Books by Callum MacDonald

THE LOST BATTLE by Callum MacDonald
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 3, 1993

Everything you wanted to know about the Nazi glider-and- paratroop invasion of Crete, plus a history of early airborne-troop warfare and its prime practitioner, Kurt Student. MacDonald (History/Warwick University, England; The Killing of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhardt Heydrich, 1989) starts off with a life of Student—a Luftwaffe star who was a favorite of Hitler's even though the FÅhrer ignored his emphasis on the importance of Crete as a steppingstone to Egypt, crucial to Britain's empire. MacDonald indicates that Crete was seen by Hitler as a sideshow that would lull Stalin while defusing possible RAF attacks on the vital Ploesti oil fields, and it's clear that Student's mission was star-crossed from the beginning. Security was intentionally breached by rumors that the invasion of Crete would be practice for an invasion of Britain; then Goering replaced Student as overall commander with stodgy General Alexander Lohr. Student's bold original plan for massive simultaneous glider landings was compromised, and there were all sorts of difficulties and delays. Meanwhile, the British fiasco in Greece made Crete crucially important to the Allies, although their defense was equally confused. MacDonald's narrative takes off as he explains how cracked German Enigma codes provided vital day-to-day knowledge of the invasion to the Allies, but he never breaks free of compulsive detailing—though his description of the sea battle for Crete, with its strafing of shipwrecked Germans, is properly horrific. MacDonald's sense of strategic issues is strong, but his reluctance to summarize blurs focus, resulting in an exhaustive military history without the scope or sense of overriding cultural realities that lifts, say, George Feifer's Tennozan (1992) above the genre. For WW II veterans and buffs only. Read full book review >
Released: April 17, 1989

Aided by previously unpublished files of the British Foreign Office, English author MacDonald provides the most complete account yet of the assassination of Heydrich, head of the Nazi security police and Hitler's presumed successor. Heydrich's assassination was unique, the only murder of a prominent Nazi carried out by agents trained in Britain. While previous theories (e.g., Paine, The Abwehr: German Military Intelligence in World War Two, 1984) credit the British Secret Service with the killing, MacDonald demonstrates conclusively that the operation was steeped in the political expediencies of the Czech exile government, and was planned by Czech military intelligence with the aid of the British Special Operations Executive. The author is also convincing as he shows how Heydrich's ego was, ironically, an accomplice to his own demise. With childhood insecurities that led him to the heights of promiscuity to prove his manhood—and to the depths of violence to assert his power—Heydrich was flagrant in seeking the adulation of his subjects and, thus, careless (to Hitler's dismay) about simple security precautions (e.g., bullet shields in his official vehicle). Consequently, after two Czech agents, Gabcik and Kubis, had staked out Heydrich's daily routine and set his appointment with his fate, Heydrich was killed—not by Gabcik's intended bullet, which failed to be fired, but by Kubis' erratic bomb toss that threw shrapnel up from underneath Heydrich's vehicle, resulting in his death eight days later. Had Heydrich attended to proper security, his death could have been averted—as would have the reprisal massacre of 5,000 innocent citizens of the Czech town of Lidice. MacDonald narrates his tale with almost hour-by-hour attention to detail; and although others—including Frantisek Moravec and Miroslav Ivanov (Target: Heydrich, 1974)—have told the story before, none have told it with MacDonald's thoroughness. Read full book review >