Heroes or Traitors
Contributor: Thomas Houlihan
Review Date: 26 Mar 2007
Full title: Heroes or Traitors: The German Replacement Army, the July Plot, and Adolf Hitler
This book is not exciting, unless one gets excited researching numbers. However, it does provide food for thought, in that the author explains how a handful of men in key places managed to prevent reinforcements from reaching the front lines during critical times, thus managing to shorten the war.
Well researched, this volume starts by explaining the workings of the German Replacement Army, how the system worked at the divisional level. This is accomplished by explaining the replacement system as it developed from that used during WWI. The author explains how recruits are incorporated, as well as convalescents waiting for their return to duty. Also discussed is the 'waves' of divisions were formed during the course of the war.
The remainder of the book breaks down the war into key periods. These are 2-43 to 6-43, 6-43 to 2-44, 2-44 to 6-44, then the two separate catastrophes in France, and the East. I will not go into separate discussion on each of these periods. Essentially, the author describes the machinations of the plotters, and how in the face of Führer decrees, they managed to manipulate the numbers of men throughout the replacement army, and keep them from the front.
One of the key goals of this manipulation was the July Plot. While Operation Valkyrie is not a key here, it is interesting to read how the plotters not only managed to keep what amounted to their own army, but how they intended to use these forces. While it does not go into great detail of the Plot, it would make good collateral reading for those studying the Plot.
This book is not exciting in the manner of a battle narrative. It is, however, very informative. It includes several tables throughout that help to understand the text. I will admit to having to go back a few times to re-read certain sections. One problem that I found is that there are often so many numbers in a paragraph, (divisional designations, numbers of men, numbers of divisions, etc.), that I got confused.
After reading this book, and the author's conclusions, I will agree that had these men not worked so hard against Hitler, the course of the war would have gone rather differently. It would have lasted at least one more year as the author states.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945