Hitler's Wave Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic, Henrik O. Lunde

Hitler's Wave Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic, Henrik O. Lunde


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Hitler's Wave Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic, Henrik O. Lunde

Hitler's Wave Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic, Henrik O. Lunde

The basic question being asked here is why did Hitler insist on attempting to defend the Baltic coast, a policy that ended up trapping four experienced German armies in isolated beachheads along the coast, leaving Berlin lightly defended just as the Soviets prepared to attack the German capital. The trapped troops had been part of the force besieging Leningrad, forced to retreat after the Germans lost their hold on that city and disastrously split into several pockets by the Soviet summer offensive of 1944. The impact on Army Group Centre, which was almost completely destroyed, is the most famous result of that campaign, but it placed Army Group North into almost as disastrous a position.

The main focus of the book is on Hitler's reasons for holding the Baltic coast, how they changed over time, and if any of them were true. Hitler's views on this topic are reliably recorded, and included a desire to keep Finland in the war, Sweden out of the war, preserve the supply of key basic materials from the Baltic and Scandinavia and protect the eastern Baltic training grounds of the German U-boat force. The title of the book comes from his final theory, that these defended localities would force the Soviets to stop their advance and deal with them, or leave much larger forces outside to conduct a long blockade.

One minor irritant is the author's tendency to talk about the force/ space ratio and how it changed without ever actually explaining what it is or how events changed it. A quick note when the concept was first introduced would have been useful, ideally followed by a clear explanation of how a reduction in the length of the front could have benefited the Germans more than the Soviets, when both were fighting on the same front. The main point here is that the Germans never had enough men to defend all of the front line, allowing the Soviets to break through at a point of their own choosing,

Other than this the book is excellent. The author sticks to his plan and doesn’t get distracted. The wider fighting is only discussed when it had an impact on either the fighting in the north, or Hitler's decisions. Most of the book is organised chronologically, but some topics such as the relationship with Sweden and the new U-boats get their own dedicated chapter. The author also recognises that some of Hitler's reasons for holding on to the Baltic had some validity when they were first expressed, and examines how that changed over time. The result is a detailed examination of one of the worst of Hitler's many bad decisions in the later years of the Second World War, and a valuable addition to the literature on the fighting on the Eastern Front.

Chapters
1 - Hitler's Strategic Thinking
2 - Barbarossa's Planning and Execution - Signs of Trouble
3 - Army Group North's Years of Hope and Frustration
4 - The Retreat Begins and Finland Opts for Peace
5 - Summer of Disasters
6 - Army Group North Trapped
7 - Sweden and Germany
8 - New German Submarines and their Training Areas
9 - Overview of the Soviet Winter Offensive
10 - The Fate of the Enclaves

Author: Henrik O. Lunde
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2013



Among the many controversies of World War II, prominent is the debate over Germany's strategy in the north of the Soviet Union, as the tide of war turned, and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. In this long-awaited work, Henrik Lunde-former U.S. Special Forces officer and author of renowned previous works on the campaigns in Norway and Finland-turns his sights to the withdrawal of Army Group North.

Providing cool-headed analysis to the problem, the author first acknowledges that Hitler-often accused of holding onto ground for the sake of it-had valid reasons in this instance to maintain control of the Baltic coast. Without it, his supply of iron ore from Sweden would have been cut off, German naval (U-boat) bases would have been compromised, and an entire sympatico area of Europe-including East Prussia-would have been forsaken. On the other hand, Germany's maintaining control of the Baltic would have meant convenient supply for forces on the coast-or evacuation if necessary-and perhaps most important, remaining German defensive pockets behind the Soviets'main drive to Europe would tie down disproportionate offensive forces. Stalwart German forces remaining on the coast and on their flank could break the Soviet tidal wave.

However, unlike during today's military planning, the German high command, in a situation that changed by the month, had to make quick decisions and gamble, with the fate of hundreds of thousands of troops and the entire nation at stake on quickly decided throws of their dice.

