Germany and the Axis Powers

From Coalition to Collapse

Richard L. DiNardo

It seemed that whenever Mussolini acted on his own, it was bad news for Hitler. Indeed, the Fuhrer's relations with his Axis partners were fraught with an almost total lack of coordination. Compared to the Allies, the coalition was hardly an alliance at all. Focusing on Germany's military relations with Italy, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, Richard DiNardo unearths a wealth of information that reveals how the Axis coalition largely undermined Hitler's objectives from the Eastern Front to the Balkans, Mediterranean, and North Africa.

DiNardo argues that the Axis military alliance was doomed from the beginning by a lack of common war aims, the absence of a unified command structure, and each nation's fundamental mistrust of the others. Germany was disinclined to make the kinds of compromises that successful wartime partnerships demanded and, because Hitler insisted on separate pacts with each nation, Italy and Finland often found themselves conducting counterproductive parallel wars on their own.

“What DiNardo demonstrates is the importance of taking seriously the notion of the Axis as a military coalition, albeit a dysfunctional one. By examining not only the traditional area of strategic and battlefield dispensations but also some aspects of the educative and administrative culture of the military, DiNardo engagingly illuminates an often overlooked element in the military history of World War II. In the process, he offers an opportunity to contemplate the timeless problem of how to assess the factors that influence a great power's effectiveness when it conducts coalitional warfare.

—Central European History

“DiNardo has written a tightly organized and insightful account of the Axis coalition that is essential for the general reader as well as the specialist.

—The Historian
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DiNardo's detailed assessments of ground, naval, and air operations reveal precisely why the Axis allies were so dysfunctional as a collective force, sometimes for seemingly mundane but vital reasons-a shortage of interpreters, for example. His analysis covers coalition warfare at every level, demonstrating that some military services were better at working with their allies than others, while also pointing to rare successes, such as Rommel's effective coordination with Italian forces in North Africa. In the end, while some individual Axis units fought with distinction—if not on a par with the vaunted Wehrmacht—and helped Germany achieve some of its military aims, the coalition's overall military performance was riddled with disappointments.

Breaking new ground, DiNardo's work enlarges our understanding of Germany's defeat while at the same time offering a timely reminder of the challenges presented by coalition warfare.

About the Author

Richard L. DiNardo is professor of national security affairs, US Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the author of Imperial Germany and War, 1871-1918 .

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series