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).
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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