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From Normandy to the Ruhr: With the 116th Panzer Division in World War II Hardcover – Sep 2001

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Normandy...Arnhem...Aachen...the Hurtgen Forest...the Ardennes Offensive...the Reichswald...the Ruhr Pocket...Only the men of one unit on either side fought in them all - the 116th Panzer Division! Organized in France in March, 1944 from elements of the 16th Panzer-Grenadier Division and the 179th Reserve Panzer Division, the 116th Panzer Division was one of the relatively rare German armoured formations that fought exclusively on the Western Front. The "Greyhound" Division's history has now been meticulously chronicled in narrative form and lavishly documented by the wartime Division Chief of Staff and Operations Officer, Heinz Gunther Gunderian. Rarely does the student of the Second World War have the opportunity to see military operations through the eyes of the men who planned and directed the battles at the tactical level. Thanks to General Guderian's keen recollections and careful research, readers of From Normandy to the Ruhr can do exactly this. Rarer still is the author who can lucidly and comprehensively analyse and explain the course of those battles.

As the Division's First General Staff Officer throughout its training and combat, General Guderian possessed a unique point of view to do just that. Beyond the tactical decisions - and consequences of those decisions in the deadly and unforgiving arena of WWII armoured combat - the author also explains the institutional and political influences on his division's leadership. General Guderian sheds stunning new light on the reasons, operational and political, behind the fateful deployment of the elements of the German armoured reserve before and during the early days of 'Overlord'. He details the intrigue behind his Division Commander's relief (twice in two months!) and the impact of the accompanying turbulence on the division in combat. Perhaps most importantly of all, the author provides graphic, specific evidence of the catastrophic consequences of political correctness when it infects the chain of command and results in lost battles and squandered lives. As the son of a famous general officer who had a close but dynamic relationship with Hitler, the author was especially well placed for observing and judging this insidious phenomenon.

Major units about which there is significant information included in this book include: German Units; 2nd, 9th and 21st Panzer Divisions / 2nd, 9th, 10th and 12th SS-Panzer Divisions / Panzer Lehr Division / 3rd and 15th Panzergrenadier Divisions / 6th Parachute Division / 12th, 49th, 84th, 89th, 180th, 275th, 344th, 346th, 347th, 353rd, 363rd Infantry Divisions / 47th, 246th, 272nd, 560th Volksgrenadier Divisions / 17th Luftwaffe Field Division / Panzer Brigades 105 and 108 / Assault Gun Brigade 394; Allied Units; US 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th Armoured Divisions / British 79th Armoured Division / Free French 2nd Armoured Division / Canadian 4th Armoured Division / US 1st, 4th, 9th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 79th, 83rd, 84th, 90th and 95th Infantry Divisions / British 43rd and 53rd Infantry Division / Canadian 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions / British 6th Guards Armoured, 8th and 34 Armoured Brigades / 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

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The 116th Panzer Division was formed in the spring of 1944 from the 16th Panzer-Grenadier Division. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
75 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Required Reading for the More than Casual Student of WWll 27 Mar. 2002
By Louis Witt - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Reviewer: Lou Witt, a WWII combat infantryman from Catonsville, Maryland
If you are looking for easy narrative reading, stick to Stephen Ambrose. If you are looking for WWII history glossed over, try Charles Whiting. However, if you are looking for an inside view of the almost daily operations of a German panzer division on the Western Front during the last year of the 3d Reich, Heinz Günther Guderian's book 'From Normandy to the Ruhr' was written for you.
This book is not light reading, but neither is it ever dull. It was written by an expert on the subject of armored warfare. Guderian was born into a military family, the son of the man considered to have been a leading proponent of modern combined arms warfare. The author served with the 16th Panzer Grenadier Division on the Eastern Front prior to his extensive experience in the west. After the war, he served as a Bundeswehr tank battalion and brigade commander, and finally, as a general officer, as Inspector of Armored Troops.
Guderian served as the First General Staff officer of the 116th Panzer Division from its formation in early 1944, through its training in preparation for resisting the anticipated allied landings, and on until the division's destruction. As I was not familiar with the German title of "First General