Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944

Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944

Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944

Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944

Synopsis

The Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, marked the beginning of the German defeat in France. Mitcham recaptures the taste and feel of the Wehrmacht in 1944 as the thin gray line in Normandy finally snapped, the 5th Panzer and 7th Armies collapsed, and the survivors fled the Allied steamroller in a mad dash back to the Reich. From the reactions of soldiers in the field to military decisions at the highest level, this is the story of the Western Front from a German perspective. While finally bringing the Allied juggernaut to a halt on the borders of the Reich itself, this brief success would only delay the inevitable.

Excerpt

On July 17, 1944, a pair of German soldiers dragged an unconscious officer into the Catholic hospital near Vimoutiers, France. His left cheekbone was destroyed, he had many shell splinters and fragments in his head, his skull was fractured, his left eye was injured, and his temple was penetrated. At first the medical staff gave him no chance to live.

What had happened to him was not unusual. Throughout Normandy this violent summer, Allied fighter-bombers were plastering any German vehicle that moved during daylight hours, killing or wounding tens of thousands of German soldiers, immolating tanks and armored vehicles, reducing German facilities to rubble, cutting their supply lines, and making it impossible for the Germans to launch anything resembling a major counterattack. Now not even Dr. Joseph Goebbels's propaganda machine talked about throwing the Allies back into the sea; it spoke only of how the German soldiers on the Western Front were bravely holding their positions-which, for once, was nothing but the truth. This task had just become infinitely more difficult, however, because of the identity of the unconscious officer. He was arguably Germany's most gifted tactician, a fearless leader, and the man who had imposed stalemate on the Western Allies in Normandy, despite the fact that he was heavily outnumbered in every material category. He was a man among men, the holder of Germany's highest decorations, including the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Sword and Diamonds, the commander in chief of Army Group B, and a field marshal -- the highest rank in the German Army. More important, he was the man most respected by the German soldier and most feared and respected by the men on the other side of the line. He was Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel -- the Desert Fox.

It had all begun many years before, when Germany lost World War I and made the transition from the Second Reich (empire) to a democratic . . .

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