Books I Mentioned This Week: Read with Caution (Part 1)

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Fighting the Invasion: the German Army at D-Day, edited by David C. Isby. Greenhill Books, who published this volume, publishes a number of books which, like this one, are collected reprints of German monographs of different battles. Once POWs, German generals were ordered by the Allies to write their remembrances of the great battles they were involved with and after 1949, a permanent office of military history was set up by the Americans and overseen by former German Army Chief of Staff, Franz Halder. After that was set up, a number of former Wehrmacht generals were paid to write their accounts.

This book only gets three stars. Not because it is a bad book. It’s just a collection of essays by German officers recalling their impressions of battles past. I give it three stars because it is an unreliable book. First and foremost, some of the original German language monographs, translations of which comprise the book, cannot be found. When the German generals wrote these monographs, they were translated into English by the US Army, often in the years immediately after the war.

In the last number of years, several scholars have found some of the original German monographs, the translations of which are gathered together in this book and others and are often completely misleading. The US Army did a terrible job translating these documents. In fact, any translations of German accounts of World War Two by the US Army are not reliable unless the original can be found and re-translated by a competent German language translator.

There are a lot of books like this one. It is fascinating to read what the Germans wrote, keeping in mind that they are writing to please their captors and that if the original German document can’t be found and hasn’t been re-translated, you shouldn’t rely on the facts of that account.

[Mentioned in Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians: The Organization of the German High Command During D-Day and the Weeks Afterwards (Part 1)]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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