by Carlo D'Este ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 11, 1983
The celebrated controversies of the Normandy campaign painstakingly and impartially reexamined--with reference to both Omar Bradley's recent, posthumous, anti-Monty autobiography and the forthcoming, applicable volume of Nigel Hamilton's authorized Montgomery biography (in addition to earlier histories and memoirs). This, in short, is for those deeply involved in the historiography, as well as the history, of WW II's climactic campaign--and apt to confuse, mislead, or discountenance others. (On the lowest level, non-controversial events, however dramatic or consequential--like the Omaha landing--rate a bare mention.) Much of what D'Este treats as controversial has yielded over time to a consensus: no historian today, in the most important instance, takes seriously Montgomery's claim that--despite British failure to secure Caen (and other miscalculations)--the Normandy campaign followed his master plan. D'Este, however, is interested not only in the truth or falsity of the ""myth,"" but in its every aspect. On military grounds, he argues that Monty never intended the master plan as other than a framework, or course of action--but he notes, on psychological grounds, that Monty could not admit error. (""Contrary to the popular misconception fostered by Montgomery himself,"" moreover, ""he did know and understand that no battle ever goes completely according to plan."") D'Este contrasts British ""rigidity and inflexibility"" with American readiness to improvise. Looking backward, he asks if the plan might have succeeded. (No: Too little attention had been given to breaking out of the beachheads, or to alternatives around Caen; too little credit had been given to the Germans.) Focusing on the history of the myth, he asks why Eisenhower didn't immediately scotch it and also why it got into the official British military history. Another, quite different concern is Churchill's reputed ""lack of enthusiasm for a Second Front,"" Here, D'Este doesn't pretend to have any final answers--but he cites an Eisenhower misinterpretation of a Churchill Britishism as one key source for that belief. Some of his points are very fine indeed (unmerited criticism of a particular British company in a particular engagement); some points he magnifies (why SHAEF headquarters were set up in remote Granville ""is one of the great mysteries of the war""). But again and again he reveals new facets of familiar subjects--in part from his own dual, American army and British academic background; in part by querying everyone and everything. Cognoscenti will peruse the footnotes as closely as the text.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983
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