Military history is a vast and popular field, ranging from rather sinister books on the Latvian SS, sold in shops run by skinheads, to works of major distinction by, among others, Antony Beevor, Carlo D 'Este, John Keegan, and the author of this astonishing new book. Max Hastings's many qualities as an historian are abundantly displayed in Armageddon, his superb account, with clear and comprehensible maps, of the prolonged Allied battle for Germany between June 1944 and April 1945.
The book combines sober analysis of strategy with descriptions of the human impact of the horrors. Hastings has an extraordinary feel for the dramas of the battlefield whether in the gloomy Ardennes forests or East Prussia's icy wastes, while his descriptions of air warfare are the best I have read. His book is full of shocking facts too. When the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine, more people - most of them concentration- camp inmates - died than in the destructions of the Lusitania and Titanic combined.
Hastings's judgements on historical events about which passions still run high are objective and sane. So are his strictures upon the commanders and generals who held hundreds of thousands of lives in their hands. Some of these generals were hard , relentless and vain men. In 1943 General Patton struck