The Germans in Normandy
ISBN: 1 84415 447 5
Contributor: Thomas Houlihan
Review Date: 6 Jun 2007
Being a member of the same World War II forum, Feldgrau, that the author belongs to, I have been following the progress of this book and looking forward to it. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed.
This work is in a style I've not come across before. It is not a history book in the normal sense. It is not a story of a campaign, and it is not a memoir. Somehow, the author has managed to split the difference between the two, producing something more of a hybrid. Through the extensive use of personal letters sent home by German soldiers, this is the story of the men who defended Occupied France against the Allied invasion of June 1944, and the battles that followed which culminated in the defeat of Nazi Germany, mostly in their own words.
Starting in the front matter, it is readily apparent that Mr. Hargreaves has done considerable research. He has culled his material from a wide range of sources, promising an historically accurate book.
The book is divided into twelve chapters. Each corresponds to a different phase of the battle for France. The first two chapters lead up to the invasion. Here one reads about the sense of anticipation felt by the average German soldier. The author provides background material on the units, as well as the preparations made by the Germans to defend against invasion. This helps the reader understand how so many of these men still felt confidence in themselves, their leaders, and their defenses. While one can feel the trepidation, one can still see that the soldiers honestly felt they had a good chance of throwing the Allies back into the sea.
Chapters 3 & 4 introduce the Allies. Here you will learn of the confusion and disbelief rampant during the first hours of the invasion, when the Allied parachute divisions dropped in France. Many if not most of us have seen movies like The Longest Day, but here we can read the reactions of the Germans in their own words, not what an author or a screenwriter ascribed to them.
The entire book goes on like this. Rather than the self-serving memoirs written by so many senior officers, we finally get to hear the words of the men who were in the trenches, behind the machine guns. While the author has used the writings of the field marshals and generals or their staffs, he has managed to unearth the writings of the Sch├╝tze and the Gefreiter, the Leutnant and the Hauptmann. Here is the value of this book. From different services, different units, and different sectors of the defense, we can now learn what those men were thinking as they faced the Allied onslaught. From the initial confidence, to doubt, to despair, it is all there.
For years, we have picked up fragments of this story. Thanks to Mr. Hargreaves, we now have a large piece that helps piece many of those fragments together to give us a better idea of who exactly were The Germans In Normandy.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945