21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Hugh F. Foster III
- Published on Amazon.com
The late General Heinz Günther Guderian wrote the best division history I have ever seen, and I have read many. Every detail of the 116th Panzer Division's operations from its organization in the spring of 1944 through the end of the war in the Ruhr Pocket is covered in this amazingly detailed study. Moreover, the reasons for each tactical decision are laid out in clear terms, whether they were made for purely doctrinal rationale, unfortunate battlefield necessity, or from political influence. It is this richness of explanation that sets Guderian's book apart from all other division histories. In a genre (division histories) dominated by books which are often little more than keepsakes or souvenirs, filled with sentimental versions of the way the authors wish the war would have gone, From Normandy to the Ruhr stands out as an unemotionally recounted day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of how, despite being constituted late in the war and despite being virtually destroyed three times (Normandy, Aachen/The Hürtgen, and the Ardennes), a German panzer division repeatedly rose to the challenges posed by mission after mission. Written by the Division's 1st General Staff Officer himself, this book provides profound insights into how the German Army was able to remain a formidable foe until the spring of 1945.
As the publisher's ad copy emphasizes, this is NOT a personal memoir by a private or sergeant, or lieutenant. There are some very fine books that fit the "memoir" category, including several by this book's publisher, The Aberjona Press, such as Black Edelweiss, Seven Days in January, The Good Soldier, and Five Years, Four Fronts. However, while exciting to the buff, educational to the student of battlefield actions and reactions, or even titillating to the "war porn" junkie, there is much more to military history than the combat recollections of those who saw action at the foxhole level. Normandy to the Ruhr is a much rarer bird: it is a brilliantly polished tactical history, written by a highly decorated staff officer, which explains the mechanics of war at the tactical level. It is supported by dozens of outstanding maps which allow the reader to follow all of the action, and a very robust photo section, which allows the reader to form a mental image of most of the characters mentioned in the book.
From Normandy to the Ruhr is also a crucially important work because, almost uniquely, it explains the terrible influence of politicos-in this case, Nazi politicians, military and civilian-on the battlefield conduct of war. The meddling, political correctness, and downright blunders foisted upon commanders at all levels by political leaders with a wide variety of agendas other than battlefield success is brilliantly documented in this book.
For readers who wish to know not just the "what" of combat which can be gained from junior soldiers' or leaders' memoirs, but the "why," From Normandy to the Ruhr is a must-read. It is critical reading not only for the student of German operations on the Western Front, but for those interested in the many American and British units which fought the 116th Panzer Division...from Normandy to the Ruhr!