Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 128

Perhaps Mosier’s most significant revision is his reevaluation of German Gen. Falkenhayn’s goal for Verdun. He is remembered as wanting to “bleed France white” at Verdun, but Mosier, a Falkenhayn apologist, makes a good case for a more subtle goal. Falkenhayn planned to take Verdun before French Gen. Joffre’s anticipated summer 1916 summer offensive in order to break French morale. This could occur either by piercing the line at Verdun, or by eliciting a sadly typical French counter attack which could only lead to staggering French casualties and failure. In either case, the objective was to “Frankreichs Kräfte verbluten,” i.e. to bleed France’s will and strength white. Though Falkenhayn lacked an understanding of how the French political system worked, this objective was far less tactically bankrupt than is generally understood. Though the 1916 offensive at Verdun did not immediately break French morale, Mosier argues that the battle led indirectly to the French army’s mutinies of 1917. As Verdun’s position became increasingly threatened, despite Petain’s effective defensive schemes, the ever-fragile French government was threatened with removal. It in turn threatened Joffre with removal. He in turn placed Gen. Nievelle in command of the Verdun defense. Nievelle immediately launched the bloody and futile infantry attacks Verdun is remembered for, which were heralded throughout France as victories. Once Joffre was finally removed, Nievelle was placed in command of the disastrous Champagne offensives at Chemin des Dames in April 1917, which prompted the mutinies. Mosier offers an important corrective to the battle of Verdun, reexamining the tactical significance of various points, incorporating fighting in the near and not-so-near vicinity of the forts, and directly attacking mistakes that have grown up in the common perception of the battle. It is a must read for World War I enthusiasts. John E. Fahey, Ph.D. candidate, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 126 BATTLE FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC: The Strategic Naval Campaign that Won World War II in Europe John R. Bruning, Zenith Press, Minneapolis, 2013, 300 pages, $40.00 There are no flowers on sailor’s graves, No lilies on the ocean waves, The only tributes are seagull sweeps, And the teardrops that his sweetheart weeps. –Anonymous ohn Bruning dedicates this book to the compelling sacrifices made by tens of thousands of civilian merchant marine sailors who gave their lives at sea in the Atlantic Ocean to win the war in Europe. The losses taken by these civilians in World War II are rarely acknowledged and it was satisfying to see the honor paid to them. The author points out the merchant mariners lost about 80,000 people in the war, affirming that it may have been safer to join the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II since the loss rate for merchant mariners was higher than that of the marines. The book is a well-written chronological walkthrough the unfolding of the war in the North Atlantic. It begins with the Kriegsmarine building up force in 1939, and carries us through the war chapter by chapter, highlighting some of the major turning points that alter the course of the battle in the Atlantic. The events covered extend across all levels of war to create a compelling narrative. At the highest level he draws attention to significant Allied events including the meeting of Churchill and FDR to create the Atlantic Charter, and strategic decisions like the commitment of the United States and Britain to supply Stalin in his war effort. Operational-level details emerge too. The changes to convoy operations are discussed as are the German operation plans as they evolved to press for German dominance of the Allied supply lines. The German navy’s Operation Drum Roll (aka “The Happy Time”) is recounte