Military history


The information for this book came principally from the participants themselves—the men of the Allied armies, the German troops they fought, and the Berliners who survived the battle. In all, over two thousand people contributed to the book. Over a three-year period beginning in 1962, some seven hundred men and women provided written accounts as well as interviews. They gave me memorabilia ranging from diaries to maps, and from personal accounts to cherished scrapbooks. The names of these people appear in the list of Soldiers and Civilians.

Their information was fitted into a military skeleton developed from American, British, Russian and German sources. Unit after-action reports, war diaries, division histories, intelligence summaries and interrogation reports were obtained, along with personal interviews from key military and governmental figures of the period, many of whom turned over to me their own files, documents and notes. The total accumulation of research filled ten filing cabinets and contained such disparate information as the amount of fuel in Berlin gasometers before the battle and the fact that Marshal Rokossovskii wore a wrist watch with a built-in compass.

An enormous number of people helped on the project. It could not have begun at all without Lila and DeWitt Wallace of the Reader’s Digest, who placed at my disposal the vast research resources of their organization and who underwrote many of the costs. I would like to pay tribute to my friend Hobart Lewis, President and Executive Editor of the Digest, who was unstinting in his efforts to make the book possible. I also want to thank those men and women in the Digest’s bureaus in the United States and Europe who collected research and interviewed scores of participants. It would be unfair to single out any particular individuals. I would like instead to name them in alphabetical order by bureau. Berlin: John Flint, Helgard Kramer, Suzanne Linden, Ruth Wellman;London:Heather Chapman, Joan Isaacs; New York: Gertrude Arundel, Nina Georges-Picot; Paris: Ursula Naccache, John D. Panitza (Chief European Correspondent); Stuttgart: Arno Alexi; Washington: Bruce Lee, Julia Morgan.

Thanks must be given to the U. S. Department of Defense for permission to research in the historical archives. In particular, I want to acknowledge the help of Brigadier General Hal C. Pattison, head of the Office of the Chief of Military History and his associates: Magda Bauer, Detmar Fincke, Charles von Luttichau, Israel Wice, Hannah Zeidlik and Dr. Earl Ziemke—all of whom gave time and assistance to me and my associates. My thanks also to the director of the World War II Records Division, Sherrod East, who permitted a day-by-day record investigation for months. Others in the Records Division were equally kind: Wilbur J. Nigh, Chief of the Reference Branch, and his associates, Lois Aldridge, Morton Apperson, Joseph Avery, Richard Bauer, Nora Hinshaw, Thomas Hohmann, Hildred Livingston, V. Caroline Moore, Frances Rubright and Hazel Ward. Working closely with this group was Dr. Julius Wildstosser who had the painstaking job of examining miles of microfilm and translating thousands of German documents for me and my Reader’s Digest associates.

I owe special debts of gratitude to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein; General Omar N. Bradley; Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan; General Walter Bedell Smith; General William H. Simpson; Lieutenant General James M. Gavin; Lord Ismay; Lieutenant General Sir Brian Horrocks; Lord Strang; Ambassador W. Averell Harriman; Ambassador Foy D. Kohler; Ambassador David Bruce; Ambassador Charles Bohlen; Earl Attlee; Mrs. Anna Rosenberg Hoffman; Major General Sir Francis de Guingand; Sir Miles Dempsey; Lieutenant General Evelyn Barker; Major General Louis Lyne; Major General R. F. Belchem and Professor Philip E. Mosely. These individuals and many other American and British officers and diplomats helped me to understand the military and political background of the period and to unravel the reasons why the Anglo-American forces did not continue their advance on Berlin.

