The Blitzkrieg Legend

The 1940 Campaign in the West

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Overview

Here, for the first time in English, is an illuminating German perspective on the decisive blitzkrieg campaign. The account, written by the German historian Karl-Heinz Frieser and edited by American historian John T. Greenwood, provides the definitive explanation for Germany’s startling success and the equally surprising military collapse of France and Britain on the European continent in 1940. In a little over a month, Germany defeated the Allies in battle, a task that had not been achieved in four years of brutal fighting during World War I.

First published in 1995 as the official German history of the 1940 campaign, this book goes beyond standard explanations to show that the German victory was not inevitable and that French defeat was not preordained. Contrary to most accounts of the campaign, Frieser’s illustrates that the military systems of both Germany and France were solid and that their campaign plans were sound. The key to victory or defeat, Frieser argues, was the execution of operational plans—both preplanned and ad hoc—amid the eternal Clausewitzian combat factors of friction and the fog of war. He shows why, on the eve of the campaign, the British and French leaders had good cause to be confident and why many German generals were understandably concerned that disaster was looming for them.

This study explodes many of the myths concerning German blitzkrieg warfare and the planning for the 1940 campaign. Frieser’s groundbreaking interpretation of the topic has been the subject of discussion since the German edition first appeared. This English translation is published in cooperation with the Association of the United States Army.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“Karl-Heinz Frieser's thorough research and first-rate analysis have demolished the myth of blitzkrieg and explained how the Germans achieved their miraculous success in MayùJune 1940. His important book adds considerably to our understanding of modern warfare.” —Brig. Gen. Robert A. Doughty, U.S. Army (Ret.), Head of the Department of History, West Point, from 1985-2005 author of Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940
“The 1940 blitzkrieg in Western Europe was a key doctrinal turning point in modern warfare. But it was, as Colonel Frieser points out, neither seamless in execution nor widely agreed upon at various levels of command. This book, sure to be a classic of operational history, should also be a 'must-read' for those concerned with military innovation in time of war—such as the U.S. Army has experienced during the initial stages of Global War on Terrorism and particularly in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” —Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, U.S. Army (Ret.), 32d Chief of Staff
“Well written and grounded in extensive archival research, Karl-Heinz Frieser's book provides the best explanation so far of the German victory in 1940. This English translation has been carefully checked not only in factual details but also in the nuances of complex explanations. The numerous detailed maps, found nowhere else in the extensive literature of the 1940 campaign, will be especially valuable to those visiting the battlefields.” —Col. William T. Bowers, USA (Ret.), formerly on the staff of the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (NATO) in Germany