The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign: A Study of Failure in High Command

The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign: A Study of Failure in High Command

The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign: A Study of Failure in High Command

The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign: A Study of Failure in High Command

Synopsis

This book is a unique case study of the impact of a peacetime army--its history, organization and command structures, doctrines, and level of training--on the subsequent operation of large field forces in battle. Drawing on a variety of archival sources, the author presents new information on attempts to prepare inadequately trained troops for battle during World War II, together with a critical analysis of the Canadian army's performance in the late stages of the war.

Excerpt

Forty-seven years ago this summer allied armies stormed the Normandy beaches, only to find that after the initial landing phase, progress toward the D-Day objectives became slow indeed. This, too, was the experience of the First Canadian Army on the road to Falaise in the summer of 1944. If the ultimate test of the combat effectiveness of an army is the battlefield, then the performance of the Canadians, including the many non-Canadian formations in this army, while brave beyond dispute, was disappointing.

The author, a long-serving infantry and staff officer in the Canadian land forces, does not question the historical record; he does seek to discover the "reason why." He challenges the widely accepted explanation that inexperienced troops and, on occasion, inadequate regimental officers were no match for the fanatic, combat-experienced Germans. Instead, he places ultimate responsibility for the operational shortcomings revealed in Normandy on the Canadian high command. During the lean interwar years, Canadian senior commanders, overly concerned with keeping a skeleton army alive in a hostile political environment, neglected the essence of their profession and forgot the lessons of 1914-1918. But the British high command and army were in much the same predicament, as were the armies of Canada's sister dominions. None was adequately prepared, either mentally or in materiel, for war in 1939.

Most Canadian formations, however, were not engaged until the summer of 1944. This provided adequate time for realistic training, and some effort was made to profit from combat experience gained in Sicily. However, as the author shows, Canadian senior officers in England, caught up in routine, all too often failed to make good use of this opportunity. Peacetime habits and ways of thinking are always hard to shed, and for three years the . . .

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