finally, it was blocking itself, in the mountain-forested terrain of the Vrancea Sub-Carpathians.

The Battle of Mărăşeşti, emphasize Preda and Ciobanu, through its results, definitively put an end to the generalized German and Austro-Hungarian offensive on the Romanian front, marking, in fact, the conclusion of the 1917 campaign in this theatre of military actions. In an article published on 12 October 1917 by the British newspaper Daily Chronicle and suggestively entitled “Heroic Romania”, the famous French writer and diplomat Robert de Flers stated categorically: “The reconstructed Romanian Army saved the Eastern Front”, summarizing thus the considerable importance of the battle won by the Romanian forces, the only real victory of the Entente in 1917. The volume contains a helpful bibliography and a number of useful annexes, with for the first time published talks between the high Romanian officers during the battle, as well as a significant iconography.

Adrian Pandea

Romanian Commission of Military History and Director, Editura Militara, Bucharest

Stewart, William F.: The Embattled General: Sir Richard Turner and the First World War (Montreal, 2015), xviii + 374 pp., isbn 9780773546257.

The historiography of Great War Canadian military leadership has until recently been dominated by biographies of General Sir Arthur Currie, the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Corps, and the controversial Sir Sam Hughes, the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence during that period. This first full-length biography of General Sir Richard Turner, written by researcher William F. Stewart, helps overcome Turner’s bleak reputation, re-evaluates his military service, and assists in rescuing him from the obscurity to which he had seemingly been undeservedly relegated.

After an introduction, this study consists of eight chapters and a conclusion. The first four chapters focus on Turner’s role in combat, while chapters 5–8 examine his role as a senior administrator. The first chapter sets the stage by highlighting Turner’s military service to 1914, including service as a militia officer in the Canadian Mounted Rifles during the South African War (Second Boer War). Turner established a sound reputation and distinguished himself by his gallantry in action, receiving both the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. On the eve of the Great War in 1914, Turner had retired from the militia after having commanded a cavalry brigade, but on the outbreak of hostilities he was appointed a brigade commander in the first Canadian contingent.

Chapter 2 highlights Turner’s service as a brigade commander, particularly at the Battles of Second Ypres and Festubert. At the former battle, Turner “was not a success. Poor staff work, inaccurate information transmission, and a dangerous decision indicated he was overstretched” (p. 71). Turner had apparently learned from his mistakes, and his performance at Festubert was much better and led to his selection to command the 2nd Division. Turner’s performance as a division commander up to the failure at the Battle of St. Eloi Craters is examined, and this defeat, which almost resulted in the end of his career, tarnished it irrevocably. Even Turner’s relative success in the little-known Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916, as chronicled in chapter 4, and despite his marshalling Canadian political support, was not enough to save his combat command.

In November 1916, Turner was appointed General-Officer-Commanding Canadian Forces in the British Isles to address the Canadian “administrative and training debacle in England” (p. 148). Chapters 5 and 6 assess his effectiveness and efficiency in that challenging position, with the author opining that Turner’s reforms were “broadly effective” (p. 195) and that scholars “almost universally acknowledge that the new regime accomplished much in the reformation of the administration and training” (p. 197). The penultimate chapter “explores the sometimes-contentious relationship between Currie and Turner through the lens of their correspondence and extends from the selection of Currie in June 1917 [as Canadian Corps commander] to their final clashes in the post-armistice period” (p. 207). The final chapter focuses on Turner’s role in the Canadian Military Council in England; bureaucratic complaints, political friction, and controversy; and demobilization woes. Myriad factors conspired and caused the Canadian Government to decide “to make no further use of Turner in a military role after the war” (p. 257), although he served on the Pension Board and was active in establishing the Royal Canadian Legion.

The conclusion sums up and assesses Turner’s reputation and performance. Stewart considers Turner to have been an atypical Canadian general of the era: “charismatic, courageous, conscientious, capable, engaging, modest, and in the trenches” (p. 262). The author does a solid job in enumerating and evaluating Turner’s attributes of leadership and character, and aspects of combat command, although he frequently includes mitigating factors when Turner failed to meet expectations. The author also suggests Turner’s reputation may have been intentionally slighted to enhance Currie’s standing, but concludes fairly that Turner “was not in the first rank of Canadian commanders because of his earlier failures and poor reputation with the British, but neither was he in the worst” (p. 264).

Stewart’s deeply-researched, incisive, and interesting biography of Turner not only presents a reassessment of his military leadership and administrative skills, but also provides a lens through which to view the development of tactics, operations, logistical requirements in combat operations, and imperial and civil-military relations during the First World War. This convincing revisionist re-evaluation of Turner’s life and military career makes a major contribution to the study of Canada’s participation in the worldwide conflagration of the Great War.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

LaMonica, Jeffrey: American Tactical Advancement in World War I (Jefferson, NC, 2017), 174 pp., isbn 978-1-4766-6419-4.

The year 2018 marks the centennial of the last year of the First World War, known more commonly in Europe as the Great War, and of the year in which the American Expeditionary Forces (aef) entered the conflict in large numbers and arguably tipped the outcome of the war in favour of the Allies.

When the United States entered the world-wide conflagration in April 1917, its Regular Army numbered 127,588 officers and enlisted men. The immediate challenge was to expand, train, and deploy to Europe at an unprecedented rate a force of significant size and proficiency to support the war-weary French and British allies. Conscription was mandated by the 18 May 1917 Selective Service Act, which would draft 2.7 million recruits to supplement the enlistments in the Regular Army and the National Guard. General John J. Pershing was selected as commander-in-chief of the aef, and he departed for France with a small advance party on 28 May 1917.

The question of how the aef would fight in Europe immediately surfaced. Clashes focused first on whether to amalgamate American soldiers into existing Allied lines or to create an independent U.S. Army, and second on whether to send an immediate expeditionary force to France or to withhold U.S. troops until they could be organized and trained within the U.S. Tactical doctrine should have dictated the length and type of individual soldier and unit multi-echelon training, but there was significant disagreement over this tactical doctrine – which was basically trench warfare as practiced by America’s Allies versus “open warfare” as espoused by Pershing.

In this study, Jeffrey LaMonica (Associate Professor of History, Delaware County Community College), “examines the extent to which the aef mastered the tactical lessons of the Great War” (p. 2), largely by analysing “an array of U.S. Army tactical manuals and pamphlets to uncover the extent to which combined arms and open warfare techniques became a part of published aef doctrine” (p. 3). Chapter 1 identifies combined arms techniques in aef tactical doctrine published between spring 1917 and fall 1918, and the second chapter highlights “evidence” of Pershing’s open warfare concept in aef tactical doctrine. The third chapter establishes “insufficient and rushed training” as the primary shortcoming in aef tactical development, while in fact it was only one of many deficiencies in aef individual and unit training. The culminating chapter of this study is a case of the aef’s 5th (not Fifth) Division tactical employment and efficiency during the final eleven days of the war during the concluding phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

The author generally makes good use of official U.S. Army and aef histories and manuals found in the collection of the Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. His additional research, however, seems either incomplete or selective, not including such seminal works as Paul F. Braim’s 1987 Test of Battle: The American Expeditionary Forces in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign (1987), and Parameters articles by James W. Rainey, including “The Questionable Training of the aef in World War I” (Winter 1992–93). This and other factors give one the impression of a very disjointed and superficial work.

While the tactical evolution of units of the aef is an important topic, a key element that should have framed this examination is missing from this analysis. The size and composition of the basic element of the aef force structure, the division, should have served as the driver for tactical development and employment. This was a very controversial topic at the time. The adoption of the unwieldy 28,000-soldier square division, containing two brigades of two infantry regiments each, proved to be less than satisfactory. Pershing’s staff believed this large square division would conserve the limited supply of trained officers, maximize firepower, and sustain itself effectively in combat. In practice, the square division lacked mobility, and undermined and contradicted Pershing’s open warfare ethos. Its deficiencies became apparent during the important Meuse-Argonne offensive, when American divisions bogged down and suffered excessive casualties. The successes and failures of the infantry division’s organization set the stage for a debate that would surround it for the next twenty years.

