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Falaise, 1944: Death of an Army (Campaign) [Paperback]

Ken Ford , Peter Dennis
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Mar 2005 Campaign (Book 149)
The battle around Falaise in Normandy during August 1944 saw the destruction of the German Seventh army; this title details the chain of events which led to the German retreat and the ensuing liberation of France. The British and American breakout battles had released motorised units to wage a more mobile war against the German static defensive tactics, and at Falaise, the armoured units of US Third Army encircled the German Seventh Army and squeezed them into an ever-smaller cauldron of chaos, crushed against the advancing British Second Army. The results were devastating: those troops able to escape the disaster fled, whilst those who remained were killed or captured and vast quantities of armour and equipment were lost.

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Falaise, 1944: Death of an Army (Campaign) + Caen 1944: Montgomery's Breakout Attempt (Campaign) + Operation Cobra 1944: Breakout from Normandy (Osprey Campaign)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (25 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841766267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841766263
  • Product Dimensions: 25.3 x 18.4 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 504,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Ken Ford was born in Hampshire in 1943. He trained as an engineer and spent almost 30 years in the telecommunications industry. He is now a bookseller specialising in military history, and an author, having written a number of books on various Second World War subjects. Previous titles for Osprey in the Campaign series include volume 127: 'Dieppe 1942' and 134: 'Cassino 1944'. Peter Dennis was born in 1950 and, having been inspired by contemporary magazines such as 'Look and Learn', studied illustration at Liverpool Art College. He has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects. He is a keen wargamer and modelmaker.

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First Sentence
Between 6 June and the end of July 1944, the Allied team in Normandy remained remarkably intact. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Falaise 1944 2 April 2011
By Callum
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well enough written. More detail on this part of the battle than you get in the standard books on the Normandy Campaign by Max Hastings, Anthony Beevor et al.

Well illustrated with excellent pictures and maps of actions that help you understand the narrative. Superior to the standards in that way.

A bit of a pain that as the maps are 2 pages vital information is buried deep in the folds.

Would recommend for anyone really interested in the Normandy Campaign.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Final chapter keeps up the standard 22 Aug 2007
This book completes Ken Ford's coverage in the Osprey Campaign series of the British and Commonwealth part of the Normandy campaign. Overall I would strongly recommend all these books for someone wanting a clear narrative of that campaign by British and Canadians. That said, due to the nature of the Osprey series, there is little or no space for personal testimony and it is hard to get a feel for the intensity of the fighting. The book dovetails well with Steven Zaloga's account of Operation Cobra although it avoids much mention of the criticism of performance of the British and Canadians in their attempts to seal the pocket. It is to be hoped that the powers at Osprey will commission a final addition to cover the battle for St.Lo which would complete the coverage of Normandy. Overall, a very worthwhile addition if you have the others in the same set.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of chaotic situation 18 Jan 2006
Enjoyable read and fairly fluent.
Shock, horror and chaos of the pocket seem to come over better in the "After the Battle" magazine on the subject though, than in this book. Sterile study.
I do miss personal accounts in the text. Just following Regimental numbers through the action how ever well researched doesn’t make for very inspiring reading.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was the German Army in Normandy Destroyed? 4 May 2005
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In Osprey's Campaign #149, Falaise 1944: Death of an Army, veteran Osprey contributor Ken Ford (not Gordon Rottman, as mistakenly shown on jacket photo) continues his survey of the major phases of the 1944 Normandy campaign. As usual, Ford's narration is clear and succinct; he has done a superb job of synthesizing the various existing secondary sources on this subject - although it is less clear if the author has actually incorporated any primary research information. The Battle of Falaise was one of the more controversial phases of the battle of Normandy and Field Marshal Montgomery was forced to relieve a number of subordinates, and the failure to close the "Falaise pocket" led to recriminations in the Allied command.

The standard sections on the origins of the campaign, opposing commanders, plans and forces are informative and useful. However, there are two points in the opposing forces section that the author fails to address. First, at the start of the Normandy breakout battles in July, there were about 1.4 million Allied troops in Normandy versus fewer than 400,000 Germans, giving the Allies an overall 3-1 or better numerical superiority in personnel. In terms of tanks and artillery, the Allied superiority was even more pronounced. Second, Ford makes little or no effort to discuss the heterogeneous composition of the Commonwealth forces, particularly the Canadians and the Poles. On the face of it, the Canadian units tended to be larger but less experienced than the British units, and Ford doesn't mention that Canadian commanders were sometimes leery about being used as "cannon fodder" by the British (remember Dieppe and Hong Kong 1941?). As for the Poles, I had to cringe when Ford described the Falaise campaign as "their first battle." Major General Maczek and his men were based on the original 10th Mechanized Brigade and had been killing Germans since 1939; these men were all veterans by 1944, even if the "Polish 1st Armored Division" had not fought previously as a unit.

