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Blitzkrieg !
From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk
a review of Len Deighton's book

by Al Reason

Published by Harper in their "Military History" series in paperback, 400 pages, b/w maps and illustrations, b/w photographs.  Price (on the cover US$6.99) in Hong Kong HK$82 (in 1996).

Len Deighton is best known for his novels and stories - "The Ipcress File", "Funeral in Berlin" and many, many more.  He has also written some very good non-fiction including "FIGHTER - the True Story of the Battle of Britain" and the "ABC of French Food"!!

BLITZKRIEG is non-fiction and covers the background to the campaigns in Poland and France up to the fall of Dunkirk.  Deighton goes into detail about the organisation of the German army, its weapons and tactics.  The book also covers Hitler's motivation for some of his actions leading up to and immediately after his assumption of power in 1933.  The thinking behind the planning of the invasion of the low countries and France is covered in some detail and there are 100 pages or so devoted to the battle itself.

BLITZKRIEG is a great read - I put it down several times but whenever I did I wanted to get back to it as soon as I could.  If you want to know why 750 armed Belgian soldiers defending one of the most formidable fortresses in the world surrendered to 85 Germans; if you want to know why the man who thought up the plan for the invasion of France, one of the most brilliantly successful plans ever, was shipped to the eastern front before a shot had been fired; and, if you want to know which divisional commander led his troops across the Meuse in a rubber boat while under fire - then this book is for you.  If you are interested in the history of the development of the tank and the relative merits and weaknesses of German, British and French tanks from WWI to 1940, then BLITZKRIEG is for you.  Even if you know this stuff, I'd still recommend you to have a look at BLITZKRIEG.

I have several whinges though (when do I not?).  The diagrams and illustrations are not well presented.  Some of the maps, in particular, are poor.  They look as if they have been photo-copied from colour originals and are very difficult to read.  Deighton's style is thoroughly readable but at times he makes assertions which are not supported by any source.  He also indulges in what I assume is sarcasm, but may not be.  And at times he contradicts or repeats himself on successive pages.  So when Jack Higgins says, "There quite simply is no one to touch Len Deighton as a historian of the Second World War", I think he is going a little over the top.  BLITZKRIEG is Daily Mirror style history, but for all that I thoroughly recommend it to you.

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