LaMonica’s monograph American Tactical Advancement in World War I helps remind readers that the 128,000-man U.S. Army executed an unprecedented and initially unimaginable mobilization, training, and deployment of a force to Europe that numbered almost two million by war’s end. As a result, the U.S. Army definitely helped tip the scales to achieve Allied victory in the Great War.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

Hirrel, Leo P.: Supporting the Doughboys: US Army Logistics and Personnel During World War I (Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2017), 151 pp., isbn 978-1-940804-32-3.

When the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, the U.S. Army totalled some 127,000 Regular Army officers and men, with another 80,000 National Guardsman, in generally small garrisons stretched over the country, particularly in the West and along the Mexican border, and in the Philippines. The U.S. Army had performed poorly, especially in logistical sustainment areas, during the 1898 Spanish-American War, and was in the process of slowly modernizing when the U.S. entered the First World War. General John J. Pershing, the Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (aef), envisioned a 100-division force that would be available to conduct a major offensive in France – in early 1919. Almost miraculously, the aef in France numbered almost 2,000,000 soldiers (out of an overall U.S. Army numbering four million soldiers) by the fall of 1918 and played an arguably decisive role in the Allied victory in the war.

This unparalleled feat could not have been accomplished without a veritable revolution in the U.S. Army logistics system. The author, Leo P. Hirrel (who served as the command historian of the U.S. Army Quartermaster School), in this study views the build-up, deployment, and support of the aef through the lens of the modern term of “sustainment”: “the provision of logistics, personnel services, and health service support necessary to maintain operations until successful mission completion” (p. xiii).

This study is divided into an introduction, eight chapters, and an epilogue, with reference and informative notes at the end of each chapter. Chapter 1 covers “The Situation in 1917”, and the second chapter, “Homefront Mobilization”, examines the linkage between Congressional, legal, and funding authorizations and their impact on mobilization planning, military pay issues, training camp construction. It also highlights the roles and modernization efforts of the Quartermaster General, Ordnance Department, Army Transport Service and shipping, and railroads in the massive home front mobilization.

Subsequent chapters cover the macro-logistical situation and the Herculean efforts to establish an overseas support structure and to support the aef via the Services of Supply (sos) as it slowly arrived in France and entered the fray. Chapter 5, “Evolution of Sustainment Functions in Theater”, covers a myriad of topics, including transportation, ordnance, maintenance, fuel, and laundry to soldier morale, African-American soldiers in the sos, and graves registration. The subject of Chapter 6, “Learning to Work in a European Environment”, continues to be relevant today, and Chapter 7 is appropriately entitled “Struggling Towards Victory”. The latter highlights the planning for and logistical sustainment of aef offensives at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne in the fall of 1918. Chapter 8 chronicles and assesses the unexpected, and massive, redeployment and demobilization of the aef and the concurrent requirements of contract termination, property disposal, and the temporary interment of over 70,000 fallen soldiers.

General Pershing, in describing the important role of the sos during the aef’s final offensive in 1918, proclaimed:

Every member of the American Expeditionary Forces, from the front line to the base ports, was straining every nerve. Extraordinary efforts were exerted by the entire Services of Supply to meet the enormous demands made upon it. Obstacles which seemed insurmountable were overcome daily in hastening the movements of replacements, ammunition, and supplies to the front, and of the sick and wounded to the rear. It was this spirit of determination animating every member of the A.E.F. that made it impossible for the enemy to maintain the struggle until 1919 (p. 120).

This well-researched, superbly illustrated, and finely-crafted monograph on the logistical sustainment of the aef during the First World War confirms that Pershing’s praise was accurate and well deserved.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

Lousada, Abílio Pires, and Jorge Silva Rocha (eds.): Portugal na 1ª Guerra Mundial. Uma História Militar Concisa, (Lisbon, 2018), 1162 pp., isbn 978-989-88593-17-7.

Portugal during the First World War: A Concise Military History

The centenary of the Great War, or the First World War as it is called in this book, has been a great opportunity to revisit this decisive moment in world history. New books were published worldwide about a wide variety of perspectives on this conflict. Old approaches were revisited as new ones were reconsidered. The Portuguese editorial landscape was not different and seized the opportunity of an academic community eager to publish new research outcomes or to re-edit classical works.

This concise military history of the Portuguese participation in the Great War aimed to compile the most recent approaches to this subject. The book is the result of 54 authors from different backgrounds: scholars, historians, military officers, and independent researchers.

The book is organized in nine main chapters, each one dedicated to a theme with varied entries regarding different subjects. The first chapter deals with the socio-political context. It begins with a global view based on the major powers’ perspectives and continues with the very particular case of Portugal where political instability and economic infirmity shaped severely all diplomatic and military options. The second chapter focuses on the Portuguese military strategy, affecting all the major institutions related to continental Portugal and its colonies overseas. This chapter argues top-down, from the highest national defence structure to the technical level dealing with uniforms, equipment and personal weaponry.

The next two chapters – the third and fourth – are oriented towards the two main theatres of operations: Africa and the Western Front. One deals with the defence of sovereignty over African territories and goes into detail about the international perspective of the belligerents regarding Africa, the military organisation in the Portuguese colonies, the continental army and navy deployments overseas, and the medical service provided for these specific campaigns. The other one deals with the Portuguese Expeditionary Force (pef) from a multitude of perspectives. The training before deployment, the problem of troop transportation to France, and then the issues of the pef once at the front. The fifth chapter is dedicated to the decisive moments in 1918, mainly related to the Lys battle that took place on 9 April.

The sixth chapter deals with the storytelling and images of the war. The role of censorship and propaganda, music and especially fado music in the trenches are just some of the subjects within this chapter. The seventh chapter deals with the aftermath of the war. Portugal and the Versailles Treaty, memory and identity and even phaleristics, to mention just a few, contribute to a wide range of views on forgotten dimensions of the war. The eighth chapter provides a short biography of 25 leading figures ranging from the highest political level, military commanders in the field, both in Africa and the Western Front, down to lower level unit commanders from the navy and the army. The ninth and last chapter is about the consequences of the Portuguese participation in the war.

Although the contribution of each author does not go beyond ten to twelve pages – it is a concise history – some new and thought-provoking approaches can be found. And this is what makes the book appealing to different types of readers: not only those who look for rigorous information or teaching material about the Portuguese participation in the war, but also for the more demanding readers looking for the richness of insights and bibliography on such a wide spectrum of subjects regarding the participation of Portugal in the First World War.

Miguel Freire

Portuguese Commission of Military History

Avram, Valeriu: Războiul aerian deasupra României 1916–1919: confruntarea cu aviaţia Puterilor Centrale, Rusiei sovietice şi Ungariei comuniste (Bucharest, 2017), 380 pp., isbn 978-973-32-1050-4.

Air War over Romania, 1916–1919: Confronting the Aviation of the Central Powers, Soviet Russia and Communist Hungary

This is a valuable contribution penned by the most prolific Romanian historian of military aviation. The book represents the result of a research effort spanning over three decades in Romanian archives, and consulting documentary sources referring to the air forces of the belligerents participating in the hostilities in Romania between 1916–1919.

The result of this remarkable effort is an extremely detailed account of the Romanian aeronautic organisation (aviation, aerostatics, anti-air artillery), its equipment, the concept underpinning its employment in battle, as well as the battle actions conducted during the three campaigns – 1916, 1917, 1918–1919. For the first time in Romanian historiography, the author presents the air war conducted by the Central Powers, the Red Army and the Hungarian Communist Party against Romania during these years, accurately presenting the aviation units and their equipment, as well as the main missions executed above the front in the national territory.