As Henrik Lunde carefully details in this work, Hitler guessed wrong. By leaving four entire battle-hardened armies in isolation along the Baltic, the Soviets pulling up to the Oder River encountered weaker opposition than they had a right to expect. Having economic (or aid) resources of their own they cared little for Hitler's own supply line and instead simply lunged at his center of power: Berlin. Once that was taken the remaining German pockets could be wiped out. The Germans deprived themselves of many of their strongest forces when they most needed them, and the climactic battle for their capital took place.

In this book, both combats and strategy are described in the final stages of the fighting in the Northern Theatre, with Lunde's even-handed analysis of the campaign a reward to every student of World War II.
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Hitler'S Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End-Game in the Baltic, 1944-45 by Henrik O. Lunde (Hardcover, 2013)

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Speaking very generally, I've found that there are two types of war-history books. The first, where the author digs deeply into archival records to produce his/her analysis of a battle/campaign/war, and the second, where the author may do some original research but generally uses and builds upon the research of others to produce his analysis. Both types of books are perfectly legitimate in my view, and both have their place. "HITLER'S WAVE-BREAKER CONCEPT: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic" by Henrik Lunde, as the author acknowledges in his preface, falls more into the latter type.

First off, let me say that I think the title of the book is a bit off in that this isn't just an examination of the German end game in the Baltic, it covers basically everything from Hitler's strategic views and how they were developed, to how Operation Barbarossa was flawed from almost the beginning of planning, to discussing the effectiveness of Hitler's hold-fast mentality and whether his reasoning was sound. When I say the title is a bit off, I don't mean that as a criticism in the least, just that the book covers a lot more than what the title suggests.

This is not a "combat book" that goes into detail about the battles in this area, this is more a strategic analysis of the German side. It is German-centric, but I don't find this a problem, as in the latter portion of the war, the Soviet firmly had the initiative, and all German moves were to counter Soviet actions and to try to keep Finland in the war and Sweden as a friendly neutral.

I found the book to be well-written and logically laid out. I've been reading about World War II for over 30 years, so I didn't find much new here that I didn't already know, with the exception of German-Swedish relations during the war, and the German contingency plans to conquer Sweden if the Swedes swung to the Allied side. That said, as I mentioned above, the author covered a great many topics that related to German operations in the Baltic (submarine training areas, the relative lack of importance of the resources in the Baltics that the Germans needed, etc.). Seeing them all put into context in one concise book did help me better understand how and why the war in this portion of the eastern front went as it did historically.

Overall, this is a good summation and analysis of the fighting and Hitler's strategic decisions in the Baltic, primarily over the latter part of World War II. It's geared more for the average reader than the scholar of the war, but I think readers of all levels can enjoy the book. Four stars.

I bought this book because I loved his previous books on Finland and the German invasion of Norway in world war two. This book I didn’t love as much. I think the topic is a good topic, but I think how the idea was presented was a little choppy or more detail/length was needed to present the topic more fully. Instead we seem to get a very brief survey of the German intentions with a brief coverage of the operational details emerging along the Baltic.

I’m not saying it was a bad book or full of lies and bad information. Just that I think the book could have maybe been accomplished better.

But like his book with Finlands war of choice, I do think this is a topic that needs more broader coverage. Normally once the Germans get to the gates of Leningrad, you kind of don’t hear much more about military campaigns along the Baltic. Sure, you get the Russians crushing Army Group Center in the summer of 1944, but not really in the details of how it affects Army Group North, or the relations with Finland or the concerns over the Baltic. And when the Russians resume their offense, you get Warsaw and Berlin. Again, the struggle for Konigsberg and all the ports and bypassed German units (why are they bypassed. ) seem to be ignored.

That’s why I enjoyed the book as much as I did, why it didn’t cover everything perfectly, it helps fill in those gaps in the general story of the war.

I see this book differently than the two earlier reviewers. I'm clearly not as impressed with it as SanFran JT but I liked it better than T. Kunikov and thought it easier to contextualize and follow though I wouldn't refute the position that the author duplicates some material from his previous book or experienced students of the war will find little to gain from the reading. I believe causal readers of the war who have a real interest in the subject should have a generally positive experience.

