Falaise, The Flawed Victory...
...the Destruction of Panzergruppe West - August 1944, from Pen and Sword
Title: Falaise, The Flawed Victory
Author: Anthony Tucker-Jones
Publisher: Pen and Sword
First published back in 2008, this is a new paperback edition from Pen & Sword. While there have been many books on Falaise and the Normandy campaign, this one is just a bit different as author Anthony Tuck-Jones tackles it from the German point of view. I found it interesting to read a book with a slightly different take on things. The details of the pre-invasion period and the disposition of German divisions along with the assorted rivalries between the various commanders at different levels. While even Rommel had some to the area with previous experience of allied air power, equipment and tactics even his idea of having the panzer divisions closer to the coast, the firepower of the allied naval units and a lack of effective air support from the Luftwaffe presented some very different circumstance. The influence, perhaps the interference, of Hitler and the high command (OKW) also caused unhelpful delays in getting units on the move quickly after the landings. Distanced from what was actually happening on the ground and a seemingly lack of trust in what field commanders were telling them, they issued inappropriate objectives.
What happened in Normandy has been written about many times. We know that the bulk of the German Panzer divisions were kept at the British/Canadian end of the assault, and less further west, in front of the Americans. The effectiveness of Allied deception plans left vital infantry divisions in place the wrong side of the Seine, emplaced to resist an Allied assault on the Pas de Calais. The book does a fine job of explaining all this and more, and without infantry units to replace the panzers in the front line, so they were bled dry by the fighting. Having set the background, the chapters explain the situation for each of the major panzer units involved in the fighting. These include 21st Pz Division; Panzer Lehr; 12th SS Pz Division Hitlerjugend; 17th Panzergrenadier Gotz von Berlichingen; the Independent Tiger battalions 503, 101 and 102 SS; Operation Luttich and 2nd Panzer; 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler; 9th SS Pz Div Hohenstaufen; 10th SS Pz Frundsberg; 2nd SS Das Reich; 116th Pz Div Windhund and 9th Pz Div. There are also some 8 Appendices which contain more tables and information that support the story.
The book tells the stories of each unit, their successes and failure and then gets to the concluding elements. A huge quantity of equipment was destroyed within the Falaise pocket, many killed and captured. However, many thousand of German troops did manage to escape the pocket and much of the equipment they got out was then abandoned on the left bank of the River Seine when they couldn't get them across. It puts everything into context then, and considers how those troops who did escape were able to become the experienced cadres that enabled the units to be rebuilt and re-equipped only to play important roles quite soon after at Arnhem and in the Ardennes offensive in December that same year. The book makes for a good read and puts the performance of the German units not just into the story of the battle for Normandy, but in the wider context of the longer campaign in North West Europe.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.