The description of air operations, abundant in data, comprises the actions of all warring parties, offering a panorama of the war in the skies over Romania, incorporating little-known and oft-ignored dimensions. This includes in particular the 1917 campaign marked by the great battles at Mărăşti, Mărăşeşti and Oituz (July-August), which stopped the Central Powers’ offensive towards Russia. A special chapter is dedicated to the allied airmen that fought on the Romanian front, first Frenchmen (the Berthelot Mission) – important contributors to the reorganization of Romanian aeronautics in the first part of 1917, but also participants in battle together with Romanian pilots – but also Russians and Britons. Furthermore, the author presents the tasks accomplished in November-December 1918 and later, in 1919, against the Hungarian Bolshevik offensive, connected with Soviet Russia, a real contribution defending not only the country’s independence and unity, but also European peace and security. Finally, original illustrations support the high-quality narrative of the book.

Adrian Pandea

Romanian Commission of Military History and Director, Editura Militara, Bucharest

Dumitru Preda

Romanian Commission of Military History, Member of the icmh Bibliographic Committee

Heinemann, Patrick O.: Rechtsgeschichte der Reichswehr 1918–1933 (Paderborn, 2017), 424 pp., isbn 978-3-506-78785-9.

Legal History of the Reichswehr, 1918–1933

“Your language gives you away.” An example of what language can give away – or hide – is the first sentence of the German Defence Law of 23 March 1921: “The Wehrmacht of the German Republic is the Reichswehr.”

This sentence can be taken to indicate the discrepancy between pretence and reality. Patrick O. Heinemann, author of this profound study on the military arm of the first German attempt to establish a democracy, prefers to use the phrase descriptively: “The Reichswehr was the armed forces of the German Republic.”

Was it, however? Or did it just have the chance to become this after Colonel-General Hans von Seeckt had been forced to resign in 1926? And what made the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic become the Wehrmacht of the “Third Reich”? Was this inevitable, and if so, why? The Weimar Republic’s problem was not that it was a child of the First World War. Nor was its problem that the military pre-existed the Weimar Constitution’s generally positive concept of humanity. Its problem was that the Reichswehr was only willing to support the Republic as long as it followed, in Seeckt’s words, “the German way”. And what the “German way” was supposed to be was not defined by German republicans and democrats.

Patrick Heinemann is not a historian; he is a lawyer, even with a historical slant. That is the great advantage of the PhD thesis that forms the basis of this book. The book is not limited to the normative-descriptive, or normative-analytical reasoning of legal hermeneutics, even if it is a detailed study of the Reichswehr’s place within the Weimar Republic institutional structure.

Even so, the book’s forte is that it speaks both to the historian and the lawyer. Within the framework of his work, it would have been asking too much for him to find his way through the historical research on the Weimar period as elegantly as he handles the legal literature. This is not Hans Mommsen’s “The rise and fall of Weimar democracy”. Yet, together with Peter Keller’s analysis of the German military during the 1918–21 period (“Die Wehrmacht der Deutschen Republik ist die Reichswehr”. Die deutsche Armee 1918–1921, Paderborn, 2014), Patrick Heinemann offers the authentically democratic complement to volume 7 of Ernst-Rudolf Huber’s German Constitutional History. No future analysis of the special place of the military within the framework of the Weimar Republic institutions can afford to leave this detailed chronological account aside.

It might have been desirable to add to the legal representation a history of mentalities, thus revealing the “simultaneity of the non-simultaneous” (Ernst Bloch). In other words: how monolithic was the Reichswehr’s mental disposition at a moment when the right-wing nationalists began to supersede the “traditional” antidemocratic conservatism. Young Reichswehr officers like Henning von Tresckow and Claus Graf Stauffenberg had at least sympathized with Adolf Hitler prior to 1933. Of particular interest is therefore Heinemann’s question to what extent the 20 July 1944 plot has its roots in the Reichswehr; this deserves further research.

As a functional elite whose task should have been to stabilize the Weimar Republic, the Reichswehr failed. However, others failed as well. They did not necessarily have to fail because the term “German Republic” existed only in an initiative of a few members of its parliament who in 1926/7 initiated a journal bearing this title. After the resignation of Wilhelm Groener as Minister of the Interior and of War, the Reichswehr followed President von Hindenburg’s lead and did nothing to stabilize the republic. The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold (the militant arm of the democratic centre) created by those parliamentarians proved unable to take the army’s place. On 20 July 1932, the Reich government unconstitutionally took control of the Prussian state, and again the military, remaining disloyal to the republic, turned out to be both incompetent and unwilling.

The Reichswehr did not feel bound to this Reich, because the republican (i.e. democratic) politicians proved unwilling to use their power responsibly, and rather left control of the military to the officers themselves.

The Weimar Republic still referred to itself as the Deutsches Reich (German Empire), which made sense in foreign affairs. At home, after 1920 it began to lose its majoritarian support, and its proponents lacked the will to apply their power. For lack of substance, the Reichswehr could not develop into the armed forces of the German Republic. Thus, the Reichswehr eventually developed into the Wehrmacht of the “Third Reich” due to the hubris of those who felt they could contain a dictator who had long before 1933 begun to create a mass movement.

With meticulous legal arguments, Heinemann explains why this came to happen. Between the lines, he points at even more: politicians of the second German Republic, the Bonn and later Berlin republic, would seriously neglect their sworn duties if they failed to acquaint themselves with the core questions of military and security politics. Gustav Stresemann’s dictum still applies today: “Most Germans have only one prayer: Lord, give us today our daily illusion.”

How right Stresemann was with this scathing comment is more than clearly proven in Heinemann’s study on the Reichswehr as a functional elite. Maybe this army might have had a chance to develop into the armed forces of the German Republic if the Social Democrats had not preferred, from 1923–8, to desert from their responsibility to govern so as to please their basis.

But it takes two to tango. As Heinemann shows convincingly and in great detail, the Reichswehr itself remained a “paralegal state within the state” – i.e. within a state which, due to its bellicistic character (Rüdiger Bergien) and its latent civil war situation never succeeded in generating a republican-minded Reichswehr. The bitter irony of the history was that even under the authoritarian system of autumn 1932 the Reichswehr remained a wooden weapon, analogous to President von Hindenburg, the “wooden titan”. Authority was wasted in street fighting, the state monopoly on using force in the gutter, and all that despite, or even because of the Reichswehr.

Peter A. Popp

German Commission of Military History

Kesseli, Pasi: Tykistö taistelee tulellaan: Tykistötaktiikan kehitys Suomessa itsenäisyytemme aikana (Keuruu, 2017), 360 pp., isbn 978-951-37-7225-3.

Artillery Fights with Fire: The Development of Artillery Tactics in Finland during the Era of Independence.

In 2014, the Finnish National Defence University commissioned a 10-volume book series on the history of tactics as employed by different arms of the Finnish ground forces. Professor Colonel (ret.) Pasi Kesseli, whose work deals with the country’s field artillery from 1918 to the present, authored the first volume in the series. The book, based on relevant primary and secondary sources, is a concise account meant for a domestic audience. A unique feature is the extensive use of unpublished theses that were submitted to the former Finnish War College; recently all the unclassified general staff officer course final treatises from 1926 to 1991 have been digitalised and made available online for research purposes.

Kesseli sets out to examine how Finns planned to use and eventually employed artillery in battles during the last century, with a special emphasis on the years of the Second World War. The author stresses the role of “the father of the Finnish artillery” General Vilho Nenonen who, during the formative years, developed the organisation and firing methods of the Finnish artillery. Nenonen, for example, came up with a useful fire observer card. However, Finnish tactics were largely designed by the “Finnish Bruchmüller” Torvald Ekman (later Lieutenant General). He had started to teach and publish on modern uses of artillery as a young officer in the early 1920s. Ekman emphasised that a major factor influencing indirect fire in Finnish conditions has been the predominantly forested terrain.

