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Old September 16th, 2017, 10:22 AM   #31

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The review continues with chapter ten...

Chapter Ten: Sea Lion Redux, May 1941

Chapter ten is another short chapter in which Forczyk essentially covers the situation regarding the potential for Germany launching Sea Lion later... In a sense the threat that Germany posed to Britain. A lot of this loosely based on some things hinted at in earlier chapters regarding the issue of postponement... In those chapters, Forczyk would provide reminders that SEVERAL operations were postponed during the war, including the attack on France and the attack on the Soviet Union. Forczyk in these earlier chapters also pointed to issues in that while Germany was finalizing the plans for the attack on the Soviet Union it was ALSO working on the preparations for the Balkan campaign... These points from earlier chapters need to be remembered as it relates to the opening to the chapter in which he states that Churchill seemed to lose his fear of invasion after the "Battle of Britain" in 1940, even if others, like Admiral Tovey did retain some fear...

But, Churchill retained his leadership over British war policy and committed British troops to the war in the Mediterranean, leading to the continued fighting in Libya and soon in Greece as well. With Rommel's deployment to North Africa and the invasion of Greece by the Germans, the British lost around 30,000 men, 200 tanks, 500 guns, and 10,000 other vehicles... all of which would need to be replaced by units in Britain, which, despite the fact that the British were recovering well from Dunkirk by this point, would leave them potentially vulnerable... and from there, Forczyk serves to begin to compare the developments for both Germany and Britain since 1940...

He states that both would upgrade their fighters with the British moving to the Spitfire Mk v while the Germans upgraded to the Bf 109F. He comments on the continued development of Germany's amphibious capabilities with many of the amphibious craft that weren't built in time for September 1940 continuing to be produced and developed by 1941. In this, by May 1941 Germany had actual landing craft that they could deploy and in the early parts of 1941, the German navy would get stronger with the addition of ships like the Bismarck, additional destroyers and the repair of ships that had been damaged in Norway...

However, the growth of the German surface fleet by 1941 by itself is not really a tide turning point. Forczyk does point to issues in British naval redeployments providing for a weaker presence around Britain with regard to the total number of ships, that doesn't by itself really mean that Admiral John Tovey was in real danger...

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(Admiral Sir John Tovey, Commander of the British Home Fleet by 1941)

Forczyk makes a good point that the German surface fleet would grow and that by May 1941 Tovey would have fewer ships available to directly defend Britain than was had in September 1940... but that doesn't mean by itself Germany automatically was superior. Part of this relates to the fact the siege strategy that was discussed in the previous chapter. Bismarck would enter service in 1941, but to make the 1941 invasion of Britain viable, Raeder would HAVE to commit to fighting a naval battle in the channel or in some part of the North Sea with Tovey's fleet to support the landings rather than sending his warships out on lone raids against part of his strategy against Britain. The fact that Raeder did commit to a siege strategy meant that even with German naval expansion and the deployment of greater resources from the Royal Navy to hunt German Hilfskreuzer, the situation for Britain was rather safe... as Raeder was unlikely to commit to such a battle. The growth of the German navy would mean the growth in what it could do, but not what it WOULD do, and there, much of Forczyk's points are rather speculative in nature.

Forczyk also makes the comment that many of the British destroyers that were operating in the channel by 1941 WERE now being equipped with the search radar and duel purpose 20 and 40mm guns. In this, while there may have been fewer British destroyers in the Channel by 1941, they were far more capable than they were in 1940.

At the same time, Forczyk also raises the points that by 1941 the British army had largely recovered from Dunkirk and even with troops being sent to Africa, it was getting better. The deficiencies of 1940 were largely overcome by 1941 and newer weapons were coming into service or entering manufacturing by May 1941, such as the Valentine and Churchill tanks.

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(The Valentine infantry tank, which was in series production by 1941)

Click the image to open in full size.
(The Churchill tank, which was just entering production by 1941)

Forczyk states clearly that by 1941, Britain's problems did not relate to their equipment. By that time they had recovered in that regard, however, he does still note in many ways British tactics still lacked combined arms training that would persist until 1943... which leads Forczyk to speculate briefly that had Germany went a head there would be two possible results... One is that the greater German naval strength in the immediate area (assuming Bismarck and Prince Eugen are committed to supporting Sea Lion) allows for the Germans to get more of their second wave ashore and leading to an eventual breakthrough or a longer battle of attrition mirroring what Forczyk described in Chapter Seven. He ends the chapter with the commentary that the threat of invasion remained until Germany became fully embroiled in the Soviet Union.

