Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic

Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic

by Henrik Lunde
     
 

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Among the many controversies of World War II, prominent is the debate over Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union, as the tide of war turned, and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. In this long-awaited work, Henrik Lunde—former U.S. Special Forces officer and author of renowned previous works on the campaigns in Norway and

Overview

Among the many controversies of World War II, prominent is the debate over Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union, as the tide of war turned, and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. In this long-awaited work, Henrik Lunde—former U.S. Special Forces officer and author of renowned previous works on the campaigns in Norway and Finland—turns his sights to the withdrawal of Army Group North.

Providing cool-headed analysis to the problem, the author first acknowledges that Hitler—often accused of holding onto ground for the sake of it—had valid reasons in this instance to maintain control of the Baltic coast. Without it, his supply of iron ore from Sweden would have been cut off, German naval (U-boat) bases would have been compromised, and an entire simpatico area of Europe—including East Prussia—would have been forsaken. On the other hand, Germany’s maintaining control of the Baltic would have meant convenient supply for forces on the coast—or evacuation if necessary—and perhaps most important, remaining German defensive pockets behind the Soviets’ main drive to Europe would tie down disproportionate offensive forces. Stalwart German forces remaining on the coast and on their flank could break the Soviet tidal wave.

However, unlike during today’s military planning, the German high command, in a situation that changed by the month, had to make quick decisions and gamble, with the fate of hundreds of thousands of troops and the entire nation at stake on quickly decided throws of their dice.

As Henrik Lunde carefully details in this work, Hitler guessed wrong. By leaving four entire battle-hardened armies in isolation along the Baltic, the Soviets pulling up to the Oder River encountered weaker opposition than they had a right to expect. Having economic (or aid) resources of their own, they cared little for Hitler’s own supply line and instead simply lunged at his center of power: Berlin. Once that was taken the remaining German pockets could be wiped out. The Germans deprived themselves of many of their strongest forces when they most needed them, and the climactic battle for their capital took place.

In this book, both combats and strategy are described in the final stages of the fighting in the Northern Theater, with Lunde’s even-handed analysis of the campaign a reward to every student of World War II.

REVIEWS

“… tackles "five exceedingly complicated and interrelated subjects to examine and understand Hitler's decision to defend the Baltic States at all costs." They are: military strategy; Hitler's strategic thinking; changing conditions affecting opposing forces; Hitler's fascination with Scandinavia and the Baltic Region; and the validity of Hitler's stated reasons for refusing to withdraw from the Baltic. In his short concluding chapter, Lunde addresses and debunks the validity of the reasons put forth by Hitler for his unshakeable attachment to the defense of the Baltic Region and Scandinavia.”
Henry Gole, author of Soldiering, The Road to Rainbow, and co-author of Exposing the Third Reich: Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler's Germany

“…a detailed examination of one of the worst of Hitler's many bad decisions in the later years of the Second World War, and a valuable addition to the literature on the fighting on the Eastern Front.”
History of War

"In Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept, historian and former US Special Forces officer Henrik Lunde undertakes a sober, much-needed corrective evaluation of Hitler's military decisions, with a stress on the defensive actions of Army Group North after the attempt to defeat the Soviet Union had disintegrated.”—Michigan War Studies Review

The lessons for political masters and military commanders in this book are numerous and they speak to the challenges of juggling operational and strategic balls concurrently. Lunde has written a very telling book about a region and a campaign that did not adjust to the changing strategic and operational realities on the ground. Casemate has published a high quality book and I would strongly recommend it for those interested in further appreciating the multi-faceted approach required in the interaction between international relations and military operations.
War History Online

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612001616
Publisher:
Casemate Publishers
Publication date:
08/02/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
944,568
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Henrik Lunde, US Army (ret.) was born in Norway and came to the United States as a child following World War II. After graduating from the University of California he accepted a US Army commission, and in addition to earning a degree in international relations from the University of Syracuse, he is a graduate of the Army’s Airborne, Ranger, and Pathfinder courses as well as the Command and General Staff College and the US Army War College. Much of Colonel Lunde’s troop assignments were in airborne divisions or in Special Forces. Highly decorated on the battlefield, he served three combat tours in Vietnam, and afterward in the Plans and Policy Branch of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. His last Army assignment was Director of National and International Security Studies at the US Army War College. Lunde currently lives in Florida.

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