Until the war years, Finnish artillery-infantry cooperation suffered from the lack of manual literature and a limited number of exercises; the Finnish artillery learned their tasks through practice. During the wars, the Finnish artillery functioned rather effectively. Even though Finnish firing methods were rather sophisticated, in 1943 Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Unto Petäjä, a head of one training centre that organised continuing education courses for artillery officers, invented a device that freed fire observers from mathematic calculations. The corrections to firing data from then onwards were calculated at the bases of fire. The widely used example of the benefits of this invention is the Battle of Tali-Ihantala in the summer of 1944, where a fire observer could control all artillery fire units within range, at the time 250 artillery pieces, fire simultaneously at one target area and then swiftly shift fire to the next. Largely due to the adoption of this method, the Finnish Army was able to bring the Red Army’s strategic offensive to a halt. The Finns managed to keep the invention secret until the end of the war.

The lessons learned from the Second World War indicated that Finnish tactical principles and firing methods worked well and thus did not require considerable changes. The basic tactical principle of the Finnish artillery has been and still is the concentration of fire. All through the decades, the main task of the Finnish artillery has remained the same: to support the infantry. However, the use of heavy fire is today more an operational matter than it used to be.

Kesseli concludes that the Finnish field artillery was developed specifically with resources in mind and to suit the Arctic and Subarctic conditions of the Finnish territory. The Finnish Army has maintained an exceptionally strong artillery in today’s Europe. Even though the country is small, Finland still has close to 1,600 artillery weapons and heavy mortars in its wartime inventory, more than many much bigger Western nations currently have in their stockpiles.

Kesseli’s informative book Tykistö taistelee tulellaan is easy to read even by those not too familiar with artillery. The book is likely to remain a standard work on the topic and, as such, should be consulted by future historians who are fluent in Finnish. It is freely available to download online as a pdf (

Pasi Tuunainen

Finnish Commission of Military History and University of Eastern Finland

Laaksonen, Lasse: Viina, hermot ja rangaistukset: Suomen sotilasylijohdon henkilökohtaiset ongelmat 1918–1945 (Juva, 2017), 650 pp., isbn 978-952-291-408-8.

Booze, Nerves and Punishments: The Personal Problems of Finnish Senior Officers, 1918–1945.

The alcohol consumption and mental health of the senior officer corps is a taboo topic. In many officer biographies, individuals are placed on a pedestal. Thus, these kinds of issues often have been ignored. Lasse Laaksonen, an active participant in the domestic and international activities of the Finnish Commission of Military History, fills this gap and analyses how personal problems, conflicting personalities and the loss of nerve have impacted on the construction of the Finnish armed forces during the interwar period, and how those factors have affected decision-making and other actions of Finnish generals (and some colonels) during the Second World War. He also investigates how individual officers coped with their problems and how these problems were handled within the Army.

Laaksonen’s monograph builds upon his earlier works on the relationship between the Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Armed Forces Marshal Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim and his generals. This book is also largely about the leadership style of the Finnish Marshal and his attitudes towards the aforementioned problems. The book is a kind of biographical study, but also employs a psycho-historical approach to some extent.

The study in question is based on a wide array of archival sources. Laaksonen had access to, for example, military medical and penal records, service records and evaluations, personal papers and correspondence, many of which have not been utilised before.

A great deal of the book comprises case studies of colourful military leaders. Laaksonen comments on the magnitude of various problems. At the time, practically all Finnish senior officers drank sometimes; very few completely abstained from alcohol. Since his times in the Russian Tsar’s Chevalier Guard the Marshal himself was used to having drinks on a daily basis. During the Second World War, he enjoyed a special chilled schnapps made for him and his entourage; this mixture of akvavit, vodka, dry white vermouth and gin is still sold under the name of Marskin ryyppy.

Marshal Mannerheim’s attitudes towards the problems of his subordinates were not consistent. Usually, drunkard generals were given a second chance. However, one of the documented curiosities is the ill-fated request by one discharged general, known for his heavy drinking habits and bad political reputation, to be allowed to go to the front as a volunteer rank-and-file soldier. One colonel, who became irresponsible after drinking, had been relieved of his command and sent to the home front but, on the insistence of Mannerheim, was given a command at the later stages of war – with bad results.

On the other hand, Mannerheim gave some generals more leeway than others. He remained quiet about the problems of some of his close and trusted associates. Particularly, Mannerheim tended to overlook the drinking problems of those generals who succeeded in difficult operations or upon whom he depended, as the case of the Quartermaster-General, his “true second-in-command”, clearly demonstrated. In the end, many of the high-ranking Finnish officers who were under the influence of alcohol in critical situations, had competent subordinates who saved their superiors from catastrophes. In one illustrative instance, a general arrived a couple of days late to his army corps headquarters because he was sauna bathing and drinking heavily. Mannerheim sometimes decided not to take matters further, as in the cases mentioned above and in those of some other of his favourite generals. It was a matter of chemistry and rapport. However, the Marshal did not tolerate losing one’s nerve because that was seen as a weakness, while stress reactions were impossible to control. These cases were rare. Facing a Soviet major onslaught in the summer of 1944, the Marshal himself came under heavy pressure.

Laaksonen’s book is a pioneering work in Finland. Even if exhausting in detail, and although many cases presented in the book were previously known, it is an important addition to the historiography of the Finnish High Command and Finnish senior officers in peace and war.

Pasi Tuunainen

Finnish Commission of Military History and University of Eastern Finland

Gruesshaber, Gerhard: The ‘German Spirit’ in the Ottoman and Turkish Army, 1908–1938: A History of Military Knowledge Transfer (Berlin, 2018), 289 pp., isbn 978-3-11-055289-8.

The recent centennial of the end of the First World War revealed the presence of this historical event in the cultural memory of both the adversaries and the allies of Imperial Germany as opposed to that in Germany itself. Thus, Gerhard Gruesshaber’s English-language PhD thesis about The ‘German Spirit’ in the Ottoman/Turkish Army, 1908–1938 would seem to be the right book on the right subject at the right moment.

Gruesshaber deals with “military knowledge transfer”. His work focuses on a period which can be described as “from pre-war times (1908) to pre-war times (1938)” by scrutinizing bilateral relations of two important geostrategic actors in international relations from the viewpoint of military elites. The importance of military decision-makers in nation building is evident in Germany as well as in the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, even if there were some decisive differences. The creation of modern Turkey cannot be explained without its military, especially after 1918. In the German case, the military degenerated from “nation builder” to “nation destroyer”, as became evident after 1933 when the German nation transformed from “rule of law” to a perverted racist Nazi dictatorship.

Gruesshaber’s thesis copes with cultural transfers, in particular of political ideas, analysing unpublished and published sources, including a variety of memoirs. The cultural transfer did not result in the allies of the First World War remaining allies in the Second. To get straight to the point: this did not result from the fact that neither Kemal Ataturk as the representative, leader and father-figure of modern Turkey on the one hand, nor the German military elite, on the other, had any sympathy for democratic modernity as a model for either country. In both cases, the notion of modernity was eclectic.

The decisive reason was that Kemal Pasha Ataturk and the military elite of the new-born Turkish Republic behaved as calculated political actors when Nazi Germany tried to win Turkey over as a strong believer in Greater Germany and its imperial ambitions. The Turkish managed an unbiased analysis of their own “raison d’état”, an ability that the German military conspicuously lacked. A Turkish-German alliance in the Second World War would have meant the end of modern Turkey. “Blueprint Germany”, represented by the German spirit of 1933, the roots of which had been laid even before 1914 became quite unattractive due to the constant fragility of Ottoman/Turkish political existence. Gruesshaber does not expand on the vivid interest of Anglo-American policymakers in Turkey’s benevolent neutrality. Since 1922/23, and contrary to their attitude in the First World War), neither Washington nor London were willing to question the political existence of Turkey as a player in international politics. Not only the Russian/Soviet threat, but also this long-standing tradition eventually eased Turkey’s nato membership in 1952.

