Armageddon is the epic story of the last eight months of World War II in Europe by Max Hastings-one of Britain's most highly regarded military historians, whose accounts of past battles John Keegan has described as worthy "to stand with that of the best journalists and writers" (New York Times Book Review).In September 1944, the Allies believed that Hitler's army was beaten, and expected that the war would be over by Christmas. But the disastrous Allied airborne landing in Holland, American setbacks on the German border and in the H'rtgen Forest, together with the bitter Battle of the Bulge, drastically altered that timetable. Hastings tells the story of both the Eastern and Western Fronts, and paints a vivid portrait of the Red Army's onslaught on Hitler's empire. He has searched the archives of the major combatants and interviewed 170 survivors to give us an unprecedented understanding of how the great battles were fought, and of their human impact on American, British, German, and Russian soldiers and civilians.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
This huge and splendid volume tells the grim tale of the final collapse of the Third Reich. It does so from the viewpoints of the upper millstone (the Western Allies), the lower millstone (the Russians) and the grain being ground in between (the Germans). The research includes previously untapped Russian archives (particularly in the accounts of Soviet veterans) and leads to a gripping and horrifying story that serious students of military history will find almost impossible to put down. The blunders recounted are numerous, from the Allied failure to open Antwerp in the fall of 1944 to the Russian frontal assault on Berlin, and the Wehrmacht is depicted as the best army of the war and also the most atrocious in its treatment of civilians. Indeed, the treatment of civilians is a major theme, since they were slaughtered on a scale unheard of since the Thirty Years' War, and not only the Nazi camp inmates but also the inhabitants of Poland and East Prussia were numbered among the victims. The author hands out praise and blame with his usual edged aplomb (Anglophile readers may be happy to see a partial rehabilitation of Montgomery) and willingness to engender controversy, and also with his usual thorough research and clear writing (along with 24 pages of photos) to sustain every case he makes. His book ranks among the very best military history volumes of the year. Agent, Peter Matson. (Nov. 18) Forecast: With a first printing of 100,000 copies and its status as a History Book Club main selection and a BOMC and Military Book Club alternate, this book should reach its intended audience easily; a four-city author tour will win over less regular readers of WWII along the way. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 18, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Armageddon by Max Hastings
Time of Hope
Allies of a Kind
The first of September 1944 marked the fifth anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, outbreak of the Second World War. The struggle had already continued for nine months longer than the earlier conflict, once called the Great War. The 1914-18 conflict cost the lives of a mere nine million people. Its successor would account for at least five times that number, the overwhelming majority of whom died in the Soviet Union or in China (where their passing remained largely unremarked by Westerners, then or since).
The British people somewhat flattered themselves about their own role. France, Britain and the dominion were the only belligerents voluntarily to have entered the conflict against totalitarianism as a matter of principle in support of Polish freedom, rather than as victims of aggression or in hopes of booty. Churchill's brilliant defiance in 1940 mitigated Hitler's triumph in western Europe that year. Without his genius, it is likely that Britain would have sued for peace. At no time after June 1940 was there a possibility that British arms could defeat Germany, or even play the principal part in doing so. Yet it was characteristic of British self-indulgence that, when Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941, some thoughtful people recoiled in disgust from the notion of fighting alongside the bloodstained Soviets, even though their participation opened up the first, perhaps only realistic, prospect of overcoming Hitler.
In Evelyn Waugh's great novel Sword of Honour, the British officer Guy Crouchback embraces war in 1939 as a crusade against the modern world in arms. His faith is lost, however, when he finds his country allied with the Russians. That was fiction, yet in cool reality the head of the British Army, Sir John Dill, said in 1941 that he considered the Russians "so foul that he hated the idea of any close association with them." Dill's successor as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Alan Brooke, initially regarded the Soviets with both moral and military contempt. Churchill's government embarked upon a huge propaganda campaign, to convince the British people that "Uncle Joe" Stalin and his nation were worthy friends of freedom. This was so successful that in 1945 it proved a painful task to shatter public delusions, to break the news that perhaps the Soviet Union was not quite such a good thing after all.
Yet if the accession of the Soviet Union as an ally prompted equivocal sentiments, that of the United States provided cause for unstinting celebration. "So we had won after all!" Winston Churchill exulted, on hearing news of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Between that date and May 1945, the United States devoted 85 per cent of its entire war effort to the struggle against Germany. Yet, paradoxically, few Americans ever felt deep animosity towards the Germans, of the kind which they cherished towards the "yellow barbarians" who had attacked them at Pearl Harbor. "I didn't work up a great hate of the Germans," said Nicholas Kafkalas, a twenty-four-year-old captain commanding an armoured infantry company of 10th Armored Division in north-west Europe. "They were pretty good soldiers. A lot of Americans felt less engaged against the Germans than against the Japanese." By the autumn of 1944, largely armed and equipped by the industrial might of the United States, the Allies were in no doubt of victory. But the gratitude of the weary, battered, hungry British people was mingled with resentment as they watched Americans in their tens of thousands, brash and fresh, clean and rich, pour off the ships on their way to join Eisenhower's armies. The New World's soldiers came to harvest the fruits of victory without, as the British saw it, having endured their share of the Old World's pain.