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The Germans in Normandy

The Germans in Normandy

Richard Hargreaves
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
The Allied invasion of Europe in 1944 has been the subject of many books but this one is interesting in that it looks at the whole summer of that year from the German point of view with fairly simple explanations and a considerable number of personal recollections.

A few pages at the beginning indicate the abbreviations used throughout and is followed by the Introduction which gives an indication of what to expect in the following chapters.

Generally the book is more or less split into three areas involving the initial reaction to the invasion covering the first five chapters, the realisation that the Allies cannot be just pushed back into the sea another five chapters and finally the last two chapters giving an appreciation of the general fighting retreat back past Paris. The first two chapters however are devoted to the general situation before the invasion and the additions to what has been referred to as the Atlantic sea wall. Included are the efforts of Field Marshal Rundstedt and a brief resume of Field Marshal Rommel’s career as to how he came to be picked for the task of organising and fighting the defence.

This is all rounded out by chapter three which gives an indication of what many Germans were doing when the invasion began.

The following chapter introduces many more personal accounts of what was happening to those who were involved in confronting the invaders whether it was on the actual beach head, with the panzer units, the outnumbered airborne defenders or even for the U-boat crews who were ordered to sink the ships of the Allies by any means possible.

From chapter five onwards it becomes rather obvious to them that instead of repulsing the invasion of the Allies for the sake of defending the Europe of the Germans there starts to be an awareness that it is inevitable that the defenders are being pushed back further and further. Once ashore in strength the Americans have started their push from the west and it seems they will soon cut off German forces to the west. Meanwhile although the British and their Commonwealth armies were finding it difficult around Caen and through the Bocage the Germans were slowly but surely being pushed back. Throughout all this is the German realisation of the superiority of the Allied air power to the point where troops and commanders actually hoped for darkness or cloudy weather.

Before long Hitler had decided that it was important to hold certain people responsible for the mistakes made while attempting to bolster the courage of both German troops and civilians in Germany. To this end he held meetings in his field headquarters near Neuville-sur-Margival but the Allies were lodged in Normandy and he felt he had been let down by his forces. He decided that one of his new weapons the V-1 would change the balance of the war and, at the same time, appease the German newspapers and people. This was not enough to stem the approach of the Allies and the book goes on to describe the efforts of General Bradley commanding the American army forcing the Germans back from the west and General Montgomery commanding the British army in operations Epsom and Tractable which literally trapped considerable numbers of Germans and equipment in the Falaise gap. Even so a large number of Germans managed to escape but at the cost of a very large number of troops and amount of equipment.

The final chapters describe the retreat of the German army across the Somme, the defence of Paris and the orders to destroy all that was to be appreciated in the city though luckily this was not carried out. Finally there is a short consolidation regarding the three German arms and their faith in the leadership.

This is an excellent book looking at the whole campaign from the German side and throughout there is the same theme of fighting for Germany against all odds. It is somewhat strange that the Germans consider themselves outfought by both the number of men and the amount of materials the Allies possessed. Yet from books written from the Allied point of view all relate the ferocious resistance put up by the Germans and it is worthwhile comparing such books with this one. Unfortunately the use of end notes have one scrabbling around to find the end of each chapter where it is obvious that the author has done considerable research and the book would have been improved with a lot more maps and sketches covering each effective action.
Worth reading? Definitely.
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