In The Battle of the Marne, the distinguished WWI scholar Holger Herwig argues that the opening battle of the war was perhaps the most significant land battle of the 20th century. At the very least, the Marne was the most decisive land battle since Waterloo (1815).
First, the scale of the struggle was unheard of before 1914: France and Germany mobilized roughly 2 million men each, Britain some 130,000. During the momentous days between 5 and 11 September 1914, the two sides committed nearly 2 million men with 6,000 guns to a desperate campaign along the Marne River on a front of just 200 kilometers between the "horns of Verdun and Paris."
Second, the technology of killing was unprecedented. Rapid small-arms fire, machine guns, hand grenades, 75mm and 77mm flat-trajectory guns, 150mm and 60-pounder heavy artillery, mammoth 305mm and 420mm howitzers, and even aircraft made the killing ground lethal.
Third, the casualties ("wastage") suffered by both sides were unimaginable to prewar planners and civilian leaders alike: 200,000 men per side in the Battle of the Frontiers around the hills of Alsace-Lorraine and the Ardennes in August, followed by 300,000 along the chalky banks of the Marne in early September. No other year of the war compared to its first five months in terms of death.
Fourth, the immediate impact of the draw on the Marne was spectacular: the great assault on Paris had been halted and the enemy driven behind the Aisne River. France was spared defeat and occupation. Germany was denied victory and hegemony over the Continent. Britain maintained its foothold on the Continent.
©2009 Holger Herwig (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
Unfortunately what was undoubtedly a well written and comprehensive study of this important battle was ruined by the continued mispronunciations by the American narrator. He had obviously studied some of the French pronunciations of people but most of the place names were almost unrecognisable. This was a continued distraction from trying to concentrate on the important troop movements and picturing them as they were on the map. Can we please have our history in English and not American?
It is a strong entry on an operational level of World War I history. There are many excellent books on the First World War, but many of them deal with cause and effect - what started the war and how it ended. Books such as The Guns of August and Paris 1919 are superb in this respect. But there care few books that deal with World War I at the operational level of a specific battle or battles and this one covers the Battle of the Marne quite well.
I especially liked author Holger H. Herwig's descriptions of color. World War I is known as mainly a black and white war. There are very few color photos available and Herwig does a fine job in describing the colors of the war, for example, the uniforms. It gives you a unique visual sense of the war that other books do not.
One reviewer noted the unwelcome reading all the footnotes. While I agree that it can be a bit distracting at times, I do not feel it is enough to detract from the strong narrative.
The Marne, 1914 is a welcome addition to the field of World War I histories.
"Narrator is Cringe-Worthy, Book is Superb"
No, I would only suggest someone opt for the audiobook if they know they won't have time to read the print version.
It is comparable in style to Herwig's other works, in that is is very well written - both from a historical standpoint and a literary standpoint. Herwig makes use of colorful anecdotes and personal accounts to add flavor to the historical narrative, so someone wanting to get their study of WWI off the ground need not fear his writing.
The narrator actually has a very pleasant voice. His diction is excellent. However he has trouble pronouncing the French and German names and words that appear regularly in such a text. He pronounces "Elsaß" as "Elsahb", "Moltke" as "Moltkey", and makes many other errors that will slowly build in frustration for listeners who have even a cursory familiarity with either or both languages. At first I thought I would be able to get over it, but the frequency and severity of these mistakes borders on comical.
Yes, but that would've been near impossible.
While I don't agree that more detailed operational maps are necessary, it is important that any would-be listeners familiarize themselves with the geographical areas in discussion before diving into this title.
"Compelling Story Ruined by Narrator"
I could not finish listening to this audio book. While the story itself is clearly compelling, the rubbish narrator utterly ruins it.
For me, this kind of subject matter doesn't work as an audio book. It is hard stuff. Perhaps if I could not read and had no alternative, I would go for it. Otherwise, no.
Good background and description of events leading up to the war.