I am grateful to the Russian government for their courtesy in allowing me to see hitherto unrevealed documents, orders, interrogation reports and other papers from their defense files. We did not see eye to eye on many matters and my methods were not always as diplomatic as they might have been. I found, however, that a blunt and candid approach to the Soviet military was returned by them. On the matter of the rapes in Berlin, for example, it was suggested to me by certain members of the U. S. State Department and the British Foreign Office that it might be undiplomatic to raise the question. President John F. Kennedy disagreed with that view. His words to me before I left for the Soviet Union were to the effect that the Russians probably would not mind in the least, because at heart they were horse traders. He felt I should speak bluntly and “lay it on the table.” I did, and the Soviet authorities responded in kind. There were some awkward moments, however. Although I had been invited by the Khrushchev government to conduct my research, the border police at Moscow airport tried to take from me the very papers that the Soviet Defense Department had given me! The Red Army officers, Marshals Koniev, Rokossovskii, Sokolovskii and Chuikov, were kindness personified, generous with their time and their information, as were the other Soviet military men I interviewed. That this liaison could be established was in large part due to my associate on that trip, Professor John Erickson of the University of Manchester, whose linguistic abilities and expert knowledge of Russian affairs proved invaluable.

In Germany, Dr. Graf Schweintz of the Press and Information Department of the Bonn government opened many a door. General A. Heusinger of the NATO command in Washington wrote scores of letters of introduction. Colonel Theodor von Dufving, the former Chief of Staff of the last Berlin Commandant, General Karl Weidling, spent days going over the last battle with me. General Walther Wenck, General Theodor Busse, General Martin Gareis, General Erich Dethleffsen, Lieutenant General Hellmuth Reymann,General Hasso von Manteuffel, General Max Pemsel, Lieutenant General Friedrich Sixt, SS General Felix Steiner, General Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand, SS Major General Gustav Krukenberg, Colonel Hans Refior, Colonel Hans Oscar Wöhlermann and Frau Luise Jodl—all helped in every way possible to reconstruct the battle and those last days in Berlin.

There were many others who aided in one way or another: Leon J. Barat, Deputy Advisor for the Institute for the Study of the U.S.S.R. in Munich; Rolf Menzel, then Editor-in-Chief, Radio Berlin; Lieutenant Colonel Meyer-Welcker of the German military archives institute; Frank E. W. Drexler, editor of the Berlin paper Der Abend; Robert Lochner, head of RIAS in Berlin; Raymond Cartier of Paris Match; Dr. Jurgen Rohwer of the Library of Modern History in Munich; Dr. Albrecht Lampe of the Berlin Municipal Archives; Karl Röder of WAST, the German veterans organization; Carl Johann Wiberg; Marcel Simonneau of the Amicale Nationale des Anciens P.G. des Stalags; Dr. Dieter Strauss of Siegbert Mohn Verlag, the publishers. To these and many others, my most sincere thanks.

I have saved to the last my thanks to Colonel General Gotthard Heinrici for the German side of the story. Over a period of three months we shared countless interviews and conversations. He fought each phase of the battle again. He allowed me to use his personal notes, documents and war diaries. Even though he was plagued by illness, he always gave generously of his time. Without him, I do not think this book could have been written. In some twenty years as a writer, I have rarely encountered a man of such dignity and honor—nor one with such memory for detail.

How do I thank those who stood by me during the writing? My darling wife who collated, indexed, edited, rewrote—and at the same time looked after our family during the long years of researching and writing; my good friend and severest critic Jerry Korn, whose sharp editing pencil moves so brilliantly across paper (he will not get a chance at this page); my invaluable secretaries, “Horty” Vantresca and Barbara Sawyer, who typed and retyped, filed, answered phones and backstopped all the rest of us; Suzanne and Charlie Gleaves, who were just there when I needed them; Peter Schwed and Michael Korda of Simon and Schuster, who, togther with Helen Barrow (production manager), Frank Metz (art director), Eve Metz (designer), and Sophie Sorkin (copy chief), had to put up with my impossible demands; Raphael Palacios, whose meticulous maps and sense of humor are more than any author can hope to have; Dave Parsons of Pan American Airways, who moved trunkloads of research all over Europe without losing a single item; my friends Billy Collins and Robert Laffont—my publishers in England and France—who waited so long for this book that they almost called it “Watch on the Ryan”; my lawyer, Paul Gitlin, whose help, guidance and temperature-taking were extraordinary; my representatives Marie Schebeko (in France) and Elaine Greene (in England), who have helped by work, courage, support and belief—to them all, my deepest thanks.


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