Turkey’s attraction was rooted in its geopolitical position and ability to modernize itself, at least until recently. This is supposed to be due to the “German spirit” (der deutsche Geist) between 1908 and 1938 competing constantly with “blueprint France” and the different patterns of modernization of Anglo-American origin. In this sense, there had been some interesting alternatives for Turkish policy-decision-makers. “Nothing succeeds like success…” How attractive was Germany as a beaten nation with a pariah status in international politics up to 1922/24 for Turkey, which largely saw its own defeat as an accident? Here, Gruesshaber’s account remains thin, not for lack of trying but due to the difficulty of access to as-yet unpublished Turkish sources dating from after 1918.

As a consequence, military cultural transfer is analysed in three main chapters: “The Peak of Knowledge Transfer in the Second Constitutional Period (1908–1918)” (pp. 26–102), “German-Ottoman/Turkish Cooperation in the Mobilization of Youth: The Case of Heinrich von Hoff (1916–17) and Carl Diem (1933)” (pp. 103–160) and, lastly, “German-Turkish Military Cooperation after 1918” (pp. 161–239).

The central chapter on Heinrich von Hoff and Carl Diem as intellectual leaders forms a kind of “missing link”. Cultural transfer is treated as a kind of personalized narrative by analysing autobiographical literature. Unfortunately, Carl Diem’s extremely ambivalent role in Nazi Germany is lost from view. This may seem forgivable as his dazzling biography is not the core subject of Gruesshaber’s work.

Apart from the Ottoman Empire’s, and later Turkey’s, high regard for “Blueprint Germany”, this study highlights the usefulness of German military thought emphasizing efficiency and effectiveness for a political system – and not only Turkey’s! Retired colonel-general Hans Seeckt’s role as a military advisor to the Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek in China after 1926 is another example of this.

This might disturb some post-heroic contemporaries, especially in Germany, whose notion of development aid lacks the military element altogether. But that is irrelevant – Gruesshaber’s study shows the failures of modernizers without self-reflection and with a lack of intercultural competence. Adopting “Blueprint Germany” in Turkey succeeded more or less until 1933. Today, the failure of a modernization defined only by western ideology in the “Near and Middle East” (further away in geographic terms) is somehow pre-ordained as cultural und civilizational synapses are often lacking. “Modernization” – especially in the military – also means social discipline. Gruesshaber’s study is worth reading as it raises the reader’s awareness of this. This book is not only written history, but highly political.

Peter A. Popp

German Commission of Military History

Second World War

Barkawi, Tarak: Soldiers of Empire: Indian and British Armies in World War II (Cambridge, 2017), 321 pp., isbn 9781107169586.

How are soldiers made and armies assembled? Why do soldiers fight and what determines how effectively they do so? What does battle do to those who make it and what does it do the sources from which histories are constructed? These questions lie at the heart of Tarak Barkawi’s ambitious and articulate history of the polyglot colonial soldiers who fought for the British empire against the Japanese in the Second World War.

The book is organised in three parts. Part I examines the Indian Army’s ethnic organisation to rethink the relationship between (imperial) army and (colonised) society. While dividing colonial recruits by ethnicity mitigated against anti-colonial combination, ethnically exclusive corps struggled to replace casualties, especially amongst junior officers. How then did the Indian Army – with its homogenous units of Gurkhas, Sikhs and Pathans – adapt to wartime expansion? Rejecting the opposition inherent in the army/society binary, Barkawi argues that the ‘plasticity’ of ethnic organisation provided resources which officers and men could adapt and appropriate to suit their purpose. British officers grew beards and fasted with ‘their’ men, seeking culturally-significant ways to articulate their proximity to – and authority over – colonial troops. In similar ways, soldiers framed calls on their employers in language that sought to mobilise, rather than to challenge, colonial presumptions. Neither contemporary writings about Indian ethnicity nor the army shaped in their image reflect essential characteristics of Indian society. Nor do they represent simply the machinations of imperial strategists. Rather, Barkawi suggests, army and society were co-constituted via the circuits of knowledge and power through which colonial soldiers were recruited and organised.

Part II examines discipline, exploring the circumstances in which it failed and the processes through which it was reconstructed. Barkawi details the shortcomings of the Indian Army in the First Arakan campaign in which both British and Indian troops were badly mauled in early encounters with the Imperial Japanese Army. The failures of these pre-war regulars – poor fire discipline, desertion, self-harm and reluctance to engage – did not reflect the inefficiency of colonial troops but the Indian Army’s deficient preparations for jungle warfare. How then can we explain the remarkable turnaround in the army’s performance from 1943? Barkawi’s answer is as suggestive as it is simple: channelling Foucault and Durkheim to read drill as ritual – as something human and ancient not something western and modern – Barkawi contends that drill activates common human capacities for solidarity and organisation and is capable of sustaining men with little in common, even in the most brutal engagements. Recruits did not bring group identities to training; training gave them group identity. Esprit de corps – assembled through vertical and horizontal association, through shared rituals involving the imposition as well as the tolerated transgression of discipline – provided soldiers with the resources necessary to fight, and to fight on. In these circumstances, Barkawi argues, it becomes easier to understand why casualties – often presumed to undermine combat motivation – can also bolster the resolve of soldiers to fight. This anthropology of combat discipline challenges military sociology’s emphasis on group and national identities – neither of which account for the performance of colonial soldiers in the Second World War – arguing that the common, ritual experiences of training, discipline and contact better explain the behaviour of soldiers in combat.

In Barkawi’s account, supposedly distinctive ways of fighting are revealed to be situational, products of the contours of battle more than expressions of a particular national character or ideology. Instead of seeing combat as a space in which political agency is expressed – as per Omer Bartov – Barkawi emphasises the limits battle imposes on soldiers. Chapter 6 shows, brilliantly, how combat’s forms and patterns limit the choices available to participants. Box defence of a perimeter offered few choices: stand and fight and hope to survive or retreat, giving up the perimeter and the meagre, collective protection provided by committed, shared defence. Similarly, when surrender was, or was thought to be, impossible neither a death wish, nor fanatical loyalty, was required for soldiers to fight to the death. Thus, the brutality of the conflict – both anticipated and experienced – encouraged soldiers and officers to give no quarter, and to expect none to be given. Here, then, in the constraining and reciprocal effects of battle, Barkawi seeks to explain the nature of the war in the Pacific. Atrocities, which occurred on both sides, were mutually productive. Whereas eye witnesses, and some historians, explained Japanese soldiers’ behaviour on the battlefield as evidence of their savagery or fanaticism, Barkawi teases out the common, human calculations which shaped soldiers’ behaviour, showing that Indian and imperial troops could fight in ‘Japanese ways’, as at the battle of Sangshak, in March 1944, when members of 152nd Indian Parachute division mounted their own ‘banzai charge’ in a hopeless, and ostensibly futile, counter-attack. The Japanese were so impressed that survivors were taken prisoner (and many subsequently freed).

If battle could, in some circumstances, scramble racial categories, Part iii shows how histories of the war served to reconstruct them. ‘Suffused’ in racism, Allied accounts of the fighting in Burma sought recourse in narratives of Japanese otherness to impose structure on the conflict (and on soldiers’ experiences of it). Returning to Sangshak via the battle’s contested historiography, Barkawi shows how racism shaped memories and histories of the war, obscuring the common humanity – and mutual intelligibility – of soldiers on both sides. Rejecting the normalisation of national armies implicit in much of the extant literature, Barkawi invites historians and sociologists of war to produce works as cosmopolitan as the armies and conflicts they study. Despite the historical and sociological framing of conflict as a national enterprise, soldiering has been – and remains – a cosmopolitan, transactional business.

From this perspective, some readers may wonder if Soldiers of Empire has enough to say about the calculations and agency of the rank and file, even allowing for the obvious archival problems which limit our access to these men. After all, training manuals tell us little about how drill was actually conducted and less about how it was experienced. Though the archival base for the book is dense, South Asianists may find it lopsided. Some military historians and sociologists may feel their disciplines are caricatured for the purpose of critique. Questions about masculinity and gender are surprisingly underexplored, despite the sustained and creative engagement with theory (an inflection which some readers will doubtless resent).