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) A good balance of the abilities of the Germans and British by 1941 and how things had changed He provides some detail on how both in certain ways. In this he shows that the Germans did gain in their amphibious capabilities and the British did improve the capabilities of the destroyers they had in the channel while at the same time continuing to point to where both would have trouble... Germany in trying to operate in the air during the day and dealing with improved defenses on the British coast and Britain with Churchill's committing troops to areas that weren't strategically important in the war on the whole...

2) The way Forczyk provides his balanced point on each side's capabilities. While he does present an obvious conclusion that Germany's position in 1941 would/could be stronger, he still presents the information in a way that actually allows the reader to take what he presents and come to their own conclusion based on what is presented. In this, while one may disagree with his end conclusion, his argument does give the reasoning to reach that decision.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Lacking of any presentation on people making the decisions. While by virtue of its equipment, Germany might have posed a better threat in 1941 with regard to making the landings... that isn't quite the same wanting to pose a threat. Forczyk does point to Hitler committing to his war with the Soviet Union by this point, but beyond that... there really isn't anything that is said on that. In this, he really could have stood at least provide some discussion on what sort things were going on within the German high command by May 1941 with the supposed postponed date. What was the deciding factor that kept the German strategic shift going toward the Soviets...

2) This ultimately comes out of the first flaw in that there is a lot in this chapter that one really needs to be able to understand points made in previous chapters to get some understanding on the reasoning of men like Raeder... And while remembering things from earlier chapters isn't a flaw in and of itself, Forczyk doesn't make any real reference to any previous chapter directly. In this, he's having a difficult time tying the book together...

3) The biggest potential killer in this chapter is the issue of speculation. While Forczyk has stated throughout the book that he doesn't want to get into "what if" scenarios... a LOT of what he's put in this chapter depends on speculation. And while he may give good reasoning for the conclusions he reaches, that doesn't mean someone may look at the same information and draw a different conclusion. This is especially true when much of what Forczyk sets up takes the assumption that Raeder doesn't send Bismarck and Prince Eugen out alone but keeps them to support Sea Lion... (which Forczyk points out in the previous chapter was not what Raeder intended to do with his warships).

CHAPTER THOUGHTS... The chapter does a lot to make the case that the potential threat still existed to Britain through May 1941 and Forczyk does provide good reasoning for it. However, a potential threat is not the same thing as an actual threat... and Forczyk really could have stood to do more to differentiate between the two in this chapter.
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Old September 20th, 2017, 02:55 PM   #32

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The review continues with chapter eleven...

Chapter Eleven: Hidden Benefits of Sea Lion: Germany Gains an Amphibious Capability for Other Theaters

The chapter opens to explain that the defeat of Sea Lion was not an end all for German military development, and Forczyk works hard in the chapter to prove that the defeat did bring about hidden advantages, though opening is a bit problematic...

Quote:
"Typically, it is suggested in Battle of Britain historiography that Germany gained nothing from the preparations for Seelowe.

-Robert Forczyk We March Against England: Operation Sealion 1940-1941 page 293
The introductory sentence makes a great case to set up his argument for the chapter, however, to make the argument effective, he would be best served to actually include a few passages and quotes from the historiography that he's challenging to demonstrate the point that he's challenging. However, Forczyk DOESN'T do this and goes straight into the point he's trying to make in the chapter. In this he's left his entire argument open to challenge on the basis of that vagueness. In this, while he may present good information in the chapter, he may not provide anything proves he's actually countering anything...

His argument starts with the first commissioning of Marinefahrprahms (MFPs) in 1941 and their development. This includes production numbers for them with 72 in 1941, 303 in 1942, 177 in 1943, 173 in 1944, and 13 in 1945. With the Marinefahrprahm being an actual landing craft, Forczyk argues that it greatly improved Germany's amphibious capabilities as well as other coastal roles, which would serve to allow for many operations on other fronts that would have been otherwise difficult to do without things like the MFP.

The first of these operations was Operation Beowulf II on September 14, 1941, see: Beowulf | Operations & Codenames of WWII for more information. In this, the Germans conducted a serious of amphibious landings on Soviet held islands off the coast of Estonia, in Saaremaa and Mahu. It proved to be a successful naval assault on these islands, and ones in which German light cruisers would successfully support the landings in a combined amphibious and airborne assault, combining the use of the amphibious craft developed for Sea Lion, but arrived too late, and four Messerschmitt Me 321 Gigant gliders.

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(Design of the Messerschmitt Me 321 Gigant as a glider, used in Operation Beowulf II)

The success of Beowulf II and the continued German advance into the Soviet Union soon presented further needs for amphibious operations which soon extended to the Black Sea. In this, the Germans would establish the First Landungs-Flottille at the Bulgarian port of Varna in November 1941 along with facilities to fabricate the MFP for use in the Black Sea. And here again, Forczyk provides a brief summary of successful amphibious operations undertaken by Germany, including Operation Blucher II and Operation Brunhild.

