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Posted on Sep 15, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Blitzkrieg: In Their Own Words – Book Review

By Richard N Story

blitz.jpgBook Review: Blitzkrieg: In Their Own Words
Zenith Press, 2005, Hardback.

The German Wehrmacht (Armed Forces) suffered tremendous casualties during World War II. This was especially true of the soldiers who made up the prewar Heer or Army. What this meant was that many stories of the early days of blitzkrieg were lost before being recorded for history. But fortunately for history the Nazis recorded, for propaganda purposes, the story of the early days of blitzkrieg in Mit Den Panzern In Ost Und West in 1942. A literal translation of the title would be: With the Panzers in East and West and is the history of the blitzkrieg as witnessed by members of the Wehrmacht attached to the tank formations during the invasion of Poland and then later on the invasion of France. Also in Mit Den Panzern is a forward by the legendary creator of the Blitzkrieg, Heinz Guderian. Alan Bance took Mit Den Panzern and translated it and made excerpts from it to create Blitzkrieg: In Their Own Words.

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Blitzkrieg is divided into four main sections. The first section is the forward by Heinz Guderian, which Alan Bance took and translated wholly and added biographical details of the General. The second sections deals with the invasion of Poland. There are fourteen entries in this section. One of the things that really impressed me was the admission of Polish bravery and determination frequently mentioned in the book. As a propaganda piece one would expect that the bravery and determination to be ascribed to the Poles ‘subhuman’ nature, but I do not recall seeing any degradation of the Poles per see but instead a subdued injection of German superiority in arms and training. One of the most interesting sections dealt with observations of an Assistant Doctor making the assault on Brest-Litovsk with combat engineers (Pioneers). He made observations of the engineers making the assault while doing his duty and is riveting reading. It was also here that a tiny bit of propaganda sneaks into the story by claiming that some of the Poles had to be forced to do their duty by gun point. Another interesting tale was how Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant) Guderian had his tank platoon put into a hedgehog defense to guard a vital crossroad and the ‘battle’ with Polish engineers sent to demolish a bridge. While the story is moderately interesting; I couldn’t help but wonder if its inclusion was due to fact that his father was the famous general whose forward graces both books?

The next two sections (Breakthrough to the Atlantic & Behind the Maginot Line And to the Swiss Frontier) deal with the fall of France and are much more jingoistic toward the French than the section on Poland was towards the Poles. There are 29 remembrances in the first section including a tribute to ‘Magirus’ the old supply truck for a medical detachment. The second part of the fall of France had 15 sections and included diverse tales of supply columns and the taking of a French fortress. Despite being more jingoistic the excerpts are still good reading except for one or two that seemed to get more detailed and longer winded which seemed to be in correlation to how much fighting one did. One possible reason for the attitudes toward the French and not the Poles was the state of war at the time. Germany was having a hard time with the Soviets and the Free Poles were fighting with the Allies on all fronts whereas Occupied France was still fairly tranquil for the Germans. The sections on France were good, but lacked the punch and vibrancy of the Polish section.

Alan Bance adds only light touches to the source material in the form of maps and the occasional note. The photos selected for the book are first rate and most the reviewer has never seen before. A personal favorite photo in the book was of the coastal defense gun in Boulogne. The translation appears flawless and the book is free of typographical errors as well. With a list price of $21.95 the book is readily available for all students of military history seeking first person accounts of the Blitzkrieg into Poland and France. I highly recommend the book.

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