The book which is German centric begins with a profile of Hitler and is the foundation for the rest of the book. It explains the dictator's obsessions and fanatical, outdated views, influenced partly by his experience in the First War, concerning rigid defenses, fortress cities and not willing to give up any ground, no matter the cost. In addition to explaining these personal views the author also includes the importance of controlling the Baltic countries and their neighboring sea, having Finland as an Ally as well as leveraging Scandinavia's prime geographic location and resources to his advantage. Many of Hitler's military decisions were based on the impact they would have on the trading and political partners to the north.
Later in the book, Mr Lunde who is a veteran with a distinguished career also includes coverage of the influence Hitler's super weapons like his new submarines and V rockets had on his battlefield decisions and his need to prolong the war to allow these weapons to mature. The author correctly points out that these weapons even if they were further along than they were, could not be built in sufficient quantities to defeat the Allies and that human and material resources would have been better invested elsewhere like in building tanks, planes or even synthetic fuel plants.

After Hitler's characterization, a summary of the war shows the deteriorating battle conditions caused by poor command decisions which resulted in deteriorating relations between Germany and Finland. The author then describes all the attempts by Hitler to save the relationship despite the cost to his Army Groups. The author, who is very critical of the dictator's position, explains why Hitler made the decisions that he did as the progression of the war is followed. The overall presentation was adequately convincing but there were several aspects of this summary that I thought were especially interesting and useful in explaining why the war, despite a successful beginning against an unprepared enemy, turned against Germany. The first of these influences is the deeply flawed planning stage of Operation Barbarossa, its subsequent poor execution and the lack of consistent strategic planning that grew out of it by Hitler and his OKH for the rest of the war. The Barbarossa plans were quickly scrapped and with Hitler at the helm, his Army Groups quickly go off course, lose solidarity of purpose and eventually become vulnerable against a larger, determined enemy that survives the initial blast, regroups and finally goes on the offensive.

Another aspect that plays an important part in the presentation concerns the poor negotiations with Finland that neglected to achieve a true steadfast relationship or understanding about motives and responsibilities between the two countries and that when Finland achieved her war aims, started backing away from Germany when she was needed the most. If Finland had continued full effort against the Leningrad perimeter in late 1941 when AGN and elements of AGC armor were trying for a complete encirclement of the city, it might have been successful. If the Barbarossa plan progressed as expected, Leningrad would have fallen with the help of the Finns, the bulk of AGN could have then contributed in the assault of Moscow. With two Army Groups attacking the Moscow sector, its encirclement might have been successful but Finland didn't whole heartedly contribute to the Leningrad encirclement, the city didn't fall and AGN was stuck at Leningrad, Moscow was never encircled and the rest is history.

The last aspect of the book to be mentioned that reinforces the author's position that Hitler's strategy was flawed is the coverage of Operation Bagration. This Soviet offensive is the perfect example that shows Hitler's fortress concept was outdated and counter-productive against a larger, more mobile enemy. Though only a battle summary the author does a nice job in describing the Soviets's offensive that quickly overcame the Germans' flawed, rigid defensive, surrounding and then destroying much of AGC in the summer of 1944 and that led to the isolation of AGN. Hitler didn't try very hard to repair the gaps between his Army Groups or to recall his AGN believing that his fortress concept in its ultimate rendition would ultimately draw off more Soviet Armies away from Germany allowing AGC to stop the Soviet juggernaut at the Oder.

The author's prime coverage is however in AGN sector and emphases the Soviet breakout of Leningrad and advancement to the Panther line and the eventual pushing of AG Courland back against the Baltic Sea and why Hitler, despite the many attempts by his commanders to persuade a pull back, favored the separation of the two Army Groups all the way to the end of the war. The advance of Zhukov and Konev through Poland to the Oder River by early 1945 is also discussed.

In conclusions, the author summarizes Hitler's motives for desperately trying to impress and keep Finland in the war, keeping Norway and Sweden trading partners, controlling the Baltic Sea and keeping as much conquered territory as possible etc. By war's end, Hitler's decisions stranded hundreds of thousands of men in Scandinavia and the Batlics that could have been used to defend the homeland. Some may say it was part of Hitler's fanaticism in wanting to place his troops in an impossible position where they would have to give their all to stay alive but by 1944 when the Luftwaffe was incapable of resupplying these fortresses and the Soviet Army too large and too mobile to be stopped by this concept of rigid defense, Hitler should have changed his strategy.

