Former U.S. Marine captain and accomplished military historian Robert Asprey tells the story of the First World War from the point of view of the German general staff in The German High Command at War. Focusing on the celebrated partnership between general Erich Ludendorff and field marshal Paul von Hindenburg, Asprey recounts the duo's career from their early triumphs over the Russians at Tannenberg to the defeat of their military dictatorship in 1918.
Responding to historians who tend to lionize Hindenburg and Ludendorff, this book argues that their exemplary reputations were the result of a self-serving public-relations campaign during and after the war. Through Asprey's capable analysis, Ludendorff emerges as a fat, ruthless martinet, while Hindenburg looms as a passive, scheming narcissist. Their successes on the eastern front are portrayed as lucky breaks, the result of intercepted Russian radio transmissions. However, there were no respites on the western front, and Asprey explains how the generals' desperation, arrogance, and lack of strategic insight ultimately exhausted the German empire. Readers will find a comprehensive and lively treatment of Hindenburg and Ludendorff's military decisions and political intrigues, but this book is more than a history. Asprey's trenchant exploration of the dynamics of power and personality make The German High Command at War a warning for what can happen if militaristic imperatives dominate a government's capacity for principled leadership. --James Highfill