PATTON'S GAP: An Account of the Battle of Normandy, 1944 by Richard Rohmer

PATTON'S GAP: An Account of the Battle of Normandy, 1944

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As a memoir, this has no particular grab; as an account of the Falaise Gap controversy, it adds little to what's been said in histories of the Normandy invasion. But Rohmer, then a Canadian reconnaissance/fighter bomber pilot, gives a good general picture of life in an RCAF reconnaissance squadron during that crucial undertaking. His narrative covers events from late April through mid-August--from the penultimate aerial surveys through the closing of the Falaise Gap. The gap developed as the Third Army, under Patton, broke out of the Normandy beachhead and swung eastward, threatening to entrap hundreds of thousands of German troops. But the trap was not closed properly, and much ink has been spilled since over responsibility for the escape of 200,000 to 250,000 of the enemy with a ""bag"" of no more than 60,000. Rohmer correctly, if somewhat sensationally, places the blame on Montgomery--who crucially delayed permission for the Third Army to violate established unit boundaries and close the gap from the south, when he was unable to do so from the north. Meanwhile, Rohmer had mishaps of his own--like the supreme embarrassment, for a reconnaissance pilot, of being lost. He also had run-ins with the military mind. On one mission, he encountered an enemy column behind what were supposed to be Allied lines; breaking radio silence to report this, he was excoriated--and only the fact that he had fortuitously shot a picture of the column and brought it to Dirk Bogarde, then ""a skinny twenty-two-year-old British army officer,"" saved him from severe punishment: With asides on the types of mission flown by reconnaissance aircraft, and pointed comments on everything from the character of Patton (whom Rohmer clearly admires) to the effects of spent anti-aircraft rounds (what goes up. . .), a book that buffs, at least, will find briskly readable.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Beaufort--dist. by Scribners