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Germany and the Axis Powers, by Richard L. DiNardo

Lawrence, Ks.: University Press of Kansas, 2005. Pp. xiv, 282. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN:0-700-61412-5.

The Finns aside, the general view of Germany’s allies in World War II – notably Italy, Romania, and Hungary – is that of a bunch of inept fools led by bumbling idiots, who were major contributors to the German defeat.

This is a hoary myth, which serves both the Germans and some of their erstwhile enemies well. But it’s hardly the whole story, and over the past few years a more balanced view of Germany’s allies has begun to emerge, as scholars have addressed the goals, capabilities, and performance of several of Germany’s allies.

In Germany and the Axis Powers, NYMAS member Richard L. DiNardo goes one step further, taking a look at the nature of the Axis “alliance” and the role that each of the members had in the overall war effort. As he effectively demonstrates, the Axis bore little relationship to the “Grand Alliance” that existed among the U.S.S.R., Britain, and the U.S. – particularly between the latter pair. The Axis powers were bound not to each other collectively, but rather in a series of bilateral pacts that linked them primarily to Germany, a nation without a long history of military excellence, but little history of coalition warfare. As a result, there was never any common discussion of strategy, nor any pooling of resources (recall the complex Anglo-American discussions about allocations of landing craft), and frequent contradictory war aims (Hungary and Romania come most notably to mind, with more interest in fighting the other than anyone else).

DiNardo does not limit his discussions to matters of policy and strategy. He reviews the problems and limitations of each of the principal European Axis allies, and their performance in the field, which was usually better than has been generally reported; for example, the critical role of Italian forces in the “German” victories in North Africa, or the Romanians during the phases of the campaign in Russia.

DiNardo packs a great deal into this volume. Perhaps the only real flaw is that he fails to address why, among the numerous committees the German Army convened to study the lessons of 1914-1918 during the 1920s, no one ever thought about having a look at the problems they’d had waging coalition warfare. But this is a relatively minor quibble, given the overall value of the work, which is clear, comprehensive, and well written, with the occasional subtle joke that seems to help carry the tale forward. Worth reading for anyone interested in World War II or coalition warfare.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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