Order in Chaos: The Memoirs of General of Panzer Troops Hermann Balck

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Order in Chaos: The Memoirs of General of Panzer Troops Hermann Balck Book Cover Order in Chaos: The Memoirs of General of Panzer Troops Hermann Balck
Foreign Military Studies
Hermann Balck
Military History
The University Press of Kentucky

I haven't read a German general's memoirs in quite a while--after a while all of them started to sound the same--but Balck has always been one of my favorites, so I was eager to read this book. Briefly, this book is very interesting on some topics, less so on others, as described below.

As the other review notes, a good portion of the book deals with Balck's experiences during WWI and during the interwar years--according to my Kindle, this was a third of the book. The portions of the book dealing with WWI are relatively interesting, but not, for instance, as interesting as Rommel's "Infantry Attacks". Balck also describes what was going on during the interwar years, when Germany (and the German military) were in turmoil, with communists, fascists, socialists, trade unionists, vying for power/influence, with the military caught in the middle--very interesting (to me...).

Most readers will probably have bought the book to read about Balck's experiences in WWII, where he served on several fronts, although primarily in Russia. These parts of the book are indeed interesting, but I thought it would be helpful to point out what in particular was interesting:
1) Balck spends a lot of time describing his command philosophy/techniques. He was a strong believer in spending most of his time out with his units, while his Chief of Staff coordinated from a command post a bit further to the rear. Balck also gave almost all of his orders orally, and gave contingency plans which could be set in motion with a code word via radio.
2) Balck also spends a lot of time discussing relationships between the various German generals and between the generals (including himself), and Hitler. I was surprised to learn that Balck had an excellent relationship with Hitler (and had a generally positive view of him), and claims to almost never had had restrictions imposed on him about withdrawals, etc., which is the standard complaint from German generals in Russia.
3) Balck also describes some of the failures of the German troops at various points in the war, usually ascribed to poor leadership.
4) His characterizations and comparisons of the various enemies--including Russian, French, British, and American, are also interesting.
5) Balck kept a journal during both wars, and quotes from it liberally, even when it turns out that his views at the time were 100% wrong--this is very refreshing, because most memoirs are written with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight and it can be difficult to determine what the author thought at the time.
6) Finally, the editor does a fine job of providing additional detail, clarifications, and corrections via footnotes.

In general, a highly recommended read for anyone interested in the Russian Front or in German operational-level leadership.


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