July 2022 MBR Review The Military Shelf

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Midwest Book Review

Aug 1, 2022, 2:11:36 PMAug 1
The Military Shelf

General Jan Smuts and his First World War in Africa, 1914-1917
David Brock Katz
Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781636240176, $37.95, HC, 288pp


Synopsis: World War I ushered in a renewed scramble by European powers for control of Africa. At its helm, General Jan Smuts grabbed the opportunity to realize his ambition of a Greater South Africa. He set his sights upon the vast German colonies of South-West Africa and East Africa -- the demise of which would end the Kaiser's grandiose schemes for Mittelafrika. As part of his strategy to shift South Africa's borders inexorably northward, Smuts even cast an eye toward Portuguese and Belgian African possessions.

Jan Smuts, whose abilities as a general were much denigrated by both his contemporary and then later modern historians, was no armchair soldier. This cabinet minister and statesman donned a uniform and led his men into battle. He learned his soldiery craft under General Koos De la Rey's tutelage, and another soldier-statesman, General Louis Botha during the South African War 1899-1902. He emerged from that war, immersed in the Boer maneuver doctrine he devastatingly waged in the guerrilla phase of that conflict. His daring and epic invasion of the Cape at the head of his commando remains legendary.

The first phase of the German South West African campaign and the Afrikaner Rebellion in 1914 placed his abilities as a sound strategic thinker and a bold operational planner on display. Champing at the bit, he finally had the opportunity to command the Southern Forces in the second phase of the German South West African campaign.

Placed in command of the Allied forces in East Africa in 1916, he led a mixed bag of South Africans and Imperial troops against the legendary Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and his Shutztruppe. Using his penchant for Boer maneuver warfare together with mounted infantry led and manned by Boer Republican veterans, he proceeded to free the vast German territory from Lettow-Vorbeck's grip.

Often leading from the front, his operational concepts were an enigma to the British under his command, remaining so to modern-day historians. Although unable to bring the elusive and wily Lettow-Vorbeck to a final decisive battle, Smuts conquered most of the territory by the end of his tenure in February 1917.

With the publication of "General Jan Smuts and his First World War in Africa, 1914-1917: Incorporating His German South West and East Africa Campaigns", military historian David Brock Katz makes use of multiple archival sources and the official accounts of all the participants to provide a long-overdue reassessment of Smuts's generalship and his role in furthering the strategic aims of South Africa and the British Empire in Africa during World War I.

Critique: An fully impressive work of exhaustive research and meticulous scholarship, "General Jan Smuts and his First World War in Africa, 1914-1917: Incorporating His German South West and East Africa Campaigns" by Professor David Katz rescues from an undeserved obscurity on of the truly fascinating general officers of World War I. While very highly recommended for inclusion into community, college, and university library World War I History & Biography collections, as well as supplemental curriculum 20th Century South African History studies lists, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "General Jan Smuts and his First World War in Africa, 1914-1917: Incorporating His German South West and East Africa Campaigns" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.99).

Editorial Note: David Brock Katz lectures at the Army and Defence Colleges of the South African National Defence Force and is an active member of the Andrew Mlangeni Regiment (formerly the South African Irish Regiment). He completed his MMil in Military History (cum laude) and a PhD in Military Science in the Department of Military History at the Faculty of Military Science of Stellenbosch University. He is a research fellow at Stellenbosch University in the Faculty of Military Science. He has published extensively on South African military history and doctrine and can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com davebrockkatz

Normandy: From Cotentin to Falaise, June-July 1944
Friedrich Hayn, author
Linden Lyons, translator
Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781636241562, $45.00, HC, 200pp


Synopsis: With the publication of "Normandy: From Cotentin to Falaise, June-July 1944", historians and military history buffs are offered a unique perspective on the decisive early weeks of the Normandy invasion in 1944, from the perspective of Friedrich Hayn, a German Army Corps Intelligence officer stationed in Normandy at the time of the Allied invasion, who during the invasion was the department head for enemy messages processing (Ic) in the staff of the LXXXIV AK.

"Normandy: From Cotentin to Falaise, June-July 1944" discusses in detail the events leading up to the creation of Falaise Pocket, described by the Friedrich Hayn as the "tragic turning point of an entire front". It also discusses in detail the conditions in the American landing section and explains how the German troops based there came to be defeated.

Critique: Providing the German view of D-Day, as personally witnessed by a German Army Corps intelligence officer in Normandy at the time of the Allied invasion, now published by Casemate, and ably translated into English for an American readership by Linden Lyons, "Normandy: From Cotentin to Falaise, June-July 1944" is a unique, informative, and inherently fascinating study that, while also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $20.490, is an absolutely essential and core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library World War II history collections in general, and D-Day Norman Invasion supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.

Editorial Note #1: Friedrich Hayn was the head of the intelligence section of the German LXXXIV Army Corps in 1944.

Editorial Note #2: Linden Lyons holds a master's degree in history from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He also studied German at the University of Freiburg and librarianship at the University of Canberra. He is the translator for Panzer Operations, Vitebsk, and Leningrad in the Die Wehrmacht im Kampf series.


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