D-Day Through German Eyes –
How The Wehrmacht Lost France
By Jonathan Trigg
Amberley Publishing – £20.00
”Out in front everyone is holding out, everyone; my grenadiers and my pioniere and my panzer crews, they’re all holding their ground. Not a single man is leaving his post. Not one. They’re lying in their foxholes mute and silent, because they’re dead. Dead.”
(Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, July 1944)
Soldiers are simple creatures in the main, and nothing is more central to a soldiers’ life than the food he eats every day. As the playwright and poet Bertholt Brecht wrote before the war in Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera): ‘Erst kommst das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral’ (‘first comes food, then comes morality’). In Normandy, German rations were pretty miserable.
(‘Festung Europa – Fortress Europe’)
Crystal clear, succinct, analytical, as well as exceedingly well researched; D-Day Through German Eyes – How The Wehrmacht Lost France, is (as might be expected from the all to the point title) an altogether absorbing read of idiosyncratically immense historical endeavour.
As is immediately brought to bear within the book’s cover: ”[…] a barbaric enemy was defeated by Allied ingenuity, courage and overwhelming military force, helped by dreadful German command errors and the terrible state of Wehrmacht forces in the West – but is all this true?”
Suffice to say, one could quite easily surmise that what extends or constitutes as the being the truth, really does depend on ones’ own – hopefully objective – point of view. Although there really is no denying the degree to which these 294 pages (excluding Appendix, Bibliography, Notes and Index) completely penetrate the cold, light of day, utter harshness and brutality of what D-Day was all about.
As much is all the more poignantly punctuated by the aforementioned Generalleutnant Bayerlein; when, in Chapter Ten (‘La Belle France Abandoned’) he is once again quoted: ”With typical hyperbole, Fritz Bayerlein said that no campaign in history ‘can approach the battle of annihilation in France in 1944 in the magnitude of planning, the logic of execution, the collaboration of sea, air and ground forces, the bulk of booty, or the hordes of prisoners.”
Hey, no argument from me, that’s for sure; but what accounts for Jonathan Trigg’s assessment of said subject matter jumping out of the indelible norm, is his altogether sweeping stance of the oft deliberated upon truth. A fine example of which opens Chapter Five’s ‘The Battle for Caen’: ‘’The United States of America is a great country, and without it, Great Britain could not have liberated western Europe and then helped the Soviet Union defeat Nazi Germany. Having said that, it is also true to say that since the end of the war, an impression has been created in certain quarters that it was the US which did the lion’s share of the heavy lifting – particularly on D-Day and thereafter – and here, Hollywood especially must shoulder some responsibility for what is a misconception not borne out by the facts and figures […]. Saving Private Ryan is a classic example, with not a Tommy or Canuck insight at any time, and just one very brief – and derogatory – mention of Montgomery (‘He’s overrated!’) as the leitmotif for what is portrayed pretty much as an American-only operation.’’
Now there’s a surprise!
To be sure, there are many other instances throughout this altogether revelatory book, but the above alone ought to account for what makes D-Day Through German Eyes such an imperative and important read.
After all: ‘’The amount of paper produced about what became the Normandy campaign could cover all five landing beaches, but very little of that valuable work has been written from the German perspective, and even less from that of the men who did the fighting.’’
So read on, because this really is an eye-opening/ terrific book: well written, well researched, and well…don’t take my word for it.
Find out for yourself.