This is a thorough and in depth study of the events that put into an end the last Hundred Days of Napoleon. It recounts the last battles fought by the...moreThis is a thorough and in depth study of the events that put into an end the last Hundred Days of Napoleon. It recounts the last battles fought by the Allies (at that time, mainly Great Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia, plus the more or less independent and German states that populated the today Germany and the Netherlands which also played a very important role).
There are many works devoted to Waterloo and the role of the Duke of Wellington (and therefore, the British) as becoming the hero of the day.
This book, this thesis, approaches those events by researching the "German" sources available, so bringing some new light upon those days and battles. And by doing so, a new reading of the History is made.
Many years ago, when I had the time to play war games extensively with my friends, we came across a simple but very addictive one: Napoleon's Last Battles (from NAC, if I remember correctly). It covered the battles of Ligny-Quatre Bras, Wavre and Waterloo, but it could also be played as a campaign starting on June 15th 1815, with the Ligny-Quatre Bras engagement. That was my first approach in detail to Waterloo. And the most revealing part (if you only have a very shallow knowledge on History as I had at that time) was that -actually- the British were very few and that the main part of the forces involved were Prussian and a long list of small units from strange origins as Nassau, Hannover...
Playing once and again that war-game I become fond of the Prussians and of Blucher, the old general that despite being beaten at Ligny made the ultimate effort to join Wellington at Waterloo and, by doing so, to incline the balance on the allied side.
Some years later I have the opportunity to visit the Waterloo battlefield. I spent a happy and sunny day on Eastern holidays just going around there. And I could not help to present my respects to the memorial to the Prussians at Plancenoit, which is as far from the main points of interests as could be, mostly forgotten to the standard guides to the main site and almost unkempt. But it was just right to visit.
The book (the thesis, actually, two volumes merged in one big book for this edition) reviews and confronts the established view of the events by adopting a the Prussian (mainly) and German point of view. The sources were the original reports and documents of those days and all the events were meticulously and scrupulously reconstructed. Besides, the political background is given and also the aftermath, with the race to Paris and the sizing of the remaining Napoleonic fortresses.
The main conclusion, for me, was not surprising at all, although it might be so for someone not familiar with the events or heavily relying on the British account of the campaign: the Prussians and Germans endured the worst of the battles and marches, accounting for the 75% of the total losses and they were the real ones who stop the French.
But there are also another (mostly known and accepted) conclusions...: * That the Duke of Wellington did not react promptly and effectively against the thrust of Napoleon against the Prussians around Charleroi; that he dismissed their first reports thinking them to be a distraction, waiting for a main move on the Duke's right; this was a wrong judgement from his part;
...and revelations that did surprise me: * That the Duke of Wellington cheated his allies the Prussians by assuring and re-assuring them a help that he knew was impossible to reach the battlefield on time; therefore, the Prussians presented battle at Ligny on the hope of Wellington appearing on the left side of Napoleon's forces, which obviously did never happened; * that the Duke actively lied, cheated and deceived his fellows and historians by omitting facts (position of forces and their timing) and even producing false reports and -presumably- make some original and enlightening reports to disappear, in order to cover his faults and lies during the campaign.
The author went to any length proving them to be right conclusion under the light of the available information, profusely presenting and comparing multitude of sources.
However, this is not a book against Wellington (as the author mentioned a behaviour like his on trying t,o protect his reputation, is not unknown for the historians and was not worse than many others). It did just dismantle the myth of Wellington and the British winning the battle and being the saviours of the day. But, again, this is not a book written against them; it is a positive book, which carefully reconstructs the events in order to reveal the true heroes hidden in the mud of the myth and placing them to the light for all to see and praise.
Because, at the end all is about placing everyone in the place in History they deserve. And the role of the Prussians is usually belittled and minimized.
I am quite happy to come across this book. It was not writing for the mass public, because the lengthy and exhaustive details given are able to promptly discourage anyone not having a real interest, but are presented for the scholar in History so it can be checked and reviewed. However, the reading is easy enough.
There were, however, some petty details that annoyed me, although that did not spoiled the book as a whole: * Maps are many and mostly enlightening true; however, the big maps that comprises two side-by-side pages have the real interesting topics right in the centre, where the binding is, making it difficult to see what you want. * Sometimes, the operational maps lack the desired annotations of troop movements. * The narrative assumes that the reader is well acquainted with the position and names of the towns, villages and terrain all around the area, so sometimes (if you are not so well familiar with them) you can get lost when the maps do not cover them. * The occasional dramatization of some fights concerning actual people is not well obtained. Happily there are few of them.
Summarizing: a very interesting reading, worthy to be reread carefully in detail.
This is an interesting book on the battle for Stalingrad. As many USA historians seems to do (like Stephen E. Ambrose), Craig digs on the experiences...moreThis is an interesting book on the battle for Stalingrad. As many USA historians seems to do (like Stephen E. Ambrose), Craig digs on the experiences and memories of the soldiers and civilians who struggle there for survival. So it comes to the personal experiences of the people who were right there, through all the horror that was that German's fumble.
