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Twentieth-Century Battles

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Twentieth-Century Battles

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Balkan Breakthrough

The Battle of Dobro Pole 1918

Richard C. Hall

With the transfer of German units to the western front in the spring of 1918, the position of the Central Powers on the Macedonian front worsened. Materiel became scarce and morale among the Bulgarian forces deteriorated. The Entente Command perceived in Macedonia an excellent opportunity to apply additional pressure to the Germans, who were already retreating on the western front. In September, Entente forces undertook an offensive directed primarily at Bulgarian defenses at Dobro Pole. Balkan Breakthrough tells the story of that battle and its consequences. Dobro Pole was the catalyst for the collapse of the Central Powers and the Entente victory in southeastern Europe -- a defeat that helped persuade the German military leadership that the war was lost. While decisive in ending World War I in the region, the battle did not resolve the underlying national issues there.

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The Battle for Manchuria and the Fate of China

Siping, 1946

Harold M. Tanner

In the spring of 1946, Communists and Nationalist Chinese were battled for control of Manchuria and supremacy in the civil war. The Nationalist attack on Siping ended with a Communist withdrawal, but further pursuit was halted by a cease-fire brokered by the American general, George Marshall. Within three years, Mao Zedong’s troops had captured Manchuria and would soon drive Chiang Kai-shek’s forces off the mainland. Did Marshall, as Chiang later claimed, save the Communists and determine China's fate? Putting the battle into the context of the military and political struggles fought, Harold M. Tanner casts light on all sides of this historic confrontation and shows how the outcome has been, and continues to be, interpreted to suit the needs of competing visions of China’s past and future.

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The Battle for North Africa

El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

Glyn Harper

In the early years of World War II, Germany shocked the world with a devastating blitzkrieg, rapidly conquered most of Europe, and pushed into North Africa. As the Allies scrambled to counter the Axis armies, the British Eighth Army confronted the experienced Afrika Corps, led by German field marshal Erwin Rommel, in three battles at El Alamein. In the first battle, the Eighth Army narrowly halted the advance of the Germans during the summer of 1942. However, the stalemate left Nazi troops within striking distance of the Suez Canal, which would provide a critical tactical advantage to the controlling force. War historian Glyn Harper dives into the story, vividly narrating the events, strategies, and personalities surrounding the battles and paying particular attention to the Second Battle of El Alamein, a crucial turning point in the war that would be described by Winston Churchill as "the end of the beginning." Moving beyond a simple narrative of the conflict, The Battle for North Africa tackles critical themes, such as the problems of coalition warfare, the use of military intelligence, the role of celebrity generals, and the importance of an all-arms approach to modern warfare.

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The Battle for Western Europe, Fall 1944

An Operational Assessment

John A. Adams

This engrossing and meticulously researched volume reexamines the decisions made by Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff in the crucial months leading up to the Battle of the Bulge. In late August 1944 defeat of the Wehrmacht seemed assured. On December 16, however, the Germans counterattacked. Received wisdom says that Eisenhower's Broad Front strategy caused his armies to stall in early September, and his subsequent failure to concentrate his forces brought about deadlock and opened the way for the German attack. Arguing to the contrary, John A. Adams demonstrates that Eisenhower and his staff at SHAEF had a good campaign strategy, refined to reflect developments on the ground, which had an excellent chance of destroying the Germans west of the Rhine.

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Battle of Dogger Bank

The First Dreadnought Engagement, January 1915

Tobias R. Philbin

On January 24, 1915, a German naval force commanded by Admiral Franz von Hipper conducted a raid on British fishing fleets in the area of the Dogger Banks. The force was engaged by a British force, which had been alerted by a decoded radio intercept. The ensuing battle would prove to be the largest and longest surface engagement until the Battle of Jutland the following summer. While the Germans lost an armored cruiser with heavy loss of life and Hipper's flagship was almost sunk, confusion in executing orders allowed the Germans to escape. The British considered the battle a victory; but the Germans had learned important lessons and they would be better prepared for the next encounter with the British fleet at Jutand. Tobias Philbin's Battle of Dogger Bank provides a keen analytical description of the battle and its place in the naval history of World War I., reviewing a previous edition or volume

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The Battle of Heligoland Bight

Eric W. Osborne

The battle of Heligoland Bight was the first major action between the British and German fleets during World War I. The British orchestrated the battle as a warning to the German high command that any attempt to operate their naval forces in the North Sea would be met by strong British resistance. Heligoland Island guarded the entrance to the main German naval anchorage at Kiel. Fought on August 28, 1914, the engagement was complicated by dense fog, the piecemeal engagement of German forces, and the unexpected appearance in the area of additional British ships, which were hard to distinguish from foe. Initial British damage was significant; however, fearing that the protracted battle would allow the bulk of the German fleet to join the battle, the British brought in their battle cruiser reinforcements and won the day, inflicting heavy losses on the Germans.

