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The Decisive Battle that Shaped World War II in Europe

by John Prados

Pub Date: July 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-451-23383-7
Publisher: NAL Caliber/Berkley

A fresh point of view on the 1944 battle that emphasizes intelligence, logistics and the battle’s unexpected strategic consequences.

While researching Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II (1995), prolific military historian Prados (How the Cold War Ended, 2010, etc.) noticed that histories of the Normandy campaign paid scant attention to ULTRA code-breaking (declassified in the 1970s) and provided weak explanations of why the Wehrmacht, fleeing in disorder in August, recovered so quickly. The author concentrates on the month from mid-July to mid-August, six weeks after the landing. The British were battling for Caen, nine miles from the coast despite its scheduled capture on day one. Stalled American forces were about to launch Operation Cobra, another offensive aimed at breaking out. Allied frustrations paled next to those of the Germans, who were vastly outnumbered and harried by Allied air supremacy. By the end of August, the Allies were racing across France and predicting victory by Christmas. A month later, they suffered a bloody nose at Arnhem, and by November resistance brought the advance to a halt. This should have come as less of a surprise because ULTRA intercepts as early as June revealed Germany mobilizing another million men. In addition, despite Hitler’s penchant for stand-fast orders and suicidal offensives, he worked hard to strengthen defenses on Germany’s Western border.

Prados has done his homework, writes fine battle descriptions and makes a convincing case that events during the summer of 1944 predicted the subsequent course of the war.