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.