Using de-briefing reports written by senior Wehrmacht officers for the US Army's Historical Division shortly after the war, David Isby has put together a German narrative encompassing the Allied breakout from the Normandy beachhead to the wholesale destruction of men and material caught in the Falaise pocket.
- Edited by David C Isby
The two main contributors are Seventh Army's CIC,Generaloberst Paul Masser and his Chief of Staff, Freiherr Von Gersdorff, with additional accounts provided by Divisional and Corps commanders.
Two major issues are apparent from the outset. First, the total dis-connect between Berlin and the Field Commander.It was obvious to both that a breakout from the Normandy bridgehead was inevitable; however, the advice and representations from those at the Front was resolutely ignored by Berlin where the totally unrealistic expectation was that the Wehrmacht would somehow manage.
Second, the reader is made well aware of the commanders' concerns over the lack of men and material, not only to bolster numbers to counter the Allies but also to make good the usage and casualties sustained on a daily basis. In fact, the Germans were down to just two days worth of fuel and were short of ammunition even before the offensive began.
Faced with total Allied air superiority, movement of men and material was only possible at night; consequently what little there was available moved slowly and often was late in arrival - logistics had all but collapsed.
Given all of these constraints it proved impossible to devise a realistic plan to contain or combat the advance from Normandy.
In the midst of these events, on 20th July an assassination attempt was made on Hitler at the Wolf's Lair. By now all but the most fanatical had recognised that the successful Normandy landings were the beginning of the end for Germany.However, while Hitler remained in power, there would be no chance (however slight) of a political resolution to events in the West. In fact, von Gersdorff had decided in 1943 that, if the opportunity arose, he would act as a suicide bomber to kill Hitler.
Given the seniority and and advantageous perspective of the contributors, it is not surprising that there is a wealth of detail in the book which is akin to a very long staff report. This is not a book for the casual reader but is a superlative source for researchers and students interested in this particular period.
What is apparent is the effort made to further the reputation of the superiority of the German soldier over his Allied counterparts during the war - a belief which exists to this day in some quarters. Whilst recording events, the writers bring to the fore the quality of leadership exercised at all levels and the combat abilities of its soldiers in the face of such overwhelming odds. Maybe history is not always written by the victors; certainly, in this case, it was written by the vanquished!
3 out of 5 Mushroom Heads.