See: Blücher II | Operations & Codenames of WWII
Brunhild | Operations & Codenames of WWII

Though, with mentions of the latter operation, it would appear that Forczyk was a bit confused on how the German operations were conducted in that to the posted weblinks, Operation Brunhild was ultimately cancelled and picked up with a different operation, see: Krimhilde-Bewegung | Operations & Codenames of WWII, though it should be noted that the only thing he had wrong was the Operation name, as the link to Krimhilde-Bewegung fits Forczyk's description of the evacuation.

From discussing matters on the Eastern Front, Forczyk then moves on to the Mediterranean, where again he summarizes the impact of the programs begun with Sea Lion in mind improved Germany's amphibious capabilities. There, the Italians built up to 98 MFPs under license and the designation Motozattera or MZ as Forczyk identifies them. In the course of the fighting in Africa, Forczyk points out that they proved highly capable supply ships, as unlike more traditional vessels that needed a functional port, the MFP or MZ could move right up to the front lines and offload supplies there.

But resupply missions weren't the only amphibious operations conducted in the Mediterranean. There were others that were intended to be launched and those that were actually launched. In mid 1942, Kesselring hoped to use the available landing craft as part of an attempt to take the island of Malta, though this was cancelled when the aircraft needed were sent to support Rommel's drive into Egypt. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Herkules for more info). However, when the Axis moved into Tunisia, they did employ their landing craft to support the move into Tunisia with round the clock runs, and while the Royal Navy would destroy one Italian convoy on December 2, 1942, the shallow draft ferries proved difficult to target. In this, Forczyk speculates that had Hitler allowed it, the amphibious forces the Germans had at the time would have been able to save a good portion of the Africa Corps...

From there, he moves onto the Italian campaign, where Hitler ultimately did allow for German troops to be evacuated, where his amphibious craft were employed as a means to evacuate German troops and equipment from Sicily... See: Lehrgang | Operations & Codenames of WWII for more information. From there, the Italians dropped out of the war and the British conducted independent landings on the islands of Kos, Samos, and Leros in Greece. (See:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leros, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kos, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samos).

The Germans did counter these landings with landings of their own, which Forczyk does provide summaries for with regard to Operations Eisbar and Taifan. Both proved successful with the British failing to intercept the first and while they did inflict heavier losses on the second attempt, the Germans did manage to land and defeat the British in Operation Taifan and pointing to the claim made by Churchill that Britain didn't know defeat after El Alamein to be false, he does admit that the loss of 4,800 men in the Aegean was hardly catastrophic... and that by 1944, much of Germany's amphibious capabilities dwindled as craft remained in port in Italy or were scuttled when Romania switched sides in August 1944. The last actions of Germany's amphibious units in WW2 were to transport units of the German 15th Army, by the Eleventh and Twelfth Landungs-Flottille, across the Scheldt Estuary and by other amphibious units to evacuate 300,000 troops from the Courland pocket and 800,000 civilians from East Prussia.

The end point of these efforts was that as a result of commitments made when Sea Lion was proposed and begun, Germany had committed to improving its amphibious capabilities and probably would have suffered much heavier losses had they not done so in 1940. In this, even with the ultimate defeat that was suffered, the Germans did gain the capabilities needed to operate in situations that many would deem impossible in 1940. It is merely that the "benefits" of Sea Lion didn't appear until later in the war and in other places...

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Forczyk provides a detailed if brief summary of the amphibious capabilities that Germany gained as a result of proposal for Sea Lion. The vessels that were created with the intention of being part of Sea Lion may not have been ready in time for Sea Lion, but did ultimately contribute to the war as a whole and gave Germany the ability to undertake similar missions in other places as a result. In this, Forczyk could provide the reader that the ultimate failure in Sea Lion in 1940 might be more due to being overly ambitious and not allowing the programs in developing an amphibious capability to move forward as demonstrated by the capabilities that Germany developed later.

2) Providing factual grounds for speculative weaknesses in earlier chapters. In many ways this relates to Strength 1, but since it relates to issues that were weaknesses in other chapters, it comes as its own strength. The fact that Germany successfully pulled off amphibious landings in the face of superior British naval strength in Aegean... and with that naval strength at the time being far more capable than what Britain had in 1940... the success of Eisbar and Taifan would show that Germany was fully capable of undertaking such difficult missions and with as few resources available to them and succeeding. In this, Forczyk provides the facts that actually answer many of the speculative flaws earlier in the book. He doesn't actually remove the issue that what was put forth earlier was speculation, but provides information that would make his speculation more believable.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) A poor introduction to the chapter that relies entirely on vagueness. Forczyk makes mention on "Battle of Britain" historiography but makes no mention of any specific source. In this, his entire opening sentence can be countered with any mention of another book that makes points similar to Forczyk's, even if the source used has a different end conclusion from Forczyk.

