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Hitler's Pre-Emptive War

Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review November 2013 Title Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War
Author Henrik O. Lunde Publisher Casemate Publishing
Published 2010 ISBN 9781935149330
Format 600 pages, softbound MSRP (GBP) £13.99


A preemptive war fought with integrated land, sea and air forces.  An innovative campaign replete with swift, decisive applications of devastating power.  And a struggle singed by intelligence mistakes and failures.

Iraq 2003?  Nope: Norway 1940.

And author Henrik O. Lunde tells the whole story in Hitler's Preemptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940 from Casemate.

Lunde meticulously and masterfully musters mounds of minutiae – personalities, personnel, politics, units, deployments, equipment – to chart the complex campaign.

From military, political and economic background factors, through "flawed, inadequate, and hesitant" Allied efforts to "bold, imaginative, and reckless" German execution, Lunde cuts a path to clarity.  His level of detail sometimes proves painfully daunting.  But he masterfully illumines the significance of smaller, tactical events against larger, strategic outcomes.

Surprises abound.  Britain's almost shameless mendacities.  The sheer spate of ignored warnings before combat began.  Fierce fighting by French forces near Narvik.  Germany nearly losing its strategically critical northern toehold.

Some nitpicks intrude.  Based on armament and displacement, DKM Scharnhorst and DKM Gneisenau were, I think, more accurately "battlecruisers".  A glossary would have also helped.  Unfamiliar with naval terms?  You might not recognize "ALC".  Fast or inattentive reader?  You might miss the meaning of "HOK" or "SKL".  Those unaware of military terminology could stumble through Lunde's thicket.

Still, don't expect attempts to rationalize national actions or sugarcoat history.  Unlike some studies of this contentious campaign, Lunde's absorbing, annotated account relentlessly mines and matches multiple international sources – German, British, French, Polish and Norwegian; primary and secondary.  The resulting exercise eschews parochial political perspectives for honest, expansive analyses.  His withering scrutiny, in short, spares no participant.

By early June 1940, devastating defeats in France – magnified by massive missteps in northern Norway – decisively diverted Allied attention.  And Hitler finally cemented his Scandinavian success with five years of occupation.

From politics and economics to strategy and tactics through personalities and ploys, Hitler's Preemptive War capably chronicles the Norwegian fighting.  Most importantly, Lunde provides a prism through which students of history can examine other conflicts.  "The campaign in Norway," he declares, for instance, "is a textbook example of what to avoid when multi-national forces are involved in joint operations."

Read this able account – and luxuriate in lessons learned.

Robustly recommended.

With thanks to Casemate Publishingfor the review copy.