The German Way of War
From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich
Robert M. Citino
For Frederick the Great, the prescription for warfare was simple: kurz und vives ("short and lively")—wars that relied upon swift, powerful, and decisive military operations. Robert Citino takes us on a dramatic march through Prussian and German military history to show how that primal theme played out time and time again.
Citino focuses on operational warfare to demonstrate continuity in German military campaigns from the time of Elector Frederick Wilhelm and his great "sleigh-drive" against the Swedes to the age of Adolf Hitler and the blitzkrieg to the gates of Moscow. Along the way, he underscores the role played by the Prussian army in elevating a small, vulnerable state to the ranks of the European powers, describes how nineteenth-century victories over Austria and France made the German army the most respected in Europe, and reviews the lessons learned from the trenches of World War I.
“Takes the reader on a sweeping march through 300 years of Prussian/German military history and operational thought as Citino explains the ‘why’ of the German style of waging operational war. He does an exceptional job explaining the operational conduct of the German army during both world wars and how its style of fighting eventually contributed to the defeat of the Third Reich.—”
“Citino is one of the most insightful historians of operational warfare working today, and his gifts for narrative and puckish myth-busting do not fail him here. This is a fascinating and important book that challenges many conventional ideas and suggests others that are worthy of debate and future study.”
—Journal of Military HistorySee all reviews...
“Citino’s significant book deserves attention from a wide range of historians and military thinkers. . . . Citino’s argument is sufficiently compelling in showing a consistency within Germany's military history to merit the reassessment of some significant assumptions about this nation’s military heritage and legacy.”
“This book has several strengths. It is well written and impressively researched. In revealing army operational continuity, it adds yet another perspective to the ongoing debate over continuities in German history. Moreover, it is a scholarly analysis of operational history, a specialized field of inquiry much ignored of late. Hence, the book’s focus is on actors and actions rather than thinkers and ideas. Furthermore, Citino provides balanced coverage to the twentieth century as well as those preceding it. The analysis of World War I operations on both fronts is especially well done.”
—American Historical Review
“Citino describes in clear, sometimes colloquial, [and lively] language the personalities and intricate details of battles and wars over three centuries emphasizing victories and instructive defeats. . . . There are many wonderful details and insights in this book. . . . Experts and buffs alike will enjoy it.”
—History: Reviews of New Books
“Citino’s lessons learned are certainly worthy of further consideration for our own doctrine.”
“Citino provides an analysis that is quite ambitious, addressing some 300 years of military practice.”
“Extraordinarily learned and engagingly written, this book will be rewarding reading for history buffs, scholarly experts, and general readers. . . . Essential.”
“Citino combines colossal scholarship with massively entertaining material. It is all here: the great captains from Frederick the Great to Erich von Manstein, the great theorists from Clausewitz and Moltke to Schlieffen and Guderian, the pivotal battles that shaped European history, and a humanists splendid recreation at every turn of the ambiance of the German army and Central Europe.”
—Geoffrey Wawro, author of The Franco-Prussian War
“Very few historians have mastered this literature as well as Citino or possess his ability to describe battles and campaigns and lay out complex operations in such a lucid manner.”
—James S. Corum, author of The Roots of Blitzkrieg
“The most up-to-date work on its subject, written with style and verve.”
—Arden Bucholz, author of Moltke and the German Wars, 1864–1871See fewer reviews...
Through this long view, Citino reveals an essential recurrent pattern—characterized by rapid troop movements and surprise attacks, maneuvers to outflank the enemy, and a determination to annihilate the opposition—that made it possible for the Germans to fight armies often larger than their own. He highlights the aggressiveness of Prussian and German commanders—trained simply to find the enemy and keep attacking—and destroys the myth of Auftragstaktik ("flexible command"), replacing it with the independence of subordinate commanders. He also brings new interpretations to well-known operations, such as Moltke's 1866 campaign and the opening campaign in 1914, while introducing readers to less familiar but important battles like Langensalza and the Annaberg.
The German way of war, as Citino shows, was fostered by the development of a widely accepted and deeply embedded military culture that supported and rewarded aggression. His book offers a fresh look at one of the most remarkable, respected, and reviled militaries of the past half millennium and marks another sterling contribution to the history of operational warfare.