Decent notes and a bibliography are provided if further study is desired. A few simple maps that were short on details and photos are also included. Though the author had some minor miscues that weren't caught in the final stage of review before printing, the overall composition is sound.

If you're interested in learning about Hitler's defensive war philosophy, command decisions and motives, Finland's role in the war or a battle summary of AGN, AGC in their desperate struggle to obey Hitler's misguided orders while trying to survive the Soviet onslaught then this primer should be helpful and if you want to go beyond this study then the Bibliography contains excellent sources to choose from.


Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic

One of the prominent controversies of World War II remains the debate over Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union as the tide of war turned and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. Here, Henrik Lunde—former US Special Forces officer and author of renowned works on the campaigns in Norway and Finland—turns his sights to the withdrawal of Army Group North.

Applying cool-headed analysis to the problem, the author first acknowledges that Hitler—often accused of holding on to ground for the sake of it—had valid reasons in this instance to maintain control of the Baltic coast. Without it, his supply of iron ore from Sweden would have been cut off, German naval U-boat bases would have been compromised, and an entire simpatico area of Europe—including East Prussia—would have been forsaken. On the other hand, Germany’s maintaining control of the Baltic would have meant convenient supply for forces on the coast—or evacuation if necessary—and, perhaps most important, remaining German defensive pockets behind the Soviets’ main drive to Europe would tie down disproportionate offensive forces. Stalwart German forces remaining on the coast and on their flank could break the Soviet tidal wave.

However, unlike during today’s military planning, the German high command, in a situation that changed by the month, had to make quick decisions and gamble, the fate of hundreds of thousands of troops and the entire nation at stake on quickly decided throws of the dice. In this book, both combat and strategy are described in the final stages of the fighting in the Northern Theater with Lunde’s even-handed, thought-provoking analysis of the campaign a reward to every student of World War II.

Uitgeverij: Casemate
Verschenen: 2020-01-10
ISBN: 9781612001623


The Casemate Blog

We’re excited to announce that the latest release by author Henrik Lunde, Hitler’s Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic is now available from Casemate!

In this book, Lunde looks into Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union, dissecting the actions and choices of Army Group North. Lunde explains his interest in this subject in the preface of his book, where he writes:

The idea for this book goes back several decades, to when I was a student at the US Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I became curious about the question of how and why the better part of three German army groups became pinned against the Baltic Sea towards the end of World War II, and thus not available for the final defense of Germany…It is hoped that this book, by building on the research of others, will provide useful information for the student of military history on a confusing and controversial part of World War II, the outcome of which had profound consequences.

To learn more about Henrik Lunde’s Findings, get your own copy of Hitler’s Wave-Breaker Concept here.

Praise for Henrik Lunde’s Previous Works:

“While it’s almost impossible to find a new book about a hitherto unexplored WWII-related subject, it’s almost as unlikely to discover a new book that turns out to be the best yet written on the topic. . . . Henrik Lunde’s new Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War is certainly not the first book about the 1940 invasion of Norway and the battles around Narvik, but it sure looks like the best.” – Stone and Stone

“…we are used to books that highlight the strains within the Allied Coalition during the war, but Lunde makes clear things were much worse on the other side…Like the author’s previous work on the Norwegian campaign, this is likely to become the definitive book on the subject…” – Miniature Wargames


A strategic analysis of the Nazi high command’s decisions in the north, from “an established scholar of the Scandinavian theater” (Publishers Weekly).

One of the prominent controversies of World War II remains the debate over Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union as the tide of war turned and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. Here, Henrik Lunde—former US Special Forces officer and author of renowned works on the campaigns in Norway and Finland—turns his sights to the withdrawal of Army Group North.

