...7 June - 18 July 1944, from Pen and Sword
Title: Objective Saint-Lo, 7 June 1944 - 18 July 1944
Author: Georges Bernage
Publisher: Pen and Sword
First published as a French language by Editions Heimdal back in 2011, this new English language version from Pen and Sword makes it available for those who would find it awkward reading French. Translated by Heather Williams this is one of my favourite style of history in the way it is presented. The author Georges Bernage has written over 40 books and is one the France's experts on the Battle of Narmandy.
It examines the period from the day after D-Day to the 18 July when the US forces finally captured the important road junctions of St Lo, at the base of the Cotentin peninsula. The men of the 29th Infantry Division along with US Airborne forces had a 40+ day fight in the fields and hedgerows to reach St Lo. Leading up to the capture of the town, the previous weeks were largely spent in the fields and hedgerows to the North of the town, as the US troops fought to capture it and the defending German forces, including their own parachute troops, fought a very effective delaying battle as they were gradually forced back to the town. The pages of pictures at the back of the book graphically illustrate the devastation that the war brought to this French town. The volume of rubble was so great that it created a dam that led to a lake of water being created in the middle of the town.
The book contains many excellent archive photos, and mixes them with some modern day comparisons, maps of localised actions, plus pictures of some surviving memorabilia. In addition to the basic chronology of events it includes the stories of Allied and German troops who were there at the time, telling their stories in relation to the fighting, stories which quite graphically bring the events to life. Some are photographed visiting the area again in more recent days, elderly gentlemen able to meet in more friendly circumstance. It also highlights the civilian casualties and the heavy cost of their liberation from German occupation.
This 253 page hardback book is heavily illustrated throughout and combine perfectly with a well written and well researched account of the events in this battle in the hedgerows of Normandy. Indeed, some modern day comparisons show just how overgrown some of those small roads and paths in the are still are. The book shows how tough a job both attacker and defenders had to work with up to the stage of breakout.