The battle was significant for its political and strategic ramifications for the two sides. The Germans became reluctant to engage large forces in an attempt to gain a decisive maritime victory. After this defeat, any plans for large-scale fleet operations had to be approved by the Kaiser, which hampered the German fleet's effectiveness. This left the North Sea to Great Britain for much of the war.

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The Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Last Fleet Action

H. P. Willmott

"The Battle of Leyte Gulf was an extremely unusual battle. It was unusual on five separate counts that are so obvious that they are usually missed. It was unusual in that it was a series of actions, not a single battle. It was unusual as a naval battle in that it was fought over five days; historically, naval battles have seldom spread themselves over more than one or two days. It was unusual in terms of its name. This battle involved a series of related actions subsequently grouped together under the name of just one of these engagements, but in fact none of the actions were fought inside Leyte Gulf.... More importantly, it was unusual in that it was a full-scale fleet action fought after the issue of victory and defeat at sea had been decided, and it was unusual in that it resulted in clear, overwhelming victory and defeat." -- from Chapter One

The Battle of Leyte Gulf -- October 22-28, 1944 -- was the greatest naval engagement in history. In fact the battle was four separate actions, none of which were fought in the Gulf itself, and the result was the destruction of Japanese naval power in the Pacific. This book is a detailed and comprehensive account of the fighting from both sides. It provides the context of the battle, most obviously in terms of Japanese calculations and the search for "a fitting place to die" and "the chance to bloom as flowers of death." Using Japanese material never previously noted in western accounts, H.P. Willmott provides new perspectives on the unfolding of the battle and very deliberately seeks to give readers a proper understanding of the importance of this battle for American naval operations in the following month. This careful interrogation of the accounts of "the last fleet action" is a significant contribution to military history.

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Battle of Surigao Strait

Anthony P. Tully

Surigao Strait in the Philippine Islands was the scene of a major battleship duel during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Because the battle was fought at night and had few survivors on the Japanese side, the events of that naval engagement have been passed down in garbled accounts. Anthony P. Tully pulls together all of the existing documentary material, including newly discovered accounts and a careful analysis of U.S. Navy action reports, to create a new and more detailed description of the action. In several respects, Tully's narrative differs radically from the received versions and represents an important historical corrective. Also included in the book are a number of previously unpublished photographs and charts that bring a fresh perspective to the battle.

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The Battle of the Otranto Straits

Controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in World War I

Paul G. Halpern

Called by some a "Mediterranean Jutland," the Battle of the Otranto Straits involved warships from Austria, Germany, Italy, Britain, and France. Although fought by light units with no dreadnoughts involved, Otranto was a battle in three dimensions -- engaging surface vessels, aircraft, and subsurface weapons (both submarines and mines). An attempt to halt the movement of submarines into the Adriatic using British drifters armed with nets and mines led to a raid by Austrian light cruisers. The Austrians inflicted heavy damage on the drifters, but Allied naval forces based at Brindisi cut off their withdrawal. The daylight hours saw a running battle, with the Austrians at considerable risk. Heavier Austrian units put out from Cattaro in support, and at the climactic moment the Allied light forces had to turn away, permitting the Austrians to escape. In the end, the Austrians had inflicted more damage than they suffered themselves. The Otranto action shows the difficulties of waging coalition warfare in which diplomatic and national jealousies override military efficiency.

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The Brusilov Offensive

Timothy C. Dowling

In the summer of 1915, the Central Powers launched an offensive on the Eastern Front that they hoped would decide the war. It did not, of course. In June 1916, an Allied army under the command of Aleksei A. Brusilov decimated the Central Powers' gains of 1915. Brusilov's success brought Romania into the war, extinguished the offensive ability of the Habsburg armies, and forced Austria-Hungary into military dependence on and political subservience to Germany. The results were astonishing in military terms, but the political consequences were perhaps even more significant. More than any other action, the Brusilov Offensive brought the Habsburg Empire to the brink of a separate peace, while creating conditions for revolution within the Russian Imperial Army. Timothy C. Dowling tells the story of this important but little-known battle in the military and political history of the Eastern Front.

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