- The Normandy Campaign: Sixty Years On
This new volume edited by John Buckley (author of the book British Armour in the Normandy Campaign) is a marvelous example of the new and exciting direction the study of the Second World War is now taking.
The story of 6 June and the subsequent campaign has long been the subject of intense debate amongst historians of the war. In this volume the old debates are exploded and new revisionist claims are made, claims that undoubtedly will shape future research for years to come.
For instance, Stephen Badsey provides a fresh look at the failures of the German high command. This exploration moves beyond the standard arguments of a confused German chain of command and the differing strategies of General Rommel and Field Marshal von Rundstedt. According to Badsey, the real failure of the German leadership, particularly of Rommel, was a failure to appreciate the significance of the Mulberry harbors.
Another interesting study of German strategy comes from James Corum. Corum writes on the failure of the Luftwaffe to take significant action after D-Day. Instead of bombing the beaches or staging areas, the Luftwaffe wasted its substantial resources on new fangled weaponry and misguided revenge bombing. After all, according to Corum, the Luftwaffe might not have been as thoroughly depleted prior to 6 June as previously thought, as substantial forces did remain in reserve.
One of the most interesting and exciting essays comes from Mary Kay Barbier about the efficacy of deception operations in the Battle of Normandy. Barbier reorients us to look not at the traditional process driven narrative of the Allied campaign to fool Germany, but instead at the concrete effects of this deception. One finding of this very pragmatic reorientation is that the German 15th Army, firmly entrenched in the Pas de Calais throughout the battle, did not necessarily stay in place because of Allied deception operations – as long assumed by many historians - but instead stayed put because of a lack of transport to move through a heavily damaged French transportation network, and a further lack of "suitable equipment and armaments" and finally, because more than half of the infantry divisions in the 15th Army were static in nature (and training) and were thoroughly not ready for the job.
There are many more interesting essays in this collection, all of which warrant more space than is available here. Peter Gray writes on the horrors of war when civilians are caught in the crossfire, while officers slavishly stick to plans despite evidence they are failing, as displayed in the Allied bombing of Caen. Terry Copp once again writes on the contribution of the Canadians at D-Day. Mungo Melivin and Marc Hansen provide new insights into German actions and their decision making process. Ian Daglish writes on Operation Bluecoat, [End Page 607] while Stephen Hart takes on Operation Totalize. Volume editor John Buckley reevaluates British armour in the summer of 1944, while Gary Sheffield writes about the experience of British soldiers in Normandy. Vincent Orange studies the controversial transportation plans, namely the Allied decision to redirect aircraft assets to the destruction of targets in the French transportation system. John Ferris reminds us that winning the intelligence war does not easily or necessarily contribute to winning the battle on the ground. Michael Paris argues that properly created film can recreate war better than any other medium, including eyewitness testimony, while Carsten Henning explores the changing Hollywood perspective of D-Day .
This volume is a must read for serious students of the Normandy campaign. Research libraries need to acquire this volume as it will be a jumping off point for research for years to come.