Book Review: Balkan Breakthrough: The Battle of Dobro Pole 1918


by Richard C. Hall

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. Pp. xvii, 216. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 0253354528

The Western Front myopia of most historians dealing with the Great War leads to the neglect of the other fronts, and none is more forgotten than the Balkans.  In Balkan Breakthrough, Prof. Hall (Georgia Southwestern), a specialist in early twentieth century Balkan history (e.g., The Balkan Wars 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War), uses the decisive Allied breakthrough at Dobro Pole in September of 1918, to take a good look at the role of Bulgaria, and, more broadly, the Balkans, in  the Great War. 

Focused on policy and strategy, rather than organization and operations, Hall opens with a survey of Balkan politics in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, along with a brief look at the complex ethno-geography of the region, then quickly reviews the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, and finally examines the political and military developments that led Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Central Powers, who included her historic enemy, the Ottomans.  The bulk of the book, of course, deals with the broad political, strategic, and military events of the three years of war that followed in some detail.  Hall notes the almost continuous deterioration of the Bulgarian Army over the course of the war, who were deprived of vital supplies and equipment by the Germans, who, in turn, ignored their allies to a remarkable extent, with serious consequences for the war effort.  The actual breakthrough at Dobro Pole (Sept. 14-19, 1918) and the resulting collapse of heroic Bulgarian resistance comes almost as an understandable anti-climax. 

Despite needing a better proof-reading, this is an important account of a very overlooked aspect of the Great War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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