HINDENBURG AND LUDENDORFF: The German High Command at War by Robert B. Asprey

HINDENBURG AND LUDENDORFF: The German High Command at War

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Even allowing for the destruction of the German WW I military archives during the allied bombing of Potsdam, the absence of studies of the German side of that war has been remarkable--a deficiency, however, excellently remedied here by noted military-historian Asprey (Frederick the Great, 1986, etc.). Though his focus is on Hindenburg and Ludendorff, Asprey deals with the strategy and to some extent the tactics employed by the Germans throughout the war. Some of this is wall-known; much is not. At the outbreak of war, he says, Hindenburg was an obscure general already in retirement, while Ludendorff was the celebrated quartermaster general to the Second Army. The two were transferred to the Russian Front, and there Hindenburg made his reputation--or had it made for him--in the battle of Tannenburg. As Asprey reports, one of Hindenburg's staff, when later showing visitors the headquarters at Tannenburg, became accustomed to saying that ""the Field Marshal slept here before and after the battle, and between us, also during the battle."" Hindenburg became a household god and, according to Asprey, scarcely more useful: The actual work was done by Ludendorff. The fame of the ""Duo"" expanded until they were able to dominate German policy-making, but while they had a superb machine at their command, Asprey says, they lacked any clear conception as to how the war was to be won. They accepted, for example, totally unrealistic estimates as to what unrestricted submarine warfare could achieve. And their ultimate contribution to Germany history was to conceal their own mistakes, and to give rise to the legend that Germany's defeat had been caused by a stab in the back--a legend that led directly to the rise of Hitler. Though his prose is sometimes florid, Asprey has made splendid use of newfound materials and given us the best account yet of WW I German strategy.

Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1991
Page count: 600pp
Publisher: Morrow