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Colossal Cracks: Montgomery's 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, 1944-45 (Stackpole Military History) Paperback – 1 Feb 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books; 1st Edition - 1st Impression edition (1 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811733831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811733830
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.7 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 412,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Incisive, eminently objective, and literate, this thoughtful study advances considerably our understanding of the war's most controversial field commander and his Normandy campaign."


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This study examines the manner in which the 21st Army Group conducted the Northwest Europe campaign of 6 June 1944-8 May 1945. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a book everyone interested in the Normandy campaign should read. I have only two regrets. Firstly, it has taken almost half a century for the truth to come out (the author even charts the progression from self-aggrandising or bilious accounts by the combatants to, as the 21st century dawned, more realistic and better researched accounts). My second gripe is the stilted prose of a Senior Lecturer at Sandhurst.

Having said that, Hart has mined the archives very well indeed and shed light on so many aspects which have been ignored. For example, far too much has been made of Montgomery's personal foibles, to the detriment of the constraints and imperatives which he - and his two army commanders - Dempsey and Crerar - had to work within. Among them was the fact that this was literally Britain's last army, which had to be preserved - and was. Faced by a superior German army (an equally underrated aspect of the conflict) the chosen path for a force made up of largely untested conscripts included heavy use of firepower via artillery and the air force. Ironically, while many critics, including the Americans, failed to recognise what was going on, the Germans were on the ball and called it Materielschlacht.

Some of the chapters were, for me, page-turners as I trod unfamiliar ground and Hart deserves much praise: hopefully future historians will be less biased and present the Normandy conflict and the European consequences more accurately. The only reason I have not given this book 5 stars is because of the poor style. If you can cope with that, this book is a rare treat and genuine eye-opener.
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Format: Paperback
It is excellent to see this exceptional book published at a very reasonable price in paperback. The hardback cost has kept the analysis to too small a circle of experts. This book is not a narrative history of the role of 21st Army Group in North-West Europe but provides a convincing analytical account of the factors that both shaped the army and determined how it operated in action. Most importantly Stephen Hart demonstrates how the Army Group fitted within the large picture of the Allies joint and combined campaign to achieve success.
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Format: Paperback
Too much military history around Normandy eulogises German tactical perfomance and either eulogises or castigates Montgomery's generalship. This study rebuts these simplifications and paints an interesting and insightful picture into how the British Army had to fight in Normandy. The book discusses how the political concerns and higher strategic imperatives influenced the operational methods Montgomery stamped on 21st Army Group. The central tenets of Montgomery's command and operational style are dissected and examined in light of his practice. Overall, the author concludes that the British were right not to try and match the Germans tactically and were right to conduct their operations in the manner in which they did. Additionally, the author shows that Montgomery's subordinates - Dempsey and Crerar - where not the ciphers they are so often portrayed as and also highlights Montgomery's failings. These are important conclusions and deserve to be widely read.
Again, like other reviewers, this only gets four stars because of a)the author's style, which is a bit dry and b)annoying proofreading and typographical errors. That said, if you have any interest in World War II, this book should be on your bookshelf.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hart discusses the operational technique, dubbed Colossal Cracks, used by Montgomery's 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe Campaign of the Second World War; the book goes a long way to destroying the myth that Montgomery was unnecessarily cautious and that his subordinates were simply mouthpieces.

Hart explains how political considerations of having a sizeable British presence on the continent in post war Europe played a role in how operations were to be conducted; he also explains how casualty conservation and the upkeep of moral also played their part. Hart also goes at length to discuss the pivotal roles Henry Crerar, commanding the Canadian First Army, and Miles Dempsey, commanding the British Second Army, played in the campaign.

The amount of information available in the book is amazing it ranges from casualty information, what strategy was used in Normandy to Dempsey playing his hand ensuring that a brigade would only be used on his exact instructions.

For anyone wanting to understand how the 21st Army Group fought in Europe and to get an alternative point of view from the one expressed in more popular literate then this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book not only could use some editing (it works for a scholar audience, but not for the general public), for the author frequently uses the same catch-phrases/terms throughout the various chapters, usually at the beggining and the end; but also more maps for the numerous operations carried out by the 21st British Army Group in NW Europe, the constant references to the various operations carried out need to be put into a geo-military context. Another smal gripe for me was that there was no mention of Montgomery's "tidding-up" of the frontlines during the Ardennes offensive, but just a small quibble.

Nevertheless, the book is extremely well researched, the number of biographical notes speaks for itself, and the author mantains a scientific approach throughout the whole document, chastising where it's needed and giving credit where it's due. It opens a new understanding of 21st Army Group strategy and performance, especially when relating to US Army strategic motions.

A good adittion to any WWII library.
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