If these kinds of responses illustrate the perils of working at the interface of disciplines and approaches, this book shows just how productive such an approach can be. In helping us to see war’s cosmopolitan faces – and to provincialize our understandings of combat and its histories – Soldiers of Empire provides a compelling and suggestive account of why, and how, histories of war should be written. Creatively theorised, and deeply engaged with its rich, historical material, this book deserves to be widely and carefully read.

Gavin Rand

University of Greenwich

Muñoz, Antonio J.: The German Secret Field Police in Greece, 1941–1944 (Jefferson, NC, 2018), vii + 248 pp., isbn 978-1-4766-6784-3.

The author rightly points out that, while there is a short and succinct history of the German “Secret Field Police” (Geheime Feldpolizei) available, and while there are several accounts of the German rule in Greece during the Second World War, there is as yet no account of the Secret Field Police’s role in this rule. His book is designed to fill the gap, and more.

Muñoz has done his homework – more than that, he has worked in all the archives which need to be consulted. He lists an impressive array of secondary literature, even if some titles appear both in the English and German version. Even so, some of the most pertinent literature has escaped him: the ground-breaking series “Germany and the Second World War” appears neither in English nor in the German original.

While his focus is on Greece, Muñoz believes the Secret Field Police’s role there can only be understood properly if seen in the context of its role elsewhere, in particular in the Soviet Union, and in the context of organizations of the same name in earlier German armies. Here is where the book has its weaknesses: Muñoz is often out of his depth when operating outside the narrow scope of his true subject. Emperor Frederick iii was not his predecessor’s brother, but William I’s son (p. 10), and Chancellor Adenauer’s resignation in 1963 was not due to the revelation that there had been a spy (Heinz Felfe) inside the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service) (p. 199).

When it comes to the units and commanders of Secret Field Police units, however, in Greece and elsewhere, this book is an almost unbeatable compendium. Based on meticulous archival work, Muñoz lists who served where, and in particular who was involved in war crimes, and in the round-ups of Jews all over Europe. Here, the book offers far more than the title would suggest; this is a valuable insight into one of the lesser-known elements of the German annihilation policies during the Second World War.

Winfried Heinemann

German Commission of Military History

Stănescu, Manuel: Odessa. Gustul amar al victoriei (August-Octombrie 1941) (Târgovişte, 2017), 206 pp., isbn 9786065373549.

Odessa: The Bitter Taste of Victory (August-October 1941)

Romania involved itself in the Second World War to recover its national territories (Bessarabia and northern Bucovina) annexed by the ussr in June 1940. This book, written by the young historian Manuel Stănescu, is founded on a rich, various and well-documented basis, and offers a long-awaited analysis of the largest operation undertaken by the Romanian Army in the Second World War. The author, with rich evidence, places the battle in the national and international context, i.e. the early phase of Operation Barbarossa. He also gives specific data on Odessa’s history as a port on the Black Sea and its importance for Soviet defence (the 9th Independent Army supported by the Separate Coastal Army and the Black Sea Fleet).

Based on the Romanian military archives, Stănescu offers details concerning the structure and capacity of the Romanian High Command and its 4th Army (about 340,000 men with a strong air element, and support of Romanian Navy ships). Acting together with elements of the German 11th Army, the Romanian operational plan envisaged offensive developments against the three heavily fortified Soviet lines of defence. The book includes a fair critique of the decisions taken, the troops’ preparation and the conduct of operations; we find also data and appreciations of the fighters’ morale and behaviour.

The result of the battle, after both sides had experienced heavy losses (more than 90,000 Romanian dead, wounded and missing, while the Soviets reported about 60,000) was the evacuation of Odessa (350,000 military and civilians) and the establishment of the Transnistria Governorate. The Romanian intervention facilitated the successful German offensive into the Kiev region and then to Moscow, but the author’s conclusion is very severe: the Romanian military was not yet ready for the realities of the battlefield of the Second World War (organisation, equipment and training, as well as dysfunctional staff work). Despite the bloody victory, it soon had consequences for her international position which shocked Romanian public opinion.

Dumitru Preda

Romanian Commission of Military History, Member of the icmh Bibliographic Committee

Cold War

Shrader, Charles R.: A War of Logistics: Parachutes and Porters in Indochina, 1945–1954 (Lexington, MA, 2015), xvi + 488 pp., isbn 978-0-8131-6575-2.

U.S. General of the Army Omar N. Bradley reportedly stated that military “amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics”, thus highlighting the paramount importance of logistics in military operations. The First Indochina War, fought in the inhospitable terrain and climate of Southeast Asia, with inadequate logistical facilities and vulnerable lines of communication, provides an outstanding case study of the role of logistics in military operations.

The First Indochina War, 1945–1955, was fought by the colonial power of France to re-establish its hegemony and civil authority in Southeast Asia in the aftermath of the Second World War, against the Communist-inspired and -supported Viet Minh, who were determined to destroy the yoke of French imperialism and gain independence. This masterful study by retired U.S. Army officer and scholar Charles R. Shrader, focuses on the organization and capabilities of the opposing forces “during the period of active conventional warfare in Indochina between October 1950 and May 1954” (p. xv).

There were tremendous logistical challenges facing both opponents, including terrain, climate, poor transportation infrastructure, and a lack of accurate maps. While these tended to favour the more lightly-equipped Viet Minh, who used flexible guerrilla tactics throughout most of the war, the French, according to the author, “proved relatively inflexible and unable to adapt to the hostile physical environment” (p. 5). The one major French advantage was airpower, although its effectiveness and use was reduced by poor flying conditions and the lack of maps. In the all-important logistical arena, which had an impact on the outcome of the conflict, the Viet Minh were better able to take advantage of the challenges and opportunities presented by the demanding Indochinese physical environment.

Operationally, the conflict can be divided into two main phases. The first phase took place from 1945 to 1950 and was characterized by small-scale guerrilla and counter-guerrilla operations that did not put a significant strain on the logistical structures or resources of either side. After 1950, the war turned into more of a conventional conflict involving larger units engaging in more sophisticated operations over larger areas. This increased support requirements and required changes to the respective support structures and systems.

The author has further identified three overlapping logistical campaigns throughout the war, with each dominating “a particular temporal period to which they gave a particular character” (p. 7). The first logistical campaign was fought from the end of the Second World War in August 1945, when French military forces returned to Indochina, to December 1950. This was a strategic and logistical preparatory period, characterized by small-scale guerrilla and counter-guerrilla operations. Extended conventional military operations, including those by division-strength forces and a struggle over base areas, took place during the second phase (December 1950 to July 1953). The third logistical campaign, in which the Viet Minh sought to seize the initiative in operations that began in the fall of 1952, included battles to control the extended lines of communications and ended with the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954.

This intriguing study is organized thematically and chronologically. Based on contemporary and post-war French and Vietnamese reports and memoirs, as well as declassified contemporary French official documents and U.S. intelligence materials, the level of detail is most impressive. This deeply-researched and well-written narrative, supplemented by 13 maps, 31 tables, 13 figures, and 70 pages of notes, will remain the authoritative study of logistics in the First Indochina War – and a cautionary tale to Western military forces that consistently underestimate the logistical capabilities of their adversaries.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

Reichenberger, Florian: Der gedachte Krieg: Vom Wandel der Kriegsbilder in der Bundeswehr (Berlin, 2018), 498 pp., isbn 978-3-11-046260-9.

The Imagined War. Changing concepts of warfare in the Bundeswehr

How can an army develop its own pattern of war if it is part of a military alliance, and has no room for manoeuvre within the framework of nuclear warfare? This is the question addressed by the young German historian Florian Reichenberger in his study of the Bundeswehr’s pattern of war during the Cold War. During the forty years of Cold War, Germany was always seen as a front-line state and therefore as the stage for an eventual Third World War. The Bundeswehr leadership always had to envisage a scenario that would effectively devastate the Federal Republic that it was originally meant to defend.

