Monday, May 3, 2010

Random Book Snapshot:Death of the Wehrmacht

Some selected text from just the second paragraph of this book by Robert Citino. There is some hyperbole, but the passage certainly conveys the epic proportions of the Eastern Front during WWII.

"Incredible", he muttered to himself, "absolutely overwhelming". Marshal Fedor von Bock stood at his hilltop observation post, just southeast of Lozovaia, shaking his head at the scene. The vista beneath him was on that few generals in history had ever been privileged to see: an entire army surrounded in a tiny pocket just a few miles away. He focused his field glasses here, then there, flitting back and forth. The entire area couldn't have been more than two miles wide from east to east, perhaps ten miles from north to south, and every inch of it was seething with activity. Massed formations of dusty brown infantry, tank columns so dense you could probably walk from one vehicle to the other without touching the ground, guns of every shape and description -all milling about, moving hither and yon without apparent plan or purpose.  Above them thundered hundreds of Luftwaffe ground attack aircraft, Richtofen's boys: Stukas and 109s and Ju-88s, bombing and strafing and herding. With so many men and tanks, guns and horses, packed into such a tight space, they were an impossible to miss target. The airmen were probably licking their chops, the thought, and the same went for his gunners. As he surveyed the scene, he could see artillery firing from all points of the compass into the helpless, writhing mass below him. There were explosions every where; every square inch of the pocket roiled with fire and smoke.
He thought of a term he had learned so many years ago as a cadet in the War Academy: Kesselschlacht, the "cauldron battle". It was the perfect term to describe what was going on below: an entire army being boiled alive. He remembered studying the campaigns of the Great Elector, Frederick the Great, Blucher, and Moltke. They were the gamblers of their day: bold maneuvers, daring attacks from flank and rear, battles of encirclement. And he remembered another word: Vernichtungsschlacht, the "battle of annihilation."



Gary Owen said...

Great book. I've also read Quest for Decisive Victory, Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm, , and Armoured Forces. I've always felt that the time spent reading Citino was well invested.

JC said...

Hi GO!

Thanks for your comment and nice to see you around here!

I agree, he is a great author. I read Quest but still have to get Armoured Forces.


Gary Owen said...

Quest for Decisive Victory and Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm are companions that are well read together. Death of the Wehrmacht is well read along with The German Way of War, which is of course also excellent. Armoured Forces isn't really so much a narrative, it's more like a few hundred pages of bibliography.