Panzer Commander Hermann Balck
Germany’s master tactician
By Stephen Robinson
Published by Exisle Publishing
RRP $44.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781925520996
Readers may remember Stephen Robinson’s first book, the excellent ‘False Flags: Disguised German Raiders of World War II’.
Now he has turned his attention to the story of Hermann Balck, who has been acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest armoured warfare commanders despite earlier assessments describing him as ‘… a notorious optimist with a reputation for ruthless aggression.’.
It was his chief-of-staff Friedrich von Mellenthin who first challenged the accepted view of Balck’s achievements in his book Panzer Battles (1956). In 1981, not long before his death at the age of 88, Balck published his own memoir, Order in Chaos, which was not translated into English until 2015.
Robinson tracks his journey through the fields of France, the mountains of Greece and the steppes of Russia in some detail, relying on Balck’s memoir to flesh out the narrative.
It is no surprise as you read the story of this man that he came from a family with a long military tradition which perhaps explains, rather than excuses, his apparent indifference to the suffering he caused to civilian populations.
Unlike his contemporaries, he took a more balanced view of Hitler’s interventions, saying only that he believed he could ‘… bridge any gaps with his iron will.’
Later in life, Balck along with Mellenthin was invited to war games in the US to help prepare the US military for a confrontation with the Russian forces in eastern Europe, an extraordinary acknowledgement from a former enemy of his capabilities in the field.
I think this book will be of great interest to readers keen on military tactics in the land domain.