2) Failing to put the development of German military operations in their proper names. This is probably more a editing error than a factual error, as the events he describe match the events described on the web-link in the chapter review... but that said, it could have been better edited/worded or worked in that regard.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS... With regard to the work in the chapter, Forczyk does provide plenty of information to show that German amphibious capabilities did develop during World War II and actually provides factual evidence that could reliably support the points mentioned earlier that were entirely speculative, and in this, Forczyk has managed to do what he's actually been somewhat weak on in tying the book together. There may be a lot that is dependent on speculation... but with this chapter, Forczyk has provided the evidence to make that speculation more believable...

Had he been more reliable in doing this from chapter to chapter, many of the chapter weaknesses might be completely negated and ultimately leaves a lot that still needs to be tied together in the final chapter...
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Old September 25th, 2017, 09:52 PM   #33

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The review continues with chapter twelve... (last chapter review)

Chapter Twelve: The Reckoning

What Forczyk puts for his final chapter is a short and brief effort to try and tie his points together. He reiterates the point that Germany, despite the Luftwaffe's defeat, was still in a stronger position after the Battle of Britain than Britain was and repeats his point that even with the delay in September 1940, he STILL had options available to him. He still had the U-boats and he still had his disguised merchant cruisers/raiders. In this, Forczyk argues that Hitler had the options against Britain...

Now, many may point to the decision on the Soviet Union as something he had to do, as after all, it was the focal point of "Mein Kampf," but Forczyk makes the case that if Hitler was really a man who operated on a single goal and single mission to destroy Soviet Communism, he wouldn't have allowed for the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact to begin with, as it DID require some cooperation with Stalin. It's only AFTER the fall of France that Hitler ultimately turned to it, as that smashing victory made Germany look far better... Though, yet, Hitler still committed forces to the Balkans and to North Africa at the same time, and EVEN had some forces set aside to go into Iraq... likely to aid in the Anglo-Iraq War in 1941 (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Iraqi_War). In this, he argues that Hitler's manner of command fits a von Clausewitz quote he puts at the start of the chapter...

Quote:
"The man who sacrifices the possible in search of the impossible is a fool."

-Karl von Clausewitz, Vom Krieg (1832)

Quoted by Robert Forczyk We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-41 page 304
From there, Forczyk returns to the point that Britain's position, while it may have been saved from invasion 1940, was not any stronger than it was beforehand. He argues that by ultimately deciding to fight on and avoid negotiation, Churchill ultimately doomed the British Empire, as Britain would see the loss of territory during the war to Japanese occupation and we know today that the financial costs taken fighting the war made it impossible to keep its empire after war. In this, Forczyk argues that Britain's best strategic option was to negotiate and call a "time out" as were, likely implying to jump back in once Hitler became embroiled on the Eastern Front, but the information to explain the argument is limited...

Forczyk finishes the book with the contention that Sea Lion could have provided a victory, but not a decisive one. They might achieve a crossing and occupy some territory, but wouldn't be able to overrun Britain... though it might have forced Churchill to negotiate, though he adds that Hitler would still lack the ability to defeat either the Soviets or the US. He adds that the postponement in 1940 had about the same effect on the war as a whole as the Allied decision not to land in France in 1943, it merely pushed events back... Though he ends with a reiteration of his point that both sides decided to fight their way out of their strategic problems...

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) The chapter's only REAL strength is that it provides criticism on both sides. While Churchill is rightly venerated by being able to hold the British people behind him with regard to staying in the war, but in many ways there is the room to argue that it was a strategically risky move at best, should he not get help. And the fact that Churchill's life story is full of military mistakes and failures, it wouldn't be beyond his track record to make his mistake... And equating Hitler to a fool is a given...

2) Forczyk does try to tie things together in pointing how Britain's overall position was at the end of the time period he's covering (1940-1941) in that Germany was stronger than Britain. Though... while it is an attempt... his previous chapter did a LOT better at this than this chapter did.

CHAPTER WEAKNESS:
1) Poor closing. While one could argue that the British victory in the Battle of Britain wasn't the decisive victory that legend has painted it as... as the decisive events that turned the war came largely AFTER the Battle of Britain, and if you're student of the Eastern Front in WWII, it came away from where Churchill was actively looking for help... Forczyk really doesn't END the book on that sort of note. If anything, it... fizzles out.