For the first time, here is an analysis of the concepts of war that the founding fathers of the Bundeswehr brought to their task, based on their experience in the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, and which they had to adapt to the new military and geostrategic conditions after 1945. Even after having lost the war, German generals enjoyed a good reputation in conventional warfare. Still, all nato planning assumed nuclear warfare against the Warsaw Pact. This would likely have precluded an active role for the Bundeswehr leadership. In case of war, its job would have been one of damage limitation, and even that looked pretty hopeless in view of the potential widespread devastation. Even so, high-ranking German officers could influence nato military planning if they assumed command within the nato structure, such as General Hans Speidel, who became Commander Allied Land Forces Central Europe in 1957.

Major General Wolf Graf Baudissin did not shrink from pointing out unwelcome truths. On the international stage, in 1962 he painted in grim colours the disastrous scope of a nuclear war, hoping to warn nato partners against the use of atomic munitions. Even if its room for manoeuvre during the Cold War was that small, in nato planning and exercises the Bundeswehr could demonstrate impressively how non-nuclear combined-arms warfare might work.

Gabriele Bosch

German Commission for Military History

Institute for Military History, Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea: The History of the ROK-US Alliance, 1953–2013 (Seoul, 2014), 485 pp.

The Mutual Defence Treaty (mdt) between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) was forged in the crucible of combat of the 1950–1953 Korean War. It was signed on 1 October 1953, and it laid the cornerstone for the highly-successful and enduring ROK-U.S. Alliance. The year 2013 marked the 60th anniversary of the mdt, and this highly-detailed and superbly-written narrative and analysis of the predominantly-military ROK-U.S. Alliance was written to chronicle and commemorate this seminal event in Northeast Asian history.

This study was written to “highlight the positive aspects of the [ROK-U.S.] Alliance and to mitigate elements of conflict in ROK-US relations, thereby further strengthening cooperation and exchange and promoting new developments in ROK-US relations” (p. 472). While the ROK-U.S. Alliance is multifaceted and highly-complex, its basis is mutual defence: that if either party is attacked by a third country, the other party will act to meet the common danger. In reality, the U.S. has stationed troops (numbering about 28,500 in 2013) continuously in South Korea since the end of the Korean War to supplement the South Korean armed forces. Throughout this period, the Alliance has evolved to include other factors, such as the key role of the Alliance in U.S strategy in Northeast Asia, South Korea’s transformation into one of the world’s leading economies, and the nation’s continued democratization.

This study focuses on the overarching military component of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, and is divided into six generally chronological chapters. Chapter 1 (pp. 12–19) provides an overview of the organization and contents of the book. The second chapter, “The Establishment of the ROK-US Alliance” (p. 20–89) is one of the most important of the study, providing background and contextual information on the origin of ROK-U.S. relations, U.S. participation in the Korean War, the ROK-U.S. mdt, the partial withdrawal of U.S. military forces and the reinforcement of the ROK armed forces, and post-Korean War “restoration” and reconstruction.

“The Growth of the ROK-US Alliance” is the subject of Chapter 3 (pp. 90–155), which highlights the changing international and national situation during the 1960s and 1970s. While the predominant role of the United States in the Vietnam War is widely-recognized, it is not as well-known that the South Koreans provided the second largest number of troops, peaking at 49,869 in 1968, in that conflict, an act that reinforced U.S. and ROK solidarity. The U.S. withdrew some troops from South Korea to augment its forces in Vietnam, while initiatives were undertaken to make the ROK armed forces more self-reliant. Other topics in this chapter include the conclusion of the Status of Forces Agreement (sofa) and the development of professional military education and doctrine in the ROK armed forces.

Chapter 4, “The Enhancement of the ROK-US Alliance” (pp. 156–259) examines the post-Vietnam era evolution of the Alliance, including the reduction of U.S. Forces Korea in the mid-1970s and the complementary establishment of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command in 1978. Other topics include combined exercises and developments in the wartime logistics system, post-Cold War changes to U.S. Forces Korea, North Korea’s nuclear program, defence expenditures, and ROK economic development.

The transition of operational control of the ROK armed forces remained controversial throughout this period. This issue, within the context of the changing international and Alliance political systems, is underscored in Chapter 5, “The Development of the ROK-US Alliance” (pp. 260–381). While peacetime operational control of the ROK armed forces was transferred to the ROK in 1994, wartime operational control remains in a process of transition. The post-Cold War period witnessed further changes, including a strategic realignment and planned relocation of U.S. Forces Korea. Further development of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and bipartite security dialogue, within the context of a 21st century global security environment, is examined.

The sixth chapter, “Conclusion” (pp. 382–393) provides a summary of the volume and of the evolution of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, and points a way ahead for the future. The Alliance has maintained the Korean War Armistice for over six decades and deterred war on the Korean Peninsula, and has evolved from a security alliance into a comprehensive strategic alliance. It will, according to the authors, “have to be developed into an alliance that goes beyond the [Korean] Peninsula and contributes to the world peace and prosperity” (p. 392).

The History of the ROK-US Alliance, 1953–2013, is a superbly-researched, well-written, and comprehensive chronicle and assessment of the Alliance. It is profusely illustrated and contains scores of detailed, supplementary tables and figures. Moreover, it contains 16 comprehensive and insightful appendices, covering a number of chronologies, organizational charts, combined training exercise listings, meeting minutes, and other key documents. While written from a Korean-centric perspective, it is surprisingly objective and balanced for an official South Korean military history, incorporating sources from many countries. This book is clearly the definitive narrative of the enduring ROK-U.S. Alliance that has maintained stability in Northeast Asia for well over half a century and will continue to strongly deter aggression in the region.

Harold E. Raugh, Jr.

British Commission for Military History

Israel Defense Forces (idf) Operations Directorate/Doctrine & Training Division/History:

Firestorm in the Desert, 382 pp.

Conquer the Mountain, 400 pp.

Eliminate the Threat, 320 pp.

Sea Breakers, 156 pp.

(Modan, 2017)

In the years following the Six-Day War, through a painstaking effort of collecting, researching, writing and editing, the idf History Department (which until that war had been a small branch within mahad – the idf Training Department) published five volumes containing detailed descriptions and analyses of the background to the war, the moves of the Israeli forces vis-à-vis the moves of the enemy forces and the results of the war. The Israeli Air Force and Navy also prepared their conclusions.

At the time, it was a gigantic effort led and overseen by the Head of the History Department at the time, Colonel Avraham Eylon (“Lench”), who sensed the need to document that war in a comprehensive and detailed manner, in line with the example of “The Official History” of His Majesty’s Armed Forces, written by historian Cyril Falls, which had covered the Great War (eventually known as the First World War).

Five “green” volumes were published as an internal idf edition (covering the international arena and the United Nations, the enemy and the three fronts) and disseminated to idf commanders for further review, after they had been debriefed regarding their respective contributions. For various reasons, the first, extended edition was never distributed to the civil realm, as it was never distributed within the idf.

Now, on the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the idf and its History Department decided to publish – for the general public – a comprehensive and revised edition of those volumes. The idea was to have the books published, almost as they were, assuming that the past research effort was comprehensive and thorough and had been carried out by a sizable team over a number of years. That team had based its work largely on documents: operations logs, orders, maps and even the communication networks used during the war. The extended team had reviewed the summations of the individual units and the debriefing documents recorded by the various echelons, visited the battlegrounds, and interviewed and debriefed commanders and fighters in the combat zones. The findings of this team, which had been written and edited, were presented to the relevant commanders and in most cases received their approval.

The 2017 edition, edited by Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Zalmanovich, has been issued in three regional volumes in which the enemy and international background aspects, previously dealt with in separate volumes, were incorporated as well. The books are chronicles of the fighting, presenting the basic data regarding the enemy, Israeli forces, the operational plans and the actual moves. Generally, they provide detailed descriptions down to battalion and company level, with the exception of some notable battles (Tel Facher, Kalaa, Ammunition Hill, the operations by the Naval Commandos in the Egyptian seaports of Alexandria and Port-Said and other battles).