Applying cool-headed analysis to the problem, the author first acknowledges that Hitler—often accused of holding on to ground for the sake of it—had valid reasons in this instance to maintain control of the Baltic coast. Without it, his supply of iron ore from Sweden would have been cut off, German naval U-boat bases would have been compromised, and an entire simpatico area of Europe—including East Prussia—would have been forsaken. On the other hand, Germany’s maintaining control of the Baltic would have meant convenient supply for forces on the coast—or evacuation if necessary—and, perhaps most important, remaining German defensive pockets behind the Soviets’ main drive to Europe would tie down disproportionate offensive forces. Stalwart German forces remaining on the coast and on their flank could break the Soviet tidal wave.

However, unlike during today’s military planning, the German high command, in a situation that changed by the month, had to make quick decisions and gamble, the fate of hundreds of thousands of troops and the entire nation at stake on quickly decided throws of the dice. In this book, both combat and strategy are described in the final stages of the fighting in the Northern Theater with Lunde’s even-handed, thought-provoking analysis of the campaign a reward to every student of World War II.


A strategic analysis of the Nazi high command’s decisions in the north, from “an established scholar of the Scandinavian theater” (Publishers Weekly).

One of the prominent controversies of World War II remains the debate over Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union as the tide of war turned and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. Here, Henrik Lunde—former US Special Forces officer and author of renowned works on the campaigns in Norway and Finland—turns his sights to the withdrawal of Army Group North.

Applying cool-headed analysis to the problem, the author first acknowledges that Hitler—often accused of holding on to ground for the sake of it—had valid reasons in this instance to maintain control of the Baltic coast. Without it, his supply of iron ore from Sweden would have been cut off, German naval U-boat bases would have been compromised, and an entire simpatico area of Europe—including East Prussia—would have been forsaken. On the other hand, Germany’s maintaining control of the Baltic would have meant convenient supply for forces on the coast—or evacuation if necessary—and, perhaps most important, remaining German defensive pockets behind the Soviets’ main drive to Europe would tie down disproportionate offensive forces. Stalwart German forces remaining on the coast and on their flank could break the Soviet tidal wave.

However, unlike during today’s military planning, the German high command, in a situation that changed by the month, had to make quick decisions and gamble, the fate of hundreds of thousands of troops and the entire nation at stake on quickly decided throws of the dice. In this book, both combat and strategy are described in the final stages of the fighting in the Northern Theater with Lunde’s even-handed, thought-provoking analysis of the campaign a reward to every student of World War II.


Hitler's Wave-Breaker Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic

Among the many controversies of World War II, prominent is the debate over Germany’s strategy in the north of the Soviet Union, as the tide of war turned, and gigantic Russian armies began to close in on Berlin. In this long-awaited work, Henrik Lunde—former U.S. Special Forces officer and author of renowned previous works on the campaigns in Norway and Finland—turns his sights to the withdrawal of Army Group North.

Providing cool-headed analysis to the problem, the author first acknowledges that Hitler—often accused of holding onto ground for the sake of it—had valid reasons in this instance to maintain control of the Baltic coast. Without it, his supply of iron ore from Sweden would have been cut off, German naval (U-boat) bases would have been compromised, and an entire simpatico area of Europe—including East Prussia—would have been forsaken. On the other hand, Germany’s maintaining control of the Baltic would have meant convenient supply for forces on the coast—or evacuation if necessary—and perhaps most important, remaining German defensive pockets behind the Soviets’ main drive to Europe would tie down disproportionate offensive forces. Stalwart German forces remaining on the coast and on their flank could break the Soviet tidal wave.

However, unlike during today’s military planning, the German high command, in a situation that changed by the month, had to make quick decisions and gamble, with the fate of hundreds of thousands of troops and the entire nation at stake on quickly decided throws of their dice.

As Henrik Lunde carefully details in this work, Hitler guessed wrong. By leaving four entire battle-hardened armies in isolation along the Baltic, the Soviets pulling up to the Oder River encountered weaker opposition than they had a right to expect. Having economic (or aid) resources of their own, they cared little for Hitler’s own supply line and instead simply lunged at his center of power: Berlin. Once that was taken the remaining German pockets could be wiped out. The Germans deprived themselves of many of their strongest forces when they most needed them, and the climactic battle for their capital took place.

In this book, both combats and strategy are described in the final stages of the fighting in the Northern Theater, with Lunde’s even-handed analysis of the campaign a reward to every student of World War II.


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