May 13, 2015
by Hermann Balck (Author), David Zabecki (Editor, Translator), Dieter Biedekarken (Editor, Translator), Carlo D’Este (Foreword)
From Amazon : “German general Hermann Balck (1897–1982) was considered to be one of World War II’s greatest battlefield commanders. His brilliantly fought battles were masterpieces of tactical agility, mobile counterattack, and the technique of Auftragstaktik, or “mission command.” However, because he declined to participate in the U.S. Army’s military history debriefing program, today he is known only to serious students of the war.
Drawing heavily on his meticulously kept wartime journals, Balck discusses his childhood and his career through the First and Second World Wars. His memoir details the command decision-making process as well as operations on the ground during crucial battles, including the Battle of the Marne in World War I and his incredible victories against a larger and better-equipped Soviet army at the Chir River in World War II. Balck also offers observations on Germany’s greatest generals, such as Erich Ludendorff and Heinz Guderian, and shares his thoughts on international relations, domestic politics, and Germany’s place in history. Available in English for the first time in an expertly edited and annotated edition, this important book provides essential information about the German military during a critical era in modern history.”
Review by By Thomas Reiter on June 12, 2015 : “Most readers will probably have bought the book to read about Balck’s experiences in WWII, where he served on several fronts, although primarily in Russia. These parts of the book are indeed interesting, but I thought it would be helpful to point out what in particular was interesting:
1) Balck spends a lot of time describing his command philosophy/techniques. He was a strong believer in spending most of his time out with his units, while his Chief of Staff coordinated from a command post a bit further to the rear. Balck also gave almost all of his orders orally, and gave contingency plans which could be set in motion with a code word via radio.erman genera
2) Balck also spends a lot of time discussing relationships between the various German generals and between the generals (including himself), and Hitler. I was surprised to learn that Balck had an excellent relationship with Hitler (and had a generally positive view of him), and claims to almost never had had restrictions imposed on him about withdrawals, etc., which is the standard complaint from German generals in Russia.
3) Balck also describes some of the failures of the German troops at various points in the war, usually ascribed to poor leadership.
4) His characterizations and comparisons of the various enemies–including Russian, French, British, and American, are also interesting.
5) Balck kept a journal during both wars, and quotes from it liberally, even when it turns out that his views at the time were 100% wrong–this is very refreshing, because most memoirs are written with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight and it can be difficult to determine what the author thought at the time.”