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Normandy to Victory

The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges and the First U.S. Army

John Greenwood

Publication Year: 2008

During World War II, U.S. Army generals often maintained diaries of their activities and the day-to-day operations of their command. These diaries have proven to be invaluable historical resources for World War II scholars and enthusiasts alike. Until now, one of the most historically significant of these diaries, the one kept for General Courtney H. Hodges of the First U.S. Army, has not been widely available to the public. Maintained by two of Hodges’s aides, Major William C. Sylvan and Captain Francis G. Smith Jr., this unique military journal offers a vivid, firsthand account detailing the actions, decisions, and daily activities of General Hodges and the First Army throughout the war. The diary opens on June 2, 1944, as Hodges and the First Army prepare for the Allied invasion of France. In the weeks and months that follow, the diary highlights the crucial role that Hodges’s often undervalued command—the first to cross the German border, the first to cross the Rhine, the first to close to the Elbe—played in the Allied operations in northwest Europe. The diary recounts the First Army’s involvement in the fight for France, the Siegfried Line campaign, the Battle of the Bulge, the drive to the Roer River, and the crossing of the Rhine, following Hodges and his men through savage European combat until the German surrender in May 1945. Popularly referred to as the “Sylvan Diary,” after its primary writer, the diary has previously been available only to military historians and researchers, who were permitted to use it at only the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, the U.S. Army Center for Military History, or the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Retired U.S. Army historian John T. Greenwood has now edited this text in its entirety and added a biography of General Hodges as well as extensive notes that clarify the diary’s historical details. Normandy to Victory provides military history enthusiasts with valuable insights into the thoughts and actions of a leading American commander whose army played a crucial role in the Allied successes of World War II.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: American Warriors Series

Front cover

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pp. v

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pp. vii-xi

Normandy to Victory is a unique contribution to the existing primary literature on the command and conduct of American military operations in Europe during World War II. This book reproduces in edited form for the first time the daily war diary maintained for Gen. Courtney Hicks Hodges, commanding general, ...

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A Biographical Sketch: Courtney Hicks Hodges

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pp. 1-4

Courtney Hicks Hodges was born in Perry, Georgia, on 5 January 1887. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, with the incoming class of 1908 in June 1904, a member of the same class as George S. Patton Jr. He was “found deficient” in mathematics, as was Patton, ...

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1. The Invasion of France and the Lodgment in Normandy, 2 June-24 July 1944

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pp. 5-64

Friday, 2 June 1944: The General [Lt. Gen. Courtney Hicks Hodges], Bill [Capt. William E. Smith, aide), and I [Maj. William C. Sylvan, senior aide]1 left Bristol at 9 o’clock in the morning on exercise “Brass Hat”2 (see next page for inclosure). Passing thru Bridgewater and Exeter, we stopped briefly at noon ...

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2. Operation Cobra and the Breakthrough at St. L

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pp. 65-80

Tuesday, 25 July 1944: The General and Fran reached the OP—the same house at Vents—at 0927, and did not have long to wait for the opening air blow. Promptly at 0936 the first of nine groups of four P-47s each approached the target from over St Lô and then whipped down through a clear sky to plaster the road ...

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3. Exploitation of the St. L

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pp. 81-126

Tuesday, 1 August 1944: Today, at 1025, General Hodges signed four secret copies of General Orders No 4, First United States Army, and thereby assumed command. Three of the orders went to the Corps Commanders serving under him; the fourth to the AG [Adjutant General] safe. ...

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4. The Battle of Germany, 13 September-15 December 1944

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pp. 127-212

Wednesday, 13 September 1944: General Bradley flew in unannounced this morning and had a long and secret conference with General Hodges in the War Room. General Brooks also was present throughout most of the conference and both stayed for luncheon. ...

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5. The German Counteroffensive and the Drive to the Roer River, 16 December 1944-22 February 1945

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pp. 213-304

Saturday, 16 December 1944: Today, exactly one month after we launched our attack towards Cologne, the Boche began a counteroffensive, on which, according to a captured order, which was signed by Von Runstedt [Rundstedt], the enemy is gambling its life. According to Von Runstedt the fate of the German nation ...

Photo insert after page 292

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6. Crossing the Roer River, 23-28 February 1945

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pp. 305-314

Friday, 23 February 1945: This morning at 3:30, preceded by 45 minutes of artillery preparation in which 936 guns were active—the greatest barrage that the Army has yet put on over a small area—the VII Corps launched a coordinated attack with the 8th and 104th Divs. ...

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7. Crossing the Rhine River, 1-24 March 1945

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pp. 315-346

Thursday, 1 March 1945: The main Boche opposition came, not during the day, but at night, when over 100 planes, flying singly or in twosomes, attacked the VII and III Corps front areas and bridges. The final count according to Colonel Patterson was 34 downed with another 10 probable. Losses to personnel are believed light. ...

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8. Exploutation of the Remagen Bridgehead, 25 March-18 April 1945

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pp. 347-376

Sunday, 25 March 1945: The General is today showing the public that when it comes to using armor he is second to no one. The 9th Armd Division of V Corps advanced eight miles to clear Bendorf. The 3rd Armd of VII Corps advanced to Rott, Ersfeld and Rettersen, making an advance of some ten miles ...

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9. Final Operations, 19 April-7 May 1945

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pp. 377-394

Thursday, 19 April 1945: The headquarters today was filled with representatives of the Ninth and Fifteenth Armies and Twelfth Army Group as negotiations went under way for settlement of the new boundary turn overs. Ninth Army will assume responsibility for the area now held by us on noon of the 22nd, ...

Appendix: Locations of First U.S. Army Command Posts, 9 June 1944–14 May 1945

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pp. 395-396


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pp. 397-524


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pp. 525-530


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pp. 531-575

E-ISBN-13: 9780813126425
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125251

Page Count: 616
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: American Warriors Series