2) Speculation... This one has been a major flaw for a fair portion of the book, and particularly since giving his judgement on what might have happened had Sea Lion been launched in 1940. Now, at times, he's provided some information to support that speculation and has used it well, but the problem in any speculative argument is that someone else can look at the same facts and draw a very different conclusion... And in this, much of his arguments on what Britain should have done in 1940 again depends on speculation... which this time Forczyk DOESN'T provide additional information or reasoning to explain the point... In this, it's not a good way to end the book.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS: Forczyk tried to put together a good closing... and in some respects he did... but at the same time... he also didn't. A lot of the information he provides is good and makes sense... BUT the job it does to tie things together is at best average and the closing sort of fizzles. It's NOT the way you want to end a book...

+ This concludes the chapter reviews... Next will be on sources and concluding thoughts on the book as a whole.
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Old September 27th, 2017, 08:46 AM   #34

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I am actually a fan of Robert Forczyk's work. I didn't know this book existed so I will have to check it out.
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Old September 27th, 2017, 01:41 PM   #35
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I just think a 1941 was even more impossible. The RAF and Army were much stronger. This book all the way through seems totally unrealistic with out a sober analysis of the situation.
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Old September 27th, 2017, 02:47 PM   #36

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pugsville View Post
I just think a 1941 was even more impossible. The RAF and Army were much stronger. This book all the way through seems totally unrealistic with out a sober analysis of the situation.
The British army was stronger by 1941, and Forczyk does state that it was better equipped than "prepared" than it was in the immediate aftermath of Dunkirk... but the point that he wants to make is that despite having a larger army, air force, and even navy in 1941... much of those defenses were actually moved to other theaters, such as the Mediterranean rather than defending Britain itself. I believe his case is that Germany at least posed a threat into 1941 and that that threat of invasion grew after 1940, not diminished...

Which when taking into account many of Churchill's own foibles as a "military" leader does make some sense...

The biggest problem that Forczyk had, though, is that his later chapters were almost entirely dependent on speculation. He'd provide decent information and reasoning that would support his claim, but much of it is dependent on certain circumstances and actions, which at times he does contradict. In his chapter on the siege operations he is highly critical for the way Raeder sent his lone battleships to raid British convoys, thus leading to the loss of ships like the Bismarck in 1941, yet in the next chapter, much of it relies on a major change in naval strategy that Raeder never supported, namely keeping the Bismarck where it could support Sea Lion...

I'm not up to the point in the review to give a final verdict on it, yet... but I would say that this book wouldn't be the "authority" on the campaign. And mostly because so much of the end judgements are so reliant on speculation. It might be something to have on hand to balance with other literature on the campaign... but not the SOLE material for the campaign.
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Old September 30th, 2017, 04:30 PM   #37

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pugsville View Post
These is just wrong. The germans were massively short of Major warships. I Battle cruisers and 2 cruisers, outnumbered by the Royal navy 30 -1.Short just does not convoy the crippling inadequacy of the German navy compared to the British.
Actually they had NO battlecruisers, both had been torpedoed by RN subs off Norway and were unavailable. They had 1 CA, 2 or 3 CL and 1 Panzershliffe. (Admiral Scheer)
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Old October 8th, 2017, 11:23 AM   #38

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The review continues with the bibliography...

Bibliography... and Notes...

Forczyk provides a lengthy series of notes, running from page 336 to 352 where he does provide some additional reference information or the specific source for which he was using. Though it should also be noted that some sources listed in his notes section are NOT listed in his bibliography. This then runs to his Bibliography on page 353 which he has organized between primary and secondary sources, which are as follows:

Primary Sources
Copies of the minutes of British War Cabinet meetings for 1940-41 are available at the website hht://www.ukwarcabinet.org.uk/time/1940.

Secondary Sources
Walter Ansel - "Hitler Confronts England"

Kurt Assman - "Sea Lion, Naval Institute Proceedings"

Clay Blair - "Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters, 1939-1942"

Stephen Bungay - "The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain"

Basil Collier "The Defence of the United Kingdom, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series"

Anthony J. Cumming "The Royal Navy and the Battle of Britain"

David Edgerton "Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War"

Martin Matrix Evans "Invasion: Operation Sea Lion 1940"

Peter Fleming "Operation Sea Lion"

Julian P. Foynes "Battle of the East Coast"

Geoff Hewitt "Hitler's Armada: The Royal Navy & the Defence of Great Britain, April-October 1940"

Robin Higham "Unflinching Zeal: The AirBattles Over France and Britain, May-October 1940"

ER Hooten "Phoenix Triumphant: The Rise and Rise of the Luftwaffe"

