The Wehrmacht Retreats

Fighting a Lost War, 1943

Robert M. Citino

Arthur Goodzeit Award

Throughout 1943, the German army, heirs to a military tradition that demanded and perfected relentless offensive operations, succumbed to the realities of its own overreach and the demands of twentieth-century industrialized warfare. In his new study, prizewinning author Robert Citino chronicles this weakening Wehrmacht, now fighting desperately on the defensive but still remarkably dangerous and lethal.

“Like all of Citino’s work, this book brims with perceptive insights and clever observations.

—German Studies Review

“A fine book, well written and relevant to professional military officers and academics alike. Furthermore, it is good history. Citino demonstrates the power of objective analysis to illuminate present challenges through a rigorous study of the past. . . . Even those who consider themselves well read on the topic will find new and interesting nuggets and will have their preconceived notions challenged. Perhaps the greatest merit of this book is the idea that ‘ways of war’ have a shelf-life.

—Army History
See all reviews...

Drawing on his impeccable command of German-language sources, Citino offers fresh, vivid, and detailed treatments of key campaigns during this fateful year: the Allied landings in North Africa, General von Manstein's great counterstroke in front of Kharkov, the German attack at Kasserine Pass, the titanic engagement of tanks and men at Kursk, the Soviet counteroffensives at Orel and Belgorod, and the Allied landings in Sicily and Italy. Through these events, he reveals how a military establishment historically configured for violent aggression reacted when the tables were turned; how German commanders viewed their newest enemy, the U.S. Army, after brutal fighting against the British and Soviets; and why, despite their superiority in materiel and manpower, the Allies were unable to turn 1943 into a much more decisive year.

Applying the keen operational analysis for which he is so highly regarded, Citino contends that virtually every flawed German decision—to defend Tunis, to attack at Kursk and then call off the offensive, to abandon Sicily, to defend Italy high up the boot and then down much closer to the toe—had strong supporters among the army's officer corps. He looks at all of these engagements from the perspective of each combatant nation and also establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt the synergistic interplay between the fronts.

Ultimately, Citino produces a grim portrait of the German officer corps, dispelling the longstanding tendency to blame every bad decision on Hitler. Filled with telling vignettes and sharp portraits and copiously documented, The Wehrmacht Retreats is a dramatic and fast-paced narrative that will engage military historians and general readers alike.

About the Author

Robert M. Citino is senior historian, Na and author of eight books, including Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942; The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich; Quest for Decisive Victory: From Stalemate to Blitzkrieg in Europe, 1899–1940; and Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm: The Evolution of Operational Warfare, which won both the Society for Military History's Distinguished Book Award and the American Historical Association's Paul Birdsall Prize.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series