The narrator mispronounces people's names and places. And he pronounces the same place different ways (like Alsace). It utterly ruins the narrative, and complicates any further research one might care to make. I finally tore my headphones off in disgust.
Get a refund from the narrator and have someone else do it. Who vets these narrators out, anyway? Shame on them.
"Good, but LEAVE OUT FOOTNOTES!!!"
I would have rated this a solid 4 stars all-around, BUT the producers (or whoever's responsible) of the audiobook decided it was CRUCIAL to have the narrarator READ THE FOOTNOTES!!! This is ridiculous, annoying, and distracting. Please authors, take note, DO NOT HAVE THE NARRARATOR READ THE FOOTNOTES!! If it's that important to you, then include them as a pdf to the audiobook. But let THE LISTENER make that decision of whether to research the footnotes, DO NOT FORCE IT ON US!! It made this, otherwise very good book, into something that was just plain annoying after the first hour.
Narrarator was very good, and this rating is no reflection on him. It is ONLY a reflection of whoever the genius is that decided to make him read the footnotes. I've listened to over 20 books on WWI and WWII, and this is the first I've come across where the reader read the footnotes to me.
"Herwig has new information about the battle"
The battle of the Marne is regarded as the most decisive land battle since the allies defeated Napoleon at the Waterloo in 1815. The Marne was the opening battle of World War One. Herwig primarily looks at the battle from the German view point. Once the decisions that led to the war have been dealt with Herwig covers the mobilization of both sides, and the respective war plans. He notes, however, that both French and German war plans were not nearly as well developed as earlier scholarship has argued. Herwig also provides a careful analysis of the strengths and weakness of the British, French, German and Belgian armies. The author then goes in-depth of the conduct of the campaign. Herwig criticism of Helmuth Von Moltke, German Chief of General Staff, conduct of the campaign is not related to any change in the concept of the plan, but rather to Moltke’s failure to exercise any control over the German forces as they went forward. Moltke tended to stay far away from the action and the means of communication available did not allow for close supervision. Conversely, Moltke’s opponent French General Joseph Joffre took a much more hands-on-approach. Joffre’s skill at maintaining command and control improved as the French retreated on Paris. Using material from the East German archives after the end of the Cold War Herwig carefully reconstructs the controversial mission under taken by OHL staff officer Richard Hentsch in September 1914. The end result of which was order issued to German right wing Armies to retreat, marking a failure of the campaign. Using the material from East German archives, he found that Hentsch did not give the order it was General Karl Von Bulow, Commander of the German Second Army, who did have loose authority over General Alexander Von Kluck’s First Army. The German’s retreat a short distance and dug in building trenches and the allies followed and the war changed into a stationary war from a mobile war. Herwig regards the battle of the Marne impact to have been spectacular: Germany was denied victory and hegemony over Europe; France was spared occupation; Britain maintained its foot holds on the continent. Without the Marne, places such as Verdun, the Somme, and Passchendaele would not resonate with us as they do. Without the Marne, no Lenin, no Stalin, No Hitler. The 100th anniversary of the Marne will soon be upon us, we need to remember and honor the 200,000 plus men that died in the Battle of the Marne. General Joseph Joffre, the French Commander said “I don’t know who won the battle of the Marne, but if it would have been lost, I know who would have lost it.” Kevin Stillwell did a good job narrating the book.
"Appallingly BAD Narration and Uninspired History"
The narrator is very, very out of his depth. His tone is both amateurish, and colloquial while his pronunciation of French names and places is embarrassingly bad. I found it difficult to 'stick it out' and finish the book.
Herwig is simply no Barbara Tuchman and he should have taken a different approach to his book. Nevertheless, he did not and in the first half of his book he decides to cover much the same ground as Tuchman's 'The Guns of August' but with none of the elegance and essential grasp of the fundamentals that her work still exhibits today.