Richard Hough and Dennis Richards "The Battle of Britain: The Greatest Air Battle of World War II"

Stuart Hylton "Kent and Sussex 1940: Britain's Front Line"

Egbert Kieser "Operation Sea Lion: The German Plan to Invade Britain, 1940"

Karl Klee "Das Unternehmen Seelowe, Vol. 2, Die geplante deutsche Landung in England 1940. Dokunmente zum Unternehmen Seelowe"

Kenneth Macksey "Invasion: The Alternate History of the German Invasion of England, July 1940"

Jak P Mallmann Showell "Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 1939-45"

Leo McKinstry "Operation Sea Lion: The Failed Nazi Invasion That Turned the Tide of War"

David J Newbold "British Planning and Preparations to Resist Invasion on Land, September 1939-September 1940"

Stanley G Payne "Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany, and World War II"

Alan Philson "Order of Battle of the Land, Sea, and Air Forces of the United Kingdom 30th September 1940"

Michael M Postan "British War Production"

Derek Robinson "Invasion 1940"

Peter Schenk "Invasion of England 1940: The Planning of Operation Sealion"

Adrian Searle "The Isle of Wight at War 1939-1945"

Monika Siedentopf "Unternehmen Seelowe: Widerstand I'm deutschen Geheimdienst [Operation Sea Lion: Resistance Inside the German Secret Service]"

STRENGTHS:
1) His bibliography is well organized in allowing the reader to determine what is a primary source and what is a secondary source.

2) Forczyk has used an abundant number of sources that provide information for both sides of the battle and the time period. In this, it would be clear that he is not making things up.

3) Forczyk does not list himself as one of his sources for the book, which is a big thing given that in his efforts to point to the growth in Germany's amphibious capabilities during World War II, he makes some references to fighting in the Crimea, which he covers in a different book, "Where the Iron Crosses Grow: The Crimea 1941-44." And to me, this is a big strength. As while the information would be relevant, using yourself as a source carries the potential source of criticism that the author in question is the only source for the opinions reached in the book. This was something I found as a major weakness in John Mosier's book on the Battle of Verdun where Mosier used another of his own books as a source for that book. Forczyk doesn't do that and can thus show that he's working with sources and opinions not created by him...

WEAKNESSES:
1) Lack of primary sources. While Forczyk does have a large number of sources, most of them are stated to be secondary sources. In fact he has only one primary source, which focuses on the British government. And in this... his source material is not suited to any sort of scholarly argument or for a scholarly book. When writing a history, and particularly one where you're going to be challenging many aspects of the accepted history, you MUST provide and use a fair number of primary sources that cover all aspects of the issue. Doing this assures that the opinion put into the book is solely the author's and can be verified when the sources are cross-referenced...

One cannot do that with this book, however, as there is only one primary source listed. And while secondary sources can be helpful, one also needs to remember with them that information taken from them may reflect that historian's opinion rather than the author's, in this case Forczyk. The heavy reliance on secondary sources could also make confirming arguments made in the book to be difficult, as it could be possible that the information used from the secondary sources could be wrong or mistaken. This is another reason why a large number of primary sources are expressly needed...

The only way this could be offset is that Forczyk didn't list all the primary sources used or was confused on whether or not some of his other sources were primary or secondary sources... but if that is the case, than they would have OTHER weaknesses.

And in this, this one weakness pretty much negates ALL of the bibliography's strengths.

2) The use of a potentially speculative source. Forczyk has stated through the book that he's wanted to avoid the proverbial speculative "what if" question. However, it's been noted that particularly in his later chapters he was essentially relying on speculation. And in the use of the book "Invasion: The Alternate History of the German Invasion of England, July 1940" would demonstrate a reliance on speculative or potentially speculative sources.

THOUGHTS... Based on how things are sourced... While it is clear that Forczyk has provided a large number of sources... what he's provided would be better suited for a school paper than a published history. And the fact that his primary source also only focuses on the British side of the war, it's clear that his source material is anything but complete...
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Old October 12th, 2017, 05:34 PM   #39

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The review concludes with THE STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES of We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-41 by Robert Forczyk.

(These are my final thoughts on the book and whether or not the book is worth buying in my opinion... Anyone and everyone is free to add their thoughts and discuss what they felt on the book...):


On the whole, it is clear that Forczyk has written his book to try and make the case for what he lays out in the book's introduction... that the conflict between Britain and Germany was more than just the air battles between the Luftwaffe and the RAF... that Germany went through a remarkable amount of preparation to ready amphibious forces, given the time allowed, and that in many ways things like the Royal Navy, which have often been used as a means to argue that there was no way Britain could lose are not as accurate as one would be lead to believe...

