cover image Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1914–1945

Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1914–1945

John Mosier, . . Holt/Macrae, $27.50 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7577-9

Mosier is a professor of English who has developed a second career writing on the world wars (The Blitzkreig Myth ). Here he credits the German army's operational effectiveness in two world wars to leadership, doctrine and, above all, institutional memory. The Germans addressed many of modern warfare's fundamental problems in WWI. They built on their experience during the years between the wars, integrating new technologies as they emerged. Quickness of reaction and speed of execution in a framework of combined arms tactics gave the Wehrmacht temporary mastery of Europe in 1939–1942. Though the overall thesis is less original than Mosier recognizes, he presents it in smooth, economical prose, incorporating a number of thought provoking insights and hypotheses. He challenges the familiar allegation that the Wehrmacht neglected logistics and, conversely, demonstrates that German technological superiority is a myth. He credits Hitler's "evil genius" with providing the political and strategic insight that structured Germany's victories until his audacity devolved into randomness. Mosier pitilessly establishes the Wehrmacht's comprehensive complicity in the Third Reich's crimes, but is better at describing than explaining it. Within its limits, this is a stimulating overview of a war machine incorporating both outstanding capacities and tragic flaws. (June 6)