Sixteen relatives on each side of his family were military officers, many of whom rose to the rank of general. He was promoted to lieutenant in January and in October began the three-year officer training programme at the Prussian War Academy. However, Manstein only completed the first year of the programme, as when the First World War began in August all students of the Academy were ordered to report for active service. At the beginning of the war he was promoted to lieutenant and participated in the invasion of Belgium with the 2nd Guard Reserve Infantry Regiment. In August he took part in the capture of Namur , the site of a massive citadel surrounded by outlying forts. After seeing action in the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes , his unit was soon reassigned to the Ninth Army , which was in the process of advancing from Upper Silesia to Warsaw.
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Nov 20, Jay rated it really liked it Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was probably the best operational commander the Germans produced during World War II, and possibly the best of any side; certainly he was up there with Slim, Patton, and Chuikov. This is his memoir, written in the s. It is a purely military memoir, and very rarely goes into any personal or political topics.
After that, he put considerable energy into devising a plan for the invasion of France--and just as much energy getting someone at the highest echelons of the Wehrmacht to notice his plan. Almost belatedly, his plan was adopted more or less intact, and Manstein got to help execute it as a corps commander.
His contribution to the campaign in France earned him a promotion to general. A few months before the invasion of Russia, he was given command of LVI Panzer Korps in the north, part of the drive to quickly seize Leningrad. He and his troops performed very well, but as they were nearing their goal, Manstein was suddenly transferred to the Ukraine to take over 11th Army of Army Group South. His "Panzer drive" is described in a page chapter.
His new task was the conquest of the Crimean peninsula. After initial successes, 11th Army had to fight off Soviet counterattacks and amphibious landings in their rear, which hindered their efforts to subdue the fortress city of Sevastopol.
Showing great operational flexibility and creativity, Manstein dealt with these threats and then refocused efforts on Sevastopol, which fell to the Germans in July Manstein was promoted to field marshal as a result. He recounts the Crimea campaign in a single page chapter. Fresh from that success, Hitler moved Manstein back to the Leningrad front with orders to finally take that city.
Just as Manstein arrived, however, the Soviets launched a series of large counterattacks which Manstein fended off, but which prevented the Germans from mounting their own assault on the city. Manstein writes about this in a page chapter. As a result of the foolish attempt to take the major city of Stalingrad and drive into the Caucasus to take the oil fields there, the Germans in the south were badly overextended, and forced to rely on the sub-standard armies of their allies the Italians, Rumanians, and Hungarians.
In November the Soviets launched a major offensive which cut off the entire 6th Army at Stalingrad, and destroyed two Rumanian armies. Hitler sent Manstein south, hoping he could find a way to salvage the situation for the Germans.
Long story short: he was never able to stop the Soviets or regain German initiative in the south except for the brief offensive at Kursk , but he did, on numerous occasions, keep the Soviets from penetrating and surrounding the entire southern wing of the German army, which could have shortened the war by a year or even two.
He does not describe how he finished the war, or how he escaped the frequently fatal chaos of the final days of the Reich. Manstein was a proud German officer of the Prussian tradition, which led to repeated contretemps with Hitler over how the war in the East should be conducted. But he wanted Hitler and the OKW to give him the independence due an army group commander to figure out how to achieve objectives in his own way.
As Manstein notes, such an approach ignores the ancient military dictum that "he who defends everything ends up holding nothing. Accounts of the trial, the case against Manstein, and his defense are readily available online. The things Manstein leaves out of Lost Victories are as important as the things he discusses, and lead one to search out other sources to fill in the lacunae. This perception that Manstein was covering for himself in this memoir are strengthened by the fact that this edition is a heavily edited version of the original, with many personal anecdotes excised, and the entire chapter on Operation Citadel Kursk has been replaced entirely with an article Manstein wrote for the Marine Corps Gazette, which I found wholly disappointing.
On the plus side, the book includes many very useful maps that cover the entirety the text. Even if they are sometimes cluttered, they are very well drawn and virtually all place names included in the narrative can be found on at least one map, making it very easy to follow the sometimes swirling action.
Speaking of that, special kudos to the translator, Anthony Powell, who has taken sometimes convoluted German syntax I speak from experience and given Manstein a consistently erudite, dignified, and sometimes sardonic voice in English. There is a very clear agenda being pushed in this book. Germans are smart, strong and lost the war because Hitler ruined it.
Erich von Manstein
Claims[ edit ] In the book, Manstein presented his own experiences, ideas and decisions as they appeared to him during the s and s. He wrote not as a historical investigator but as one who played an active part in the story he was relating. On the one hand the Polish temperament was more disposed towards attack than defence On the other hand the newly founded Polish Army was French-taught".
Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General