But remembering the book's introduction, it must be remembered that Forczyk is clearly arguing for a revisionist look at Operation Sea Lion and everything that went around with it. It ultimately means that he needs to be able to persuade those who may be either firm believers in what Forczyk believes as the "orthodox" argument in that there was no way the RAF could lose or that the Germans never intended to invade from the start. And that issue was the biggest challenge going into the book...

And in the course of trying to do so, Forczyk has provided plenty of strengths and weaknesses for the book on the whole...

THE BOOK'S STRENGTHS:
1) In general, Forczyk provides a lot of detailed information, particularly in the early chapters. This relates to the strategic situation, the development of Germany's amphibious warfare elements, and the defensive capabilities of the British and so on. This use of detail has meant that many chapters are rather lengthy, but he's often managed to organize that information well enough that it can still be followed. Forczyk has also done a good job of providing maps, tables, and other material that would help understand the information he's presented.

2) In many ways the book is rather balanced, which could be rather astonishing when considering that by its nature it is a revisionist book with the intent of proving that Sea Lion was not as "dead on arrival" as many would make it seem to be. In this, while Forczyk does point to Churchill's mistakes and decisions that could have potentially hurt Britain, he has also pointed to issues where Germany's own command and abilities was not "the best" of everything. He's critical of Germany's intelligence gathering capabilities and makes an effort to point to the actions of men like Raeder that effectively slowed the development of Germany's amphibious capabilities and assured that the German Navy wasn't going to take the risks needed to support the invasion, but would take the risk of raiding British convoys alone. In this, Forczyk is rather balanced and isn't trying to run wild with claiming the Germans are invincible as Mosier did in his book on Verdun...

3) An emphasis on actions taken. Throughout the book, Forczyk tries hard to keep a focus on the things that were done, be it the movement of troops to other theaters by Britain or by the efforts to develop amphibious landing craft. Now, one can probably find various random quotes that argue that the actions taken were nothing more than a sham or part of some larger game... or base an argument solely on some quotes made... but one needs to remember that actions speak louder than words. Just because one is recorded as saying something... that DOESN'T mean what was said was accurate, relevant, or taken in context. For example, one could take the quote Robert E. Lee gives at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg and then make the claim that Lee was referring to the war as a whole, as Lee says, "all this has been my fault." By providing a focus on the actions, Forczyk avoids the issue of making quotes taken out of context...

THE BOOK'S WEAKNESSES:
1) While Forczyk tries hard to avoid it... and even states that he doesn't want to get into it... there is a LOT in the book that is utterly dependent on speculation. Now, speculation isn't entirely a bad thing, as just about any historian will speculate on things, particularly when they're providing some analysis on things, but one STILL wouldn't want to rely on speculative arguments. Because the problem of speculation is that you can take the same set of facts and let two different historians look at those facts and potentially get two different conclusions. The facts themselves didn't change, but the conclusions made based on those facts could be different based on the opinions of the historians judging those facts... THAT is why speculative arguments have the potential to be weak...

And while Forczyk stated he wished to avoid it, he couldn't get away from it in the later chapters of the book. In many ways, it's almost as if he was relying on speculation in those later chapters, with his commentary on "if the Bismarck had been kept closer to home to support Sea Lion in 1941" being the most obvious point. Forczyk could and did provide valid information to suggest that had that been done that Germany's naval position would actually be stronger in 1941 than it was in 1940... but it's still speculation as we know that the Bismarck was never considered for supporting Sea Lion. It was sent to raid British convoys and was ultimately sunk by the Royal Navy... alone and unable to do anything...

2) Poor analysis of people. While Forczyk is right to point to the potential problems posed by Churchill's decision to stand and fight in 1940, it really needs to be remembered that negotiating with Hitler was what had been done before... And there we need to remember that Chamberlain's policy of appeasement did nothing to stop Hitler from swallowing up territories. In this, while negotiating with Hitler might have saved the British Empire from falling and might have let Britain regain its strength after the fall of France, there is no guarantee that Hitler wouldn't take the opportunity to come back and bite them again later or that Hitler wouldn't seek to humiliate Britain as an act of revenge for Germany's defeat in WWI. In this, one could argue that Churchill in his efforts to fight on and get American support weren't mistakes... The end consequences may not have been great for the British Empire, but Forczyk provides very little that would actually indicate there was reason to believe that Churchill would have real reason to think he had other choices...