Falaise 1944 includes five 2-D maps: the Allied frontline before the breakout battles; the breakout; Operation Bluecoat; forming the Falaise pocket; the German collapse. The three 3-D Maps are: Capture of Mount Pincon; Operation Totalise and Tractable; sealing the pocket. It seems to me that Osprey's 3-D maps from 5-6 years ago were more detailed than the new format, although the organization of the text has gotton better. The three battle scenes by Howard Gerrard are: American tanks and infantry overrunning a German 75mm anti-tank gun, July 1944; counterattack by SS `Das Reich' division against Poles on Mount Ormel; escaping troops from German 7th Army under attack from RAF typhoons.

Although Ford's narrative is sound, the vital question of why the pocket was not closed more promptly is explained only in general terms. American General Bradley did not request a boundary adjustment that might have allowed US troops to close the gap and Montgomery perhaps did not instill the Canadians with a sense of urgency in closing the pocket. These explanations certainly contain elements of truth, but do not necessarily explain what happened. Ford fails to mention that the operation was a "converging attack" where US, Canadian, British and Polish forces were to meet in the center - this is a very difficult mission for a Coalition to execute, based on differences in communications, doctrine and willingness to accept risks (a perfect scenario for fratricide). I think that the nature of the pocket and the importance of closing the gap - so clear on maps today - was less clear to tired commanders on smoke obscured battlefields in 1944. The Canadian commanders had seen numerous British attacks repulsed at great cost for little gain, and they chose to fight a methodical battle that was slow but sure.

The real significance of the Falaise campaign is the entire issue of whether or not the Allies were able to "destroy" the bulk of German forces in Normandy - the 5th Panzer and 7th Armies. Ford makes no effort to answer this question, but merely provides the standard Allied "guestimate" that about 90-115,000 German troops were caught in the Falaise pocket, of whom 10-15,000 were killed, 50,000 captured and the rest escaped. Based on these numbers, Ford concurs with the Allied assessment that the German forces in Normandy were more or less destroyed. However, if Ford had taken a look at some of the information now available on German casualties, he might be less certain of this conclusion. If the Allies trapped about 100,000 Germans in the Falaise pocket, that means that about 280,000 German troops then in the Normandy area were not in the pocket and that there were another 200,000 or so other Germans in the rest of France. Apparently, by the time the net started to close at Falaise only about 25% of the German troops in Normandy were trapped. Furthermore, it is also clear from German records that even most units trapped inside the pocket were able to save 40-50% of their personnel, which gave them a cadre to rebuild. German sources indicate that those armor units that escaped from Falaise still had about 80 tanks left operational after the battle, and while this is not a large number, Ford mentions that the Germans had held up the Canadian 2nd Corps for over a week with only 35 tanks. Ford makes no mention of the "September Miracle" but it is clear that the Germans were able to salvage enough from Normandy to stop the Allies on three weeks after Falaise on the German-Dutch borders. I'm sure the British 1st Airborne troops didn't think that the German 2nd SS Panzer Corps was "destroyed" when they met them at Arnhem. Falaise was an Allied victory, but it was not decisive.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Noncritical Review of an Important Allied Campaign 15 Aug 2009
By Dave Schranck - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
On the surface, Mr Ford has delivered an acceptable overview of the campaign leading up to the Falaise Pocket but I consider it highly biased and incomplete. It's a parochial vision that favors British participation over the US and propagates Montgomery's "save face" line of propaganda in keeping the Germans tied down in the east to allow the Americans to break out in the west.
A few lines are given to Operation Cobra, a few words to the Mortain Offensive, another few words to Patton moving to Argentan and then toward the Seine and the rest of the book is given to the British, Canadians and Poles. Except for the first map of Brittany, all the other maps, especially the 3-D maps as well as the color illustrations are British-centric. The author calling Patton an anglophobe is also a cheap shot. With the treatment that Patton received in the Med from both Montgomery and Alexander plus the stunts Montgomery pulled in Normandy and at home, plus the fact that Montgomery wasn't producing, one shouldn't wonder of Patton's regard for the British.
My biggest complaint is not an act of commission but of omission. There is no real criticism of the command structure: Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery and to a lesser extent Dempsey and Simonds. The top three generals have a lot to answer for either their overcautiousness or ineptness in handling the closing and none of it was addressed in this book.
Another signal that Mr Ford didn't do enough homework is his short Bibliography which contains all secondary sources.
I suggest if you want a better understanding and a more rounded view of this important August period that you also read the Martin Blumensen book, "The Battle of the Generals", along with Carlo D'este's "Decision in Normandy" and Samuel Mitcham's "Panzers in Normandy" or "Retreat to the Reich".
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falaise 1944: Death of an army 12 Dec 2009
By Armor - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I recently learned that my father participated in the battle of the Falaise Pocket as part of the 1st Polish Armoured Division. The book covers the battle from both sides of the battle and gives a good perspective of all the participating Allied and German Armies.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book... 28 Jun 2011
By Elizabeth M. Nickerson - Published on
Like all the Osprey books this is another welcome addition to the Campaign series. For the most part these books do an excellent job of giving you a brief overview of these camaigns so that you may decide later if you want to go more in depth. I strongly recommend this title, the illustrations are great too.
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