Fighting The Breakout - The German Army In Normandy from "Cobra" To The Falaise Gap.

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    Edited by David C Isby
    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.

    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.
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  1. LeoRoverman
    Fighting the Breakout
    Edited by David C Isby


    Fighting the breakout is about how the Germans managed to break through at Falaise in the period July to August 1944. It’s known to have been one of the toughest battles during the Second World War in which the British, French, Americans, Canadians and Poles fought with the solitary aim of destroying the German armed services in France. But having read the book I decided to cross refer to the section of the History of the Second World War published over 50 years ago. The fundamentals remain unchanged with transcripts from the German participants stating their positions. Despite the warning in the forward that defeated Generals like to blame everyone else, they haven’t in fact they echo Purnell’s version. In the previous battle of the Bocage it was noted “The Germans don’t have much but they sure as hell know how to use it.” In actual fact it’s not the dry tactical movements of the allies that interests, it’s more a case of how the heck did a dwindling force without air cover and limited supplies manage to pull off the stunt of the breakout from Falaise. I could go on but space limits.

    If anything it’s a re-evaluation of German Generalship of FM von Kluge or “Kluge Hans”, Clever Hans as he was nicknamed by his troops. There is one Glaring difference between the History and the Book- the linkage between Kluge and the Bomb plot of the 20th July makes the repercussions of the bomb plot, despite it's pointlessness in many respects, far more important at a crucial point in Germany's war. That defeat would come, was implicit, as Rommel another of the victims had warned, given the overwhelming resources the allies had and that takes nothing away from those who partook. This book is heavy going but it is the nuances that are informative, in particular the fighting morale of the German troops in defeat.
    What could have been a dry read warrants a 3 and half mushroom heads.