From a well-regarded military historian, a riveting and richly detailed reassessment of one of the most shocking military victories of all time
Myth, Reality, and Hitler’s Lightning War: France 1940
Atlantic Monthly Press
978-0-8021-2513-2 • $27.00 • Cloth • Sep. 2016
Military History (World War II)
In the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany launched a military offensive in France and the Low Countries that married superb intelligence, the latest military thinking, and new technology to achieve in just six weeks what their fathers had failed to achieve in all four years of the First World War. The fall of France was a stunning victory. It altered the balance of power in Europe in one stroke and convinced the entire world that the Nazi war machine was unstoppable.
But as Lloyd Clark, a leading British military historian and academic, argues in Blitzkrieg, much of our understanding of this victory, and blitzkrieg itself, is based on myth. The tactic was not really new, and far from being a foregone victory, this narrative of the campaign shows that Hitler’s invasion was incredibly risky and could easily have failed had the Allies been even slightly less inept or the Germans less fortunate. There was a real fear of defeat. The Germans recognized that success depended not only on surprise but on avoiding being drawn into a protracted struggle for which they were not prepared. And while speed was essential, 90 percent of Germany’s ground forces were still reliant on horses, bicycles, and their own feet for transportation. Their surprise victory proved the apex of their achievement; far from being undefeatable, Clark argues, the campaign revealed Germany and its armed forces to be highly vulnerable, lessons not learned by Hitler as he began to plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union.