Hitler's Army

Author: David Stone
ISBN: 978-0-7603-3750-9
Reviewer: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 13 Dec 2009

Full Title: Hitler's Army: The Men, Machines and Organization 1939-1945

When WW1 ended, the German military was, at least for the most part, disbanded. The German Army, specifically, was given a limit of 100,000 men and 4,000 officers. On paper, it was just enough to defend its borders, and further restrictions such as the closure of the officer training academies and a restriction on the possession of heavy weapons made this army a rather ineffective one. Fast forward 20 years. The very same army that was given the major handicaps at the end of WW1 became a dominant power during the WW2 years, overrunning much of continental Europe and threatening the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.

David Stone's Hitler's Army began with a brief but yet necessary look back at the institutionalization of German militarism, and the manners in which Adolf Hitler exploited this deep-rooted German tradition in this bid to control the army. Through the Reich Labor Service and the Hitler Youth, Germans were conditioned to become effective soldiers and officers. And then, Stone went on to provide an encyclopedic overview of the training, command structure, uniforms, weapons, and tactics of the German Army. He also offered several extras with the book, including insignia charts, officer and enlisted pay grades, list of weapons and equipment, and a German-English glossary. The rich use of photographs was a a nicely added bonus as well, providing images to illustrate each of the topics. As it all wrapped up, Stone began to analyze how this army grew into the force that stunned the world with their wildly successful blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939 and 1940.

An Allied intelligence report in early 1945, merely months before the end of the war, reported that

Despite the acute lack of weapons, ammunition, fuel, transport, and human reserves, the German army seems to function with its old [1939] precision and to overcome what appear to be insuperable difficulties with remarkable speed.... The cause of this toughness... is to be found in the military tradition which is so deeply ingrained in the whole character of the German nation and which alone makes possible the interplay of these various factors of strength to their full effectiveness.

Hitler's Army is a great start in getting to learn about this WW2-era German Army that, even in its waning days, proved to be a powerful adversary for its opponents. Even though in under 300 pages Stone could not possibly have gone into very deep details with every topic, this work was still a great primer and perhaps a handy reference to keep around.



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Hitler Youth members playing musical instruments, 1930s




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