The new edition was revised and language-edited to adapt it to current Hebrew. Additional information, details and references to new books and studies, published on the subject over the years since the War were included as well, as were the editor’s footnotes. New maps, prepared on the basis of the old ones, were also included in the new edition, along with explanations for various terms, like the enemy formations “Majmu’ah” and “Foj”.

In his foreword to the new edition, idf Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, wrote that “Even at this time we still learn and draw lessons from the Six-Day War – from the preparedness that was typical of the military forces at the outbreak of the war, which led to the victory, through the manner in which decisions were made from the top echelons down to the field echelons and from the effective courses of action employed in all of the sectors”.

The new books were given titles that are relevant to the different sectors:

Firestorm in the Desert: This volume describes the operations in the southern sector, opposite the Egyptians in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. This volume was revised pursuant to the book “Red Sheet” by Maj. Gen. Yeshaiahu Gavish, who was the General Commanding idf Southern Command during that war. His book and most of the details it contains had been based on the research effort of the idf History Department.

Conquer the Mountain: This volume describes the operations opposite the Jordanians in the West Bank. It includes the remarks of Maj. Gen. Uzi Narkis, who was the General Commanding the idf Central Command during that war. Narkis claimed that he had not reviewed the original version.

Eliminate the Threat: This volume describes the operations opposite the Syrians and the capturing of the Golan Heights. This volume was revised primarily according to the findings concluded in Mati Meisel’s book The Battle over the Golan.

Sea Breakers: This volume describes the naval operations with an additional review and explanation of terms by Brig. Gen. (res.) Nir Maor.

The revised four-volume edition was augmented by Shimon Golan’s previously published book War on Three Fronts, which deals with the decision-making of the Israeli supreme command. Apparently, this volume has not been updated.

The story of the Israeli Air Force in the Six-Day War was not included in the revised edition.

Dani Asher

Israeli Commission for Military History

Strachan, Alexander: 1 Recce: The Night Belongs to Us (Cape Town, 2018), 351 pp., isbn 9780624081531.

The South African Border War of 1966–1989 (also known as the South African Bush War, the Namibian War of Independence or the War for Southern Africa) formed part of the Great Southern African Liberation War of 1961 (when guerrilla activities commenced in Angola) to 2002 (when Jonas Savimbi was killed, thus ending the protracted civil war in Angola). Although the so-called Border War ended some thirty years ago, the stream of books on this conflict shows no sign of abating. One of the latest – and best – books on the war written from a South African point of view is Alexander Strachan’s 1 Recce: The Night Belongs to Us (simultaneously published in Afrikaans as 1 Recce: Die Nag Behoort aan Ons).

Strachan is the renowned author of several award-winning Afrikaans novels – including work that established the so-called “Border literature” as a genre in Afrikaans (and South African) literature. 1 Recce is Strachan’s first non-fiction book and is based on his experiences as a “recce”; i.e. a member of the (pre-1994) South African Defence Force (sadf; since 1994 known as South African National Defence Force, sandf), Reconnaissance Commandos (also known as Special Forces Reconnaissance Regiments).

After decades of secrecy, Strachan reveals the origins and development of 1 Reconnaissance Commando and the role it played during the so-called Border War. He takes the reader along with him behind the scenes, and “behind enemy lines” during (from a South African point of view) the war “up north” (in South West Africa/ Namibia and Angola) and “on the border” (between Namibia and Angola, and beyond). He provides insights into the rigorous training (no more than ten percent of recruits ever successfully completed recce training), operations in the years 1974 to 1977, co-operation with Portuguese forces (before they withdrew from Angola in 1975) and also with Rhodesian forces (i.e. before that country became independent as Zimbabwe in 1980). What is quite incredible, is that there were at any given time never more than 67 operators in 1 Recce.

1 Recce is not a conventional military history publication. After all, it contains a strong autobiographical element. But the author has an exciting story to tell, and he does it with insight and flair. Strachan, the excellent story-teller (and novelist) is always present and he sweeps his readers along with him. He did a lot of research in an effort to place his own experiences in perspective and to provide additional background information. See in this regard the many interviews that he conducted as well as other sources that he consulted (source list pp. 349–350). Unfortunately, there is no index. The 63 photographs that are included (most of them in colour, and mostly never published before) add value to a highly readable and informative book on a controversial unit that took part in a controversial conflict.

1 Recce: The Night Belongs to Us has to be read together with other important books that deal with the so-called Border War, including those of Daniel Steyn and Arné Söderlund, Iron Fist from the Sea: South Africa’s Seaborne Raiders 1978–1988 (Rugby, 2014), Ian Liebenberg, Jorge Risquet and Vladimir Shubin (eds.), A Far-away War: Angola, 1975–1989 (Stellenbosch, 2015), Koos Stadler, Recce: Small Team Missions Behind Enemy Lines (Oxford and Philadelphia, 2015) – and many, many more. Strachan’s book makes a very important contribution towards the historiography of the Border War, and deserves to be read by a wide audience.

André Wessels

University of the Free State, Bloemfontein

After 1990

Meijer, Hugo, and Marco Wyss (eds.): The Handbook of European Defence Policies and Armed Forces (Oxford, 2018), xxxvi + 960 pp., isbn 978-0-19-879050-1.

This handbook does not only provide an up-to date summary of the current state of defence policies and armed forces in Europe. It aims higher and offers a strong and convincing thesis by stating that in recent years the academic literature has paid too much attention to the Common Security and Defence Policy (csdp) while neglecting the differences between European states. Because the national level is still central for decisions in security and military affairs, the handbook’s claim is to “refocus the attention, and give analytical precedence to, national defence policy and armed forces in Europe” (p. 3). In the face of resurging national tendencies in Europe and in other regions, as well as in security and defence policies and in other policy fields, this thesis could not come more timely.

In its first and central part, the handbook provides a comprehensive, Europe-wide comparison of national defence policies – including non-nato and non-EU countries like Belarus, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey, which are all too often ignored in such overviews. The countries are grouped into three categories based on their nominal defence spending (fn. 17, p. 4): major, medium, and lesser powers. This rather static criterion leads among other things to the effect that Turkey is labelled as a medium power. A more flexible approach could have taken strategic relevance, political ambitions, and military capabilities into account and thereby led to a more convincing categorization. The country chapters confirm the editors’ thesis of substantial differences in defence policies across Europe.

The chapters would have gained added value by relying on a common structure. Instead, each author chooses his or her own outline which might be appropriate for a specific state but hinders the comparison across countries.

With a third of roughly 1,000 text pages, and 20 out of 51 chapters, the country overview provides the bulk of the text. The other chapters deal with alliances and partnerships (Part II), security challenges (Part iii), strategic and doctrinal responses (Part IV), military capabilities (Part V), and national military operations (Part VI). The passage through these articles shed light on national as well as regional patterns of defence policies and military cultures – without always drawing a clear-cut picture. Some policies show trends towards adaption and stronger cooperation (e.g., anti-proliferation of nuclear weapons), whereas we see mixed results for other areas (e.g., counterterrorism), or even the stubborn persistence of national preferences and approaches (e.g., counterinsurgency).

Key audiences for this handbook are scholars and students of political science. For historians, the book offers a reliable access to current developments, discussions, literature, and research. Some of its contributions rely on a chronological approach, mostly beginning with the end of the Cold War. The handbook is a valuable, up-to-date overview on defence policies and armed forces in Europe. With its focus on the national approach it fills a gap in the academic literature. Future events will show whether the depicted tendencies of (re-) nationalization are a lasting trend or just a bump on the way towards more cooperation and deeper integration in security and military affairs.

Heiko Biehl

Bundeswehr Centre of Military History and Social Sciences


Wheeler, Everett L., “Present but Absent: Marathon in the Tradition of Western Military Thought”, in Marathon: The Day After: Symposium Proceedings, Delphi 2–4 July 2010, eds. Kostas Buraselis and Elias Koulakiotis (Athens, 2013), 251.

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