War on the Michelin Map
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Ever since D-Day the German front line had resembled the sea defences of a low-lying coast continually battered by high seas and unprecedented storms, sometimes breached but always patched up somehow or other and giving the impression of strength, flexible and well-tempered like fine steel. Now suddenly in the sunshine and dust of the first day of August all was changed: on the extreme west flank at Avranches a vital dyke was down and the flood of the Third Army with ever-increasing ferocity was roaring through. The crisis of the Battle of Normandy had come: as hour succeeded hour the situation on the whole front, especially that of the Third Army, changed and changed again. A quarter of a century later these days lose little of their tension with the lapse of time.
In the British Army one of the reasons for Montgomery's hold on the morale of his soldiers was his insistence on all of them being, to use his own words, 'kept in the picture'. As a result his commanders neglected no opportunity to show their men on the talc covering their own personal maps where the enemy was and how the battle was going. Montgomery himself, always on the move but never apparently in a hurry or worried, would often round up a group of soldiers and on his own map point out to them where the Panzer divisions were, what the Americans were doing and what he, Montgomery, had in mind. As a result he had tamped down the forbidden question: 'Why, if we are fighting most of the Panzer divisions on our front, are the Americans so slow in breaking out?' Now the would-be strategists from platoon level upwards had their answer.