Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press


Myth, Reality, and Hitler’s Lightning War: France 1940

by Lloyd Clark

From a well-regarded military historian, a riveting and richly detailed reassessment of one of the most shocking military victories of all time.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date September 19, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2721-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $20.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date September 06, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2513-2
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00

About The Book

In the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany launched a military offensive in France and the Low Countries that married superb intelligence, the latest military thinking, and new technology to achieve in just six weeks what their fathers had failed to achieve in all four years of the First World War. The fall of France was a stunning victory. It altered the balance of power in Europe in one stroke and convinced the entire world that the Nazi war machine was unstoppable.

But as Lloyd Clark, a leading British military historian and academic, argues in Blitzkrieg, much of our understanding of this victory, and blitzkrieg itself, is based on myth. The tactic was not really new, and far from being a foregone victory, this narrative of the campaign shows that Hitler’s invasion was incredibly risky and could easily have failed had the Allies been even slightly less inept or the Germans less fortunate. There was a real fear of defeat. The Germans recognized that success depended not only on surprise but on avoiding being drawn into a protracted struggle for which they were not prepared. And while speed was essential, 90 percent of Germany’s ground forces were still reliant on horses, bicycles, and their own feet for transportation. Their surprise victory proved the apex of their achievement; far from being undefeatable, Clark argues, the campaign revealed Germany and its armed forces to be highly vulnerable, lessons not learned by Hitler as he began to plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union.


“In Blitzkrieg, Clark . . . provides a good battlefield view of a crucial phase of World War II . . . More than earlier studies, like Alistair Horne’s To Lose a Battle, Clark focuses not on generals and premiers but on the voices and experiences of the soldiers involved.” —Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times Book Review

Blitzkrieg is a particularly successful synergy of correspondence and interviews, archival material from four countries, and the massive body of published literature . . . Lloyd Clark–a prolific military historian and a master of sources–makes a strong case for an alternative perspective . . . Blitzkrieg emphasizes operational and tactical evidence to persuasively argue that the 1940 campaign was decided not by tanks and dive-bombers alone, but through an updating of German military experience infused, but not dominated, by technology.” —Dennis Showalter, World War II Magazine

“In this new volume, acclaimed historian Lloyd Clark . . . paints a very different look at the German victory . . . Clark does an excellent job of describing the first critical five days of the campaign . . . He highlights multiple opportunities the French and British had to stop the German advance at vulnerable moments . . . Lloyd presents a well-balanced narrative that highlights the knife-edge victory of the German forces.” —Jerry D. Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books

“This genuinely revisionist account of the Battle of France in 1940 proves a deeply shocking fact—we are essentially still in thrall to the view of Blitzkrieg tactics that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels wanted us to have, even over three-quarters of a century later. Lloyd Clark’s brilliant analysis proves that Fall Gelb (the Germans’ Plan Yellow) wasn’t all about unstoppable, superior panzers and Stukas, but was in fact an audacious, highly risky infantry-based plan that could have gone badly wrong given a different Allied mindset. Clark is excellent at showing the interaction between decisions taken by staffs and the terrifying reality on the ground, and elevates the vital contributions of a number of German generals, such as Rubarth and Balck, to the level of their much more famous counterparts such as Rundstedt, Rommel, Guderian, Kleist and Manstein. Above all, this fine military historian satisfactorily answers for the first time the key question: Why did Blitzkrieg tactics work so effectively in May 1940 when the Allies had already seen the way they’d ripped through Poland’s defences a full nine months earlier?” —Andrew Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War and Napoleon: A Life

“A masterly account teeming with vivid personalities and the usual mixture of heroism, incompetence, and luck . . . Clark provides plenty of juicy details and a mildly controversial reinterpretation.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A breakthrough book, bringing the drama of Hitler’s May 1940 offensive in France vividly to life—alongside a major re-appraisal of the campaign’s significance. Excellent.” —Michael Jones, author of After Hitler and Total War

“Lloyd Clark has written a lucid, intelligent and thought provoking re-appraisal of a campaign never satisfactorily covered since Alastair Horne’s To Lose a Battle in 1969. His groundbreaking detailed research will make it the seminal work on the fall of France in 1940. The story of the break-through unfolds at a fascinating and cracking pace. His revisionist re-interpretation of an oft studied campaign skillfully interweaves tensions at staff with the brutal realities their decisions had on the ground. Blitzkrieg is a remarkable book that will reshape many of the traditional assertions made about this battle.” —Robert Kershaw, author of 24 Hours at the Somme, 24 Hours at Waterloo and It Never Snows in September


In the early hours of 10 May, a proclamation was issued by Hitler which was to be read by officers to all personnel on the Western Front. Nervous and already tired, their minds in a whirl of imagination, the Reich’s warriors listened intently. The last sentences were poignant: “The battle which begins today will decide the fate of the German nation for the next thousand years. Now do your duty. The German people give you their blessing.”

Most remained silent when the message ended, but those in the SS cheered. The opening of Fall Gelb was a momentous moment after seven months of the Phoney War as the posturing, planning and preparation came to an end. Europe would never be the same again and those involved felt it, some that were privy to Fall Gelb because they had no faith in it, others because they did. The opening moves, they understood, would be critical.

Would the Allies fall into the trap or was Germany inviting disaster? Gefreiter Otto Gull, an engineer in 1st Panzer Division, was at the vanguard of the attack and later recalled:

“I had no real sense of the general plan—that was for the generals—and only an outline of what our division had to achieve. We had been told the night before that all our training had been done to push us through the Ardennes and across the Meuse. That was our objective. We were given a vague understanding that what we were doing was vital to the operation and that speed was vital. No time wasting!”