The Battle of Berlin – 16 April – 2 May, 1945

Brandenburger Tor in einer Trümmerlandschaft am Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges (Mai 1945).

Throughout 1944 the German armies on the Eastern Front had been pushed westward across Poland and into Germany proper.  During the winter of 1944-1945 the front had stabilized roughly along the river Oder and inside historically German territory.  In front of Berlin three Russian Fronts (1st & 2nd Byelorussian plus 21st Ukrainian) faced two greatly understrength German Army Groups (Army Group Vistula & Army Group Center).  A Russian Front and German Army Group are roughly synonymous units within the army structure although at this point in the war German Army Groups were pretty much army groups in name only often being the size of reinforced Corps or even divisions due … Read more…

The Battle of Messines Ridge – 1917

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From the opening months of the World War I, Flanders was the decisive sector for the British Army.  It was in an around the medieval Belgian town of Ypres that the original BEF had decimated themselves fending off German attacks from October to December, 1914.  Ypres and the salient surrounding it was where the British would see the hardest and most prolonged fighting of all the places where the British would fight in World War I. The Battle of Messines Ridge fought from 7-14 June, 1914 was not really a separate battle at all but rather the opening phase of what would come to be known variously as the Third … Read more…

Book Review: The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 by Richard Overy

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 is one of those books that is going to end up a standard work for a long time to come.  It is the single most comprehensive history of the Allied bombing of Germany and occupied Europe during WWII that I have seen since the strategic bombing survey published by the US government in the immediate post-war years. I have a review copy of the book so the page counts may be a … Read more…

Book Review: D-Day – Minute-by-Minute by Jonathan Mayo

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Next Week is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day the Allied invasion of Europe.  I would guess that most people don’t think about it and if they do the picture that comes to their mind is a scene from Saving Private Ryan.  The movie gives a good idea but the words of those who were there are priceless gems in my opinion. D-Day: Minute by Minute is a description of the events of D-day in the order in which they occurred taken from transcripts … Read more…

Book Review: No End Save Victory by David Kaiser

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War is one of those books that at first glance looks like it is going to be one of those dry, difficult to read history books that is nothing more than a litany of dates and facts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is an interesting and compelling account of the events in America during the 18 months prior to American entry into WWII.  Oddly, this period is mentioned in every … Read more…

The Battle of Pfaffenheck – 15-17 March 1945

I recently read The Armored Fist a unit history of the US 712th Independent Tank Battalion in WWII.  One of the events described in detail in the book is the Battle for the town of Pfaffenheck in between the Rhine and Moselle rivers in March of 1945.   The event that stuck out at me from the battle was the destruction of an American tank, which killed the driver, Billy Wolfe.  I had the opportunity to visit the town in March, 2014 shortly after the 69th Anniversary of the  battle.

The Battle of Pfaffenheck was fought between soldies froom the 357th Infantry Regiment of the US 90th IN Division, the 2nd Platoon of C Company 712th Independent US Tank Battalion, and German troops of the 6th SS Mountain Division North (Gebirgsjäger).  The 6th SS Division has an interesting history itself.  The unit spent most of the war fighting in Finland and when that country made peace with the Soviets the 6th SS made an overland trek through Sweden to Norway where they transferred to Germany and fought in the Vosges Mountains of northern France over the winter.

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Locations of actions in the battle for Pfaffenheck

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Book Review: Verdun – The Longest Battle of the Great War by Paul Jankowski

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War is one of the flood of new works coming out about World War I this year in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the world’s first truly mechanized war.  This book explores the ten month (or eleven, depending on how you count it) battle of Verdun between the Germans and French from February to November 1916. It consists of eleven chapters arranged thematically that examine different aspects of the battle from the operational … Read more…

Book Review: A Mad Catastrophe by Geoffrey Wawro

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire by Dr. Geoffrey Wawro is the first book I have read about WWI that does not treat Austro-Hungary as an afterthought after the outbreak of the fighting in August 1914.  In fact, Austria-Hungary and the course of the fighting in Serbia and Galicia in the first year of the war is the central theme of the book.  Dr. Wawro applies his usual exhaustive research methods to exploring … Read more…

WWII Animated Day-by-Day

Below is an animated map of the progress of WWII day by day from 1 September, 1939 to October, 1945 when the last major units of the Japanese military surrendered.  It provides a fascinating view of the way in which the fortunes of the went back and forth.

Book Review: The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge by Werner Otto Müller-Hill is one of those rare books that come out of war.  A diary written by someone to satisfy themselves with no expectation that it will ever get published.  As such, it provides an almost unique view into the mind of the person writing it.  The vast majority of war memoirs are self-serving and written to make a point.  Diaries tend to be less so, and this one … Read more…

The Crete Campaign: 20-29 May, 1941

German Plan for the invasion of Crete, May 1941

Last Spring I did a presentation to my local Military History group about the Crete Campaign of 1941 and figured that since I now have the time I would put something up here about it as well because I find the whole campaign to be a comedy of errors by both sides in this misguided, ill-conceived, and poorly executed excuse for a battle. First, we should examine the strategic situation in May of 1941.
In May 1941 England had been run out of Greece with its tail between its legs and was using Crete as both a staging ground for evacuation and they were hoping like hell they could hold it and stop the Mediterranean, or at least the eastern part from turning into a German Lake. For their part, Germany did not know what to do. They were in the last stages of planning the attack on Stalin’s Russia set to commence in June but in the meantime they had all these troops hanging out in Greece with nothing to do. The possession of Crete would have conferred no strategic or even operational advantage to the Germans as the British still controlled Malta and the British navy still controlled the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

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Book Review: World War II: Cause and Effect by Bill Brady

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] World War Two: Cause and Effect by Bill Brady is not so much a narrative history as a topical anthology of the war.  It is a collection of papers Mr Brady has presented over the years collected and published in one volume.  According to the jacket Mr. Brady is a lifelong history buff and is a member and President of the South African Military History Society of Kwa Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. The book itself is 341 pages in length.  The … Read more…

Barbarossa/Eatern Front Timeline in WWII

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Over the past few days I have had an email conversation with Mr. George Toomes, one of my readers, and he brought up a very interesting question. It started with asking if I had or knew where to find a map of the Russian counter-attack outside Moscow in the winter of 1941. In a follow up he mentioned that he was trying to get an idea of when and where the Germans and Russians stopped in their various offensives and counter-offensives in the war in the East. I don’t think I have ever seen a video or graphic that lays out the back and forth of the eastern front in … Read more…

Book Review: July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin

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I have probably read 30-40 books exploring the origins of World War I in the past 5-6 years and I thought that just about everything relevant there was to be known about the events of the month leading up to the war were known and historians have just been stirring the ashes and finding trivia in trying to determine a more accurate chain of causation. July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin disabused me of that notion.  This work has made me aware of several things about the critical month between the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of World War I that I am amazed have not … Read more…

Book Review: Death in the Baltic by Cathryn J. Prince

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The Wilhelm Gustloff was a German built pleasure ship built by the Nazis to bolster their public image both at home and abroad in the late 1930’s.  It is remembered today because when it was sunk by a Soviet submarine in early 1945 as it was evacuating civilians and wounded military personnel from East Prussia to Kiel its sinking became the ship sinking with the highest loss of life in recorded history.  Nobody knows for sure but … Read more…