To his credit he does bring new insight to the German perspective with his access to previously unavailable German archival material, but its largely botched with colloquial, thin and weak arguments. For example, one of Herwig's critical thesis is that Kluck should have disobeyed orders from German High Command and pursued his attacks at he battle of the Marne. This is a incredibly tenuous assertion as it flys in the face of the entire German command structure that notoriously stressed obedience and deference to chain of command. Kluck was given an order from an aide-de-camp of German High Command (Moltke) who had the clear authority to issue orders to Army-level commanders. All German command officers knew and understood this. To think that a Prussian-trained officer, imbued for decades to obey the chain of command would suddenly disobey orders and potentially put his Army and the entire campaign at risk is untenable and frankly rather silly.
In addition there are several times in the text where the author slips in basic history. For example when he describes the German advance through the battleground of Waterloo he describes that battle being fought in the rain. For a military historian to botch something so simple as the weather of a seminal battle such as Waterloo makes the reader begin to doubt his grasp of the main material. Sloppy.
"OK Story, Bad Narration"
This book is organized and edited poorly, but the story of the Marne is fascinating. The narration is horrendous - Kevin Stilwell mispronounces 95% of the French, from "Verdoon" to "Joffree". After a while, when he says something correctly in spite of himself, it really shocks and disorients you.
"Good Book but Where Was the Editor/Director?"
I'm just getting started in reading about the Marne, but this seems like a good place to begin: you've got the principal characters, the political background, an overview of the first six weeks on the Western Front, as well as detailed movements of armies, corps, and divisions, and personal vignettes.
Who ordered the German retreat and why? What was Lt Col Hentsch's real influence? Was there a failure of nerve, whose was it? What aboutt Joffre: heo or goat? How do you explain German atrocities in Belgium? Was French a help or hindrance to the French? Who had more on the ball, Bulow or Kluck?
I figure the narrator needed supervision in pronunciation: 'Foch' is a French name, right? So the last sound shouldn't be a hard 'k', making it a near obscenity. 'Joffre' shouldn't end like 'Jeffrey', or 'Moltke' like 'monkey'. 'Kluck' isn't pronounced the way it looks. You can't hear an 'l' in the Marseillaise, or a 'z' or long 'e' in the Aisne. There's no 'dune' in 'Verdun', or 'jayz' in the Vosges. Isn't this audio book produced by a company in the business of reading books professionally. Don't they have editors and directors on staff with at least access to google? Why did they let mispronunciations like these slide, in some cases repeating them a score or more times? Don't they know after a while it gets really annoying?
Sure, but the principals I'd like to see would all have to be close to retirement, for that's apparently the reason, according to the book, the Germans fell apart, the age and illness of Moltke and Bulow. But I'll take a shot. Joffre, John Goodman? Moltke, Clint Eastwood? Bulow, Robert Redford? Just kidding!
"Ok but nothing great"
No. Nothing really. The battle itself is not deeply covered and the bulk of the book is more enjoyablj covered by Tuchman.
yes. Not a bad writer, I was expecting more about the actual battle itself
Good reader for the material
"Best audiobook around on June - Sept. 1914."
Yes. Professor Herwig is a WWI scholar of the first water. This book breaks down (from corps to division and regiment level action) all of the early engagements leading up to the Battle of the Marne. You will not find another audiobook that comes close to this book. Put it this way - The Battle of Guise / St. Quentin is given 1hr 20 minutes. Find another audiobook that even approaches this coverage - good luck, it aint there.
The fact that Audible had it in them to put this book on audio. You guys have probably 12,000 books about some lame ass shirtless loverboy bif vampire or vampire hunter blah blah blah character pouting about whatever. Get out of that rut. Fire the mushy pussbags who think those kinds of books are what listeners want. At least think of cutting back on that tired genre for a while and give us more books like The Marne, 1914.
He doesn't do characters and he doesn't throw out some canned euro accent when reading something written or said by some German General. His pace and tone work well.
German soldiers let down by weak-kneed, indecisive "Gloomy Julius"! or Give von Kluck back those 2 corps you ripped from him and needlessly sent east just in time for them to watch Hindenburg's victory parade after Tannenberg! or Milktoast Moltke blows it!
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.