SIX ARMIES IN NORMANDY by John Keegan
Kirkus Star

SIX ARMIES IN NORMANDY

From D-day To The Liberation Of Paris; June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944; Revised

KIRKUS REVIEW

From the author of The Face of Battle: a dazzler among military histories. Keegan opens with his World War II: a Swallows and Amazons idyll, in the West of England, incongruously consumed with soldiering and utterly complacent: "Britain could not lose"--not with the Empire, "all those other people" (wearing Free French, etc., shoulder patches), and the mighty Americans arrayed, as one, against Hitler. What follows is the reality behind the illusion, not only among children, of Allied unanimity. The oft-told story of the British-American Second Front debate is recast, compellingly, in terms of salient individuals: Stilwell--appalled at 1941 Washington disarray; Wedemeyer--author of a Victory Program, born of his German military training, for a great land war in Western Europe; Eisenhower--who converted Wedemeyer's Program into a plan of action, which the British agreed to; Molotov--whose report of Russian losses, and "insulting logic," persuaded FDR to announce a 1942 Second Front; Marshall--forced by the British to settle, instead, for a North African expedition; Brooke, his cautious opposite number--backed into a 1944 cross-Channel invasion, finally, by American and Russian pressure. Also, pre-D-Day: Montgomery--who insisted on more men, and a wider front, lest the invasion forced be "Dunkirked"--and Rommel, who intended (given the means) to do just that. The outcome would now rest with groups of fighting men: in Keegan's inspired re-envisioning of the Normandy campaign itself, six crucially engaged, emblematic armies. American paratroopers "drop into darkness" behind Utah Beach and, scattered but mostly game, "blunder about looking for each other" (causing further confusion among the Germans). Canadian seaborne infantrymen land successfully under German fire, sparing Canada another Dieppe, and move farther inland than any other D-Day force. Scottish Highlanders, Lowlanders, and Territorials (Keegan is wicked on "Balmorality") prise open the first corridor from the beachhead. British and Scottish armored forces--"yeomen" of the 2nd Household Cavalry--suffer terrible losses, without losing ground, in the assault at Caen. The German counter-attack at Mortain is doomed--because, for one, the failed officers' plot against Hitler has made prudent yes-men of his battlefield commanders. A Polish armored division, powerless to aid the Warsaw uprising, rushes jubilantly to cut off the Germans inside the Falaise Salient. And the Free French manage--through "a stroke of misinformation"--to bring about the unscheduled liberation of Paris. The character of national armies, the play of chance and circumstance, the imperatives of technology and strategy--all are brilliantly interwoven and elaborated. If anyone can convert the thoughtful reader to "war books," it will be Keegan.
Pub Date: July 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0140235426
Page count: 424pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1982




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