In this, if Forczyk wished to make that sort of case, he would need to provide some look at Hitler and trying to make a case for Hitler being magnanimous or that there would be reason to believe that Hitler's going back on his promises regarding Eastern Europe was limited TO Eastern Europe. However, Forczyk never bothers to do this. In fact, through the book and particularly at the end of the book, he remains very critical of Hitler's decision making and regarding the decision to go into the Soviet Union a great mistake that effectively cost him the war. Because of this, he doesn't give the reader anything to indicate that Churchill had reason to trust Hitler, and as such he under cuts his own criticism of Churchill by failing to provide anything that would actually support his criticism of Churchill.

This goes further into looking into Raeder's character and in relation to the speculative arguments made. As Forczyk does make the speculative argument about having the Bismarck kept to support Sea Lion in 1941... Not only is that argument speculative, it's under cut by his own criticism of Raeder with regard to how Raeder looked at the siege efforts to be made against Britain. Forczyk argues that Raeder, who argued against Sea Lion because it would risk his ships was MORE than willing to risk his ships in raids against British convoys, where they would be bound to be sunk if they were caught. In this that analysis undercuts his own speculation, as it would rely on Raeder changing to a strategy that Forczyk argued he wasn't going to do.

3) A failure to address the various quotes out there that would counter his argument. While actions do speak louder than words, that doesn't mean you'd wish to discount things that are said entirely. Even if certain quotes are to be judged to be either false or taken out of context, you'd still wish to address these quotes or provide some evidence that they WERE taken out of context. Forczyk makes no real effort to address these quotes. And while the actions that he covers may help his case... to those that believe the various quotes made claim that the Germans never intended to even go... those actions will only be turned as a means to reinforce the quotes they believe in. That the actions are only as part of the bluff, because "Hitler said so." In failing to address these things, Forczyk isn't going to persuade anyone that doesn't agree with his conclusion...

4) A poor job of tying the book together... And this is a major weakness given that Forczyk stated in the introduction that he wished to take a holistic approach to the conflict between Britain and Germany. In order to do so, he REALLY needed to present a narrative that would tie EVERYTHING together. How the siege efforts related to the air battles and so on. Now, in many ways, Forczyk does try to attempt this, and it is clear that he does provide information that shows that these events are tied together... but the way in which he does this comes off as rather clunky. There is no clear and easy transition. In this, while the reader may see where various things connected, it doesn't transition well enough to be easily understood.

5) Inconsistent chapter length... Forczyk starts the book with several chapters that are quite lengthy. They are detailed and informative, but lengthy. Now, had they remained consistently long, this wouldn't have been that much of a major weakness. It may have been a weakness if you're looking for something you can read in an afternoon, but it would have had the length to be of value as a scholarly book. However, many of the late chapters are rather short, which then makes much of what Forczyk is trying to do harder to rationalize. It makes the speculative weaknesses bigger as there is less information in them to make that speculation be more rational or better supported. And in this, Forczyk could have stood to do one of two things...

The best option would be lengthen the later chapters with additional information that would either explain certain options... such as why the "Isle of Wight" gambit was never attempted, and thus provide the rationalization to explain the various speculative points that Forczyk ends the book relying on.... He could also shorten the earlier chapters into smaller chunks that focus on more specific information. Such as instead of a long chapter on ALL of Germany's weapons, provide a series of shorter chapters that look at the German army, air force, and navy. Such steps could allow for either more detail or allow for easier comparison between Britain and Germany. But shortening the earlier chapters by dividing them up would not fix the speculation issues...

FINAL THOUGHTS... DOES FORCZYK PROVE HIS THESIS PRESENTED IN HIS INTRODUCTION?
Honestly... no. There is a lot that he provides that is helpful and informative, but because of the weaknesses the book has as a whole, Forczyk doesn't fully persuade anyone of the case he makes in the introduction...

The speculation he relies on to end the book isn't going to convince anyone who believes the threat was real, but Germany never had a chance against the RAF or the Royal Navy.

The fact that he doesn't address the various quotes often used to "prove" Sea Lion was a bluff is only going to mean that those who hold that belief will only use the actions Forczyk describes as "necessary" in order to execute the bluff.

In this, about the only ones who are likely to fully agree with Forczyk are those who were likely to agree with him to begin with, and thus DIDN'T NEED to be persuaded.

FINAL THOUGHTS: IS IT WORTH IT?
That's really going to depend on what you want to get out of the book. If you're looking for one book to inform you on the Battle of Britain and Operation Sea Lion... then the answer is no. It's not worth it. There are too many weaknesses that will only lead to confusion if you're only looking for ONE book on the campaign...

However, the book does provide a good reference for the development of Germany's amphibious capabilities and an idea of what Germany could do. It does provide an interesting alternative look at the campaign. In this, it would be worth it if you wish to compare it with other books on the subject and use it as part of a library to use it as a complete picture from that library of information...

But if you're looking for one book on the subject... no.
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