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Posted on May 8, 2009 in Books and Movies

On the German Art of War, Truppenführung – Book Review

By Jerry D. Morelock

On the German Art of War, Truppenführung: German Army Manual for Unit Command in World War II. Edited by Bruce Condell and David T. Zabecki, Stackpole Books, 2009.

This groundbreaking Condell/Zabecki translation is superior in every way and it superbly renders all aspects of the original.

Distinguished military historian, Williamson Murray, has claimed that Truppenführung, the 1933 German Army command manual that guided that army’s leaders throughout World War II “remains the most influential doctrinal manual ever written.” Given the manual’s impact on the combat operations of the German army in history’s greatest war – indeed, it even provided the key doctrinal principles that allowed Germany’s enemies eventually to defeat its armies in that war – Murray’s claim seems no exaggeration. Moreover, Truppenführung’s influence did not end in 1945, since the concepts it introduced played an important role in the U. S. Army’s development of AirLand Battle doctrine in the 1970s–80s (concepts perhaps most dramatically demonstrated in Operation Desert Storm, the “desert blitzkrieg" that shattered Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army during the 1991 Gulf War). Truppenführung remains influential today, not only in its role as an important historical document through which German army operations in World War II may be analyzed and examined, but also in its place as a cornerstone doctrinal manual that remains the underpinning of maneuver warfare into the 21st century.

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Editors Bruce Condell and David T. Zabecki have provided history an invaluable service by producing a complete and highly readable translation of the 1933 German version that maintains the prescriptions and nuances of the original. Although an English translation of Truppenführung was available as early as World War II, this groundbreaking Condell/Zabecki translation is superior in every way and it superbly renders all aspects of the original. In addition to providing a superb English translation, the authors include an insightful Editors’ Introduction that itself is worth the price of the book. This introduction is a scholarly and well-researched essay that puts Truppenführung in its historical context within the German military tradition, examines the strengths and weaknesses of Truppenführung and the German army’s application on World War II battlefields of the doctrine it prescribes, and establishes the manual’s place within the development of post-war military doctrine, particularly in the U. S. Army.

Based upon the continuing interest Armchair General readers and forum participants show in all aspects of the German army in World War II, this outstanding English translation of Truppenführung will be particularly welcome and useful. Since the examination of original documents is often the key to achieving a more complete understanding of the organization, training, operations and tactics of a military force, Truppenführung is an important means of accomplishing that for the German army of World War II. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the subject and will be an important reference.

This edition by Stackpole Books is an especially welcome one. Initially published in hard cover by Lynne Reinner Publications in 2001, the book’s hefty price tag then was around $60, which essentially relegated it to library shelves, preventing it from reaching the mass audience of scholars and military history enthusiasts it so richly deserves. This Stackpole paperback edition is readily available from online booksellers, like amazon.com, for about $17. There is now no excuse for anyone interested in the operational art of war, the German army in World War II, and modern military history in general from owning copy. Buy it and add it to your personal military history library – no collection of military writing can be considered complete without this important “must have” book.

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