Downfall 1945

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Steven J. Zaloga
Other Publication Information
Illustrations by Steve Noon, 96 pages
Product / Stock #
Campaign 293
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site

This book covers the end of World War II in Europe from the campaign level. There is little examination of tactics or individual heroism; instead it looks at the challenges and opportunities faced by the top-level military leaders as the Third Reich neared its end.

Until I read this book, I had the concept that the Western Allies (US, Britain, France) had a pretty easy time after stopping the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944, and moved up to the Elbe River line to wait for the Russians. At the same time, I thought the Russians were pretty much beating up on the Germans and making their way toward Berlin and eventual victory. I was pretty much wrong.

After the Ardennes, the Wehrmacht was weakened, but not out of the game. They still held an area of the Netherlands that prevented the use of Antwerp as a port, making the supply situation poor to sometimes critical for the Allies. Also, after the Rhine line was taken Heeregruppe B was still occupying the Ruhr industrial area, held there by Hitler’s “No retreat” policy. So the situation in the West wasn’t a walk in the park.

On the eastern side, the Russians ran into Germans who fought like fanatics. This was mostly because the Soviets remembered all too well the German treatment of Russians in 1941 to 43, and they were (literally) taking no prisoners.

This book follows both sides as the end nears and then passes for the Third Reich. The political maneuvering is particularly interesting. Some Western generals were all for passing the agreed upon line of the Elbe River to move to the western suburbs of Berlin, particularly Potsdam. General Eisenhower nixed this, as he didn’t want to have to deal with the Russians as they came into Berlin. The chances of mistakes and someone firing on “our side” were too great.

Lest one think that the last 6 months of the European campaign were easy, the Russians suffered as many casualties as they did in a similar period in 1943 or 1944. The western front had some big problems too, with literally millions of civilians and German deserters trying to cross their lines to shelter from the Russian advance.

The sections of this book are:

  • Introduction
  • Chronology
  • The Strategic Situation
  • Opposing Commanders
  • Opposing Armies
  • Opposing Plans
  • The Campaign
  • The Campaign Perspective
  • The Battlefield Today

Many thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review book, and to IPMS USA for the chance to review it.


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