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From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I the dramatic stretch from the breakdown of diplomacy to the battlesmdashthe Marne, Ypres, Tannenbergmdashthat marked the frenzied first year before the war bogged down in the trenches. In Catastrophe , Max Hastings gives us a conflict different from the familiar one of barbed wire, mud and futility. He traces the path to war, making clear why Germany and Austria-Hungary were primarily to blame, and describes the gripping first clashes in the West, where the French army marched into action in uniforms of red and blue with flags flying and bands playing. In August, four days after the French suffered , men dead in a single day, the British fought an extraordinary holding action against oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history.