The best new revisionist military history books

Terence Zuber Author Of The Real German War Plan, 1904-14
By Terence Zuber

Who am I?

I have always been interested in military history and wanted to become a professional soldier. I benefitted especially from three years as the American liaison officer on the staff of the German 12th Panzer Division. German Army organization, planning and decision-making, troop leadership, and training are outstanding and made a deep impression on me. I received a superb education as a historian at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, which required history to be written from original source documents, not secondary sources uncritically accepted. My standards emphasize attention to detail in military planning and operations, and archival work in English, German, and French. As do the authors that I have selected.


I wrote...

The Real German War Plan, 1904-14

By Terence Zuber,

Book cover of The Real German War Plan, 1904-14

What is my book about?

There never was a “Schlieffen Plan.” This assertion is based on masses of previously unused German war games and archival war planning documents. The “Schlieffen Plan” required 96 divisions in a one-front war against France, when Germany never had more than 72 divisions in a two-front war against France and Russia. Real war plans do not require 24 “ghost divisions.” Contrary to “common knowledge,” Schlieffen did not have an aggressive war plan, and he never intended to attack Belgium or France. The Russians and French executed a simultaneous attack on Germany: all the initial battles took place in East Prussia and German Alsace. Schlieffen saw this coming, and planned to counter-attack on German territory. The younger Moltke never actually had a plan, but was improvising. 

The books I picked & why

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The Russian Origins of the First World War

By Sean McMeekin,

Book cover of The Russian Origins of the First World War

Why this book?

Conventional histories blame Germany for starting the First World War by “turning a Balkan Quarrel into a European war.” McMeekin shows both Germany and Austria-Hungary wanted a quick, isolated Austrian-Serbian war. It was Russia that wanted a general European war in order to seize Constantinople and the Bosporus Straits and give Russia access to the Mediterranean. Therefore, the Russians wanted France and Great Britain to tie down Germany, while Russia crushed the Austrians and seized the Balkans and the Bosphorous. And the Russians knew about the Serb plot to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in advance. McMeeken’s archival research in proving his case is impressive.


Frankreichs Außenpolitik in Der Julikrise 1914: Ein Beitrag Zur Geschichte Des Ausbruchs Des Ersten Weltkrieges

By Stefan Schmidt,

Book cover of Frankreichs Außenpolitik in Der Julikrise 1914: Ein Beitrag Zur Geschichte Des Ausbruchs Des Ersten Weltkrieges

Why this book?

Conventional histories give the French a free pass concerning the causes of World War I: the French leadership is commonly described as being literally out-of-touch (on a battleship coming back to France). Schmidt’s brilliant archival research shows that the French were fully aware that the Austrians were going to issue an ultimatum to the Serbs and encouraged the Russians to support a Serb refusal and a Russian military attack on Austria. (My addendum: the French plan is a mirror image of the Russian plan – the French would tie down the Germans in the West and the Russians hordes would overwhelm the Germans in the East.)


Contesting the Origins of the First World War: An Historiographical Argument

By Troy R. E. Paddock,

Book cover of Contesting the Origins of the First World War: An Historiographical Argument

Why this book?

Paddock brings together the work of three revisionist historians, myself, McMeekin, and Schmidt, in one slim (136 pages) volume. In particular, Paddock gives access to Schmidt’s important work on French planning for those who do not read German. Paddock not only presents German, Russian, and French military planning, but correlates them. The result is a fundamentally new and convincing picture of pre-war military planning and diplomacy.


Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

By Anthony Tully, Jonathan Parshall,

Book cover of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Why this book?

Parshall and Tully have produced a reevaluation of the Battle of Midway which makes exhaustive and critical use of Japanese sources. To this point, the sole Japanese source was Fuchida Mitsuo’s Midway, which Shattered Sword shows was “irretrievably flawed.” In contrast to previous histories of Midway, Shattered Sword pays careful attention to the critical elements of naval warfare: ship design, training and tactics, decision-making. It also debunks eight further elements of “common knowledge” concerning Japanese planning and conduct of the battle. The result is a fundamentally new and detailed analysis of Midway.


Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions

By Alan Zimm,

Book cover of Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions

Why this book?

Zinn uses Japanese sources and modern Operations Research techniques to produce a revisionist account of the attack. The Japanese planning was deeply flawed and the execution of the attack chaotic. The Japanese escaped disaster only because American defensive measures were abysmal. The Japanese attack wasn’t “brilliant,” is commonly maintained – it was dumb luck. Zinn also demolishes numerous hoary myths, for example, that the Japanese could/should have destroyed the American fuel storage tanks. Zinn’s attention to military detail produces a fundamentally new appreciation of the Pearl Harbor attack.


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