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Letter From MHQ, Summer 2012

By William W. Horne 
Originally published on Published Online: May 03, 2012 
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SEVENTY YEARS AGO the Allies, for so long at the mercy of the Axis powers in every theater of World War II, finally began to turn the tide with clear-cut victories over the Germans in North Africa and over the Japanese at Midway. MHQ continues our 70th anniversary commemoration of the war with two incisive features that explore the strategy, leaders, and hype behind these critical moments. The war in North Africa seesawed across the desert between 1941 and 1943. Erwin Rommel and his armored Afrika Korps won some brilliant victories, such as the Gazala-Tobruk sequence of May–June 1942. And Nazi propagandists made the most of the Desert Fox's triumphs, ensuring cameramen captured his resolute, squinty stare, his every manly pose. Even Time magazine ran an illustration of Rommel on its July 13 cover.

But as his German fans plied him with letters and pleas for autographs, his desert campaign was running out of gas—literally. Ger­man war-craft guru Robert M. Citino asserts, beginning on page 26, that for all the Korps's legendary might, too many of its armored blitzkriegs became drives to nowhere. By early 1943 reality had caught up to the Axis in North Africa, and Rommel's romp was over.

The Japanese too were victims of their own hype. As contributing editor Alistair Horne points out in "Ten Minutes at Midway," the Imperial Navy's leaders suffered from the "victory disease" that had swept them through China, the Pacific, and Pearl Harbor—a belief in their invincibility and refusal to confront reality, or even properly prepare for war. Cheaply built carriers; grand, outmoded schemes for victory; and a small measure of American luck ensured the Japanese would never win another major campaign in the Pacific. And the hype—their leaders refused to accept the depth of their losses at Midway and thereafter—led to countless deaths and the annihilation of two major Japanese cities.

Also with this issue, we have continued to tinker with MHQ's design by introducing two new sections: Behind the Lines and Culture of War. Behind the Lines will cover just that—the home front and anything to do with the military off the battlefield. The Culture of War section wraps in reviews of books, DVDs, and blogs as well as our longtime column Artists on War. Culture also presents a new feature—Fiction—which will showcase short stories and excerpts of the very best new historical military fiction. We start with a slice of the twisty Mission to Paris, the latest work from acclaimed spy novelist Alan Furst (Dark Voyage, The Spies of Warsaw). Let us know what you think.




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