Im a great fan of alternate history both fictional and extrapolation. Bevin Alexanders book How Hitler Could Have Won World War II: The Fatal Errors that led to Nazi Defeat is of the latter category. Extrapolating an alternate history is difficult to due to the fact that just because one alters a few key events does not necessarily mean that the future would have played out like the author predicts; however, it does make food for thought on how things could have been. This was the hope that I had when I started this book. How would Alexander play out the battles and campaigns that he had selected? How did he see the tide moving if General So-And Such had done this not that?
Unfortunately, Alexander failed to follow through this the premise of his book. Basically, he took several key battles or campaigns in condensed versions mixed with a few should have sentences or paragraphs. This is very little in-depth analysis of how these pivotal battles could have altered history is something different had been done. Its not like Alexander did not have material to work with as much of what he proposed were courses of action that the German generals wanted to do in the first place only be over ridden by Hitler. All Alexander had to do what play them out in a realistic, logical manner to support his thesis but he doesnt. In reality the book is little more than a Cliff Note compilation of battles that are more extensively written about.
Not to be completely harsh on the book, Alexander does do an excellent job of covering these battles. This is a great book for someone who wants to read about these events without being bogged down by some of the weightier tomes out there. I just wish there was a little less what did and a little more what if.
Good book if you like WWII history.
What makes this book interesting isn't so much the mistakes Hitler made, as many of these have been hashed out by other historians, but the author's discussions of tactics and weapons which changed the way the "game was played."
It is an interesting and easy read, even for those who aren't well read in World War II.
On the down side, the author has an obvious "love affair" with German General Erwin Rommel. In several places he calls Rommel the "one true military genius to emerge in World War II." Well, it's easy for a good general to seem like a genius when he is reading the other side's mail on a regular basis.
Thanks to the Italians, the Germans had the code used by the U.S. military attache in Cairo. This colonel attended all the high-level briefings given by the British and sent the details to Washington. All the Germans did was listen in, read where and what the Brits were going to do and plan how to counter it. It was only after British intelligence figured out what was happening, after their forces overran a German communications battalion, they 'fixed' the leak.
Being really smart, they didn't stop the American colonel from sending his reports to Washington. Instead, they just made sure he sent what they wanted him to. As a result, Rommel was handed plans which were directly opposite to what the British planed to do at the Second Battle of El Alamein. The result was a smashing British victory. Of course, it still says a lot for the Germans when British General Montgomery, probably the most overrated general of WW II, even with this advantage, took a week to achieve victory in that battle.
This isn't new information, as secret files released in the 1980s were revealed to the public in numerous books by historians. Yet this book was published in 2000.
A more serious problem occurs when the author calls the North African Battle of Kasserine Pass "the most staggering and unequivocal defeat in American history." Frankly, I have no idea how he can make this statement.
The worst defeat in American history was the Battle of Bataan, where another overrated general, Douglas MacArthur, sat in his cave and issued press releases while other generals fought a delaying action against the Japanese. Compared to Bataan, Kasserine Pass was a temporary setback.
To make this mistake by the author even worse, he states Kasserine Pass wasn't as big a defeat as the 1863 Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville. Excuse me, but the Union Army retreated in good order after this battle. When Union General Hooker ordered a retreat he almost had a mutiny on his hands, as even generals wept when the order to retreat was given. It was Chancellorsville where the Union Army of the Potomac learned it could defeat the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which it then did at Gettysburg just a few months later.
If I had to pick the worst defeat suffered by an army in the Civil War, I would pick either the collapse of Bragg's army at Chattanooga, or the destruction of Hood's army at Franklin and Nashville.
I guess this is just more proof historians should stay away from thinking they know it all, and check their facts when making statements in areas they are not "well read" in.