Recently I picked up a book entitled Cross of Iron: The Rise and the Fall of the German War Machine by John Mosier. Notice how a lot of WWII books happen to start with Rise and Fall, probably in sincere flattery to the classic by William Shirer. I began reading the introduction, and about 4 pages in I tossed the book on the floor.
Let me begin by mentioning I have a very open mind ,and I don't think I have ever put down a history book even if I didn't agree with all of the views. But after four pages of revisionism, exaggerated claims and disconnected logic I could not read anymore. To paraphrase, he essentially claims there is no reason not to believe that the United States won WWII by itself at one point. He also mentions that Allied: German casualties in the first world war were equal, then on the very next page claims they were three to one. The whole style of writing struck me as bitter and sloppy. It reminded me of a man who is trying to win an argument by yelling louder than everyone else, rather than by substance.
Why Revisionism is Good
Historical revisionism is without a doubt essential to the historical process because it challenges entrenched schools of thought, lest historians be blindsided by new thinkers like Gamelin was against Guderian and Manstein. Even if a piece of revisionism is ultimately wrong it can be very helpful. In essence the method of a scientist is to provide a theory that fits the facts (often what historians do) and then attempt to prove himself wrong to prove himself right. The only way we can boil history down to its pure facts is by attacking what we already know.
Problems with Revisionism
As long as an argument has a solid logical base and fits to the facts it is wortwhile. It is often better to take a look outside of the seminal texts on a subject rather than running the risk of wasted time. When I look at most historical texts I can often sense the trains of thought of other authors that I recognize inside the particular book, and when I look at the footnotes I often find that I was right. Military history is a very small community, and we are sometimes at fault for circular references between authors back and forth to reinforce our points.
As for the novel by Mr. Mosier, I do not recommend reading it unless you are capable of separating historical fact and historical fiction, because he does make some interest points. One of the best is "why if France so good in WWI did they get beat so easily in WWII?" The point he makes, which I agree with, was not that Germany was so bad in WWI, but that they were very good and got even better twenty years later.
Should be a new post upcoming this weekend, might be about gaming. I have been flying the ME-109 a lot lately in simulators and I want to post my impressions of it.
Format Note: I have noticied that re-reading my blog that a long series of paragraphs can be daunting to read and does a disservice to my readers. Therefore from now on I will try to develop sub headings and edit my old posts the same way.