Good books on the early ww2 campaigns

A forum post on the Matrix forums triggered me to give a quick overview of the best and most informative books I have read on Case White,Yellow and Sealion. To be honest I did not only read books but also cross checked and found a lot of information on a plethora of websites and other games.

But for getting a feel for a campaign there is nothing going above a good read. I found out a way I really like reading about a campaign is reading the relevant chapters in (auto)biographies of the higher commanders:

Manstein, Lost Victories
Guderian, Panzer Leader
Von Bock, War diary
Franz Halder, War diary

All have big parts devoted to Case White and Yellow and some remarks about Sealion. If you like the subject matter and don’t have Manstein and Guderian yet I think you should really give them a try. They are both excellent reads and provide direct insight without a historian filtering and packaging information for you. Also both generals not only describe events but give excellent analysis.

However the following books where also informative and some help in designing the scenarios for DC:Blitzkrieg:

On Case White:
-Poland 1939, Birth of Blitzkrieg, Zaloga (osprey campaigns)
-The German Campaign in Poland, Kennedy (German report series)

On Case Yellow:
-To lose a battle, Alistair Horne
-Mei 1940 De strijd op Nederlands grondgebied, Piet Kamphuis (not translated unfortunately)

On Sealion:
-Invasion, Kenneth Macksey

Also I read a lot of either horrible or uninformative works which I will not name. However tempting it might be. Except for one since it was the one and only book I could find on the Belgium army in Case Yellow. And if its the only book its the worst and the best book at the same time: De veldtocht van het Belgisch leger in 1940, de Fabribeckers (not translated either)… how can a country of over 9 million people have only 1 book on this campaign? To be honest while doing research Belgium was my big shock. It was very hard to find any information on its army and experiences in Case Yellow. As a result of this almost half the Belgium generals depicted in DC:Blitzkrieg don’t even have a portrait picture.

Drop me a line if you know some better sources on Belgium in Case Yellow, I could have missed some sources since I haven’t tapped French language sources.

To conclude: If your looking for a good read but do not know where to start I hope my small list of books above will help you out.

Blog Appendix
My friend Eddy Sterckx went with me to an archive in Belgium and posted the following story earlier. I post it here to show how wastefully time inefficient field research can be.

Thought I’d share a funny story here. Viktor Reijkersz, developer of
Advanced Tactics, is working on a new game set in WW2 and was still
short on biographical and other information regarding Belgian Corps
generals in May 1940

As he was attending a conference over here in the weekend anyway we
made plans for doing some archive digging on Monday, yesterday. I had
contacted the Army Historical Archives department by mail and phone
and we were all set. So yesterday morning we drove over to the army
base, checked in at the Guard house and were promptly directed to the
wrong building. “oh, but you want to visit the archives ? that’s in
the *other* number 6 building” – it probably never occurred to
Belgian army guys that having 2 buildings with the same number can be
a tad confusing. Anyway, we got into that other #6 building, and yes,
it was the archive but a very friendly guy there explained that if we
wanted the *historical* archives we could find them in building 15.

Once we found that and after signing in a second time a very helpful
curator then immediately posed the 64K question : “the info you’re
looking for, is that of people born before or after 1890 ?” – we go
“uh, that’s the kind of information we’d like to find out here“ – he
then continued by carefully explaining that if the person is born
before 1890 his service record is not in the historical archives but
in the Army museum across town and we must consult it there. In
addition : if the person is born between 1890 and 1900 we must consult
his record here, but the file is actually at the museum and has to be
brought here, but if he’s born after 1900 he’s got the files.

Needless to say that after some quick checks we found that all Corps
level generals in 1940 were born before 1890 but the curator suggested
we try the “media archives” as well – why the hell that is again a
separate department I didn’t even bother to ask – so I called the
media archives only to find out that in a reorganization they were now
a part of the army pr department. So I call them and they explain to
me that the actual “media archives” are now in yet another army base …
3 miles from my home. By then we were 100% sure that if we went there
we would be told that they had moved to some other place so I made
another couple of phone calls finally tracing down the guy responsible
for the “media archives”. Yup – he had loads of stuff on May 1940 –
movies, radio broadcasts, army publications … – but uh, we wanted
*photos* – no, he didn’t have those, they got moved to the Army
museum but he was working on it to get them back. And that Army museum
was closed on Mondays.

As I had predicted to Victor we had seen an amazing display of Belgian
Army organization and efficiency that day and we surely weren’t
disappointed – if the Russians ever invade us there’s no need to hide
the army archives, they’ll never be able to find them anyway. Kafka
was an optimist who had never dealt with our bureaucracy :)

Eddy Sterckx

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