Then, it is a book more directed to the mass readers rather than to the interested on history. And this is clear since the beginning from the novelized style that Craig uses to stitch together the myriads of accounts. Because this is what it is all about. A lengthy number of memories and stories put all together to form something like a continuum history. Which it is not. The stitching is not seamless. You may think of it like a big underneath background (not well explained) from where some pictures are taken to the front for you to know.
For the people that know nothing or little for the Russian campaign in WWII this book will tell them little more. So if you are just seeking for some military information here, just skip this. Although I do recommend to read it earnestly, because it gives an impressive account of the human tragedy that took place there, which cannot be ignored.
I have to admit that I have not read any other translation/edition from this classic. In any case, both this translated work and introductory essay fr...moreI have to admit that I have not read any other translation/edition from this classic. In any case, both this translated work and introductory essay from Mr Griffith are both superb. This is important, as a set of "quotes" it might be really hard to read without proper introduction, poor translation or poor foreknowledge on the subject. It is a 2500 years book, in Chinese, so pay attention to the translator.
Also, the Annexes are quite interesting, too.
My feeling is that this translation is quite closer to the original objectives and intention. It seems to me that Mr Griffith's military background is clearly put on the translation so to bring a new point of view beyond the usual translation from other renown sinologist. This is quite a nice feature, because it brings light to Sun Tzu verses that might be kept obscure otherwise. Also, it makes it more amiable.
Probably this fact makes the difference between this and other editions/translations.
Therefore, this 5 star goes for both the disputed Chinese author and the translator.
As for the content itself, surely one can wonder how such simple compilation of common-sense can be regarded as a master work. To answer this, one should ask another question: how is that along 2500 years we have been and are suffering from misery, pain and distress due to ill-lead governments and wars of carnage. And how many more we should expect from the future...
I think that many people miss the point that for Sun Tzu the war is a really bad thing to happen. It causes pain and misery to the people and may bring ruin to the state. It is a serious thing to consider, so the superb general is that who wins without actually fighting. It is not a 'militaristic' book. It is just common-sense applied to something nasty, but unavoidable: war. (less)
It surprised me (in a good way) a little as, although at the beginning I was not sure what to expect from it. The subjec...moreThis a quite interesting book.
It surprised me (in a good way) a little as, although at the beginning I was not sure what to expect from it. The subject is dealt with from a theoretical and logical view, so the conclusions and learnings are mostly technological and time independent. Also, as it deals with human struggle it is not focused alone in what we understand as war.
It is a pity that the Spanish translation is poor, making some paragraphs obscure and sometimes unintelligible. The German nineteenth century style may pose a challenge and moreover if it is related to philosophical/logical subjects. But an editor may know this and choose a better translator.
Just the stories told in this book made it really superb. It might be one of the best accounts on WWII. Might be it is, but for the annoying comments...moreJust the stories told in this book made it really superb. It might be one of the best accounts on WWII. Might be it is, but for the annoying comments of Ambrose at every chapter, reminding the reader that they (US) won because the "democratic soldier" had the moral superiority over the German (Nazi) soldier. So, it is difficult to rate it properly. To win a war or a battle has nothing to do with moral righteousness. The book will be among the best on WWI if you skip Ambrose's comments on every chapter. It is not strange that the HBO TV series based on this book is the best one I have ever seen. Spielberg and Tom Hanks just focused on the men, their pains, life and death over a most terrifying time. They mostly keep to the spectator the right to decide and judge and made any moral conclusions, skipping every bit of Ambrose's comments.
Incidentally, in the book The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson, he puts it quite clear, when writes about the WWII. As one of the lessons one might learn from WWII, it is that the German soldier fought quite better than Americans and British. The Allies (as the Union in the American Civil War) won because of the superiority of numbers and industrial resources, not because they were the "good guys". The social background that enabled Germany and the Confederacy to put a fight with the best soldiers, officers and General Staff was the same that led them to their final and utterly destruction.
Anyway, it is a great book to read. Do not miss it. Neither the TV series...(less)
There are many WWII soldiers that put their memories to print.
Here you have a memorable view of the other side of the hill (the loser side), told by...moreThere are many WWII soldiers that put their memories to print.
Here you have a memorable view of the other side of the hill (the loser side), told by a simple man and soldier that made it through the killing in most fronts (Poland, France, Russia, North Africa and Italy) and abode prison in a USSR gulag in the aftermath of the war.
He met most of the renown German commanders. He put a fight when it was time to do it. The accounts of those are remarkable. But this is not a tale of how he fought a war, but how he lived it and survived. And this simple fact, the honest and unadorned style excels this book and win a 5 star for me.
Not a plain "war book". It is a notable, well-balanced account of real people going through WWII. Stephen E. Ambrose should take notes. However, I am really grateful to Mr. Ambrose for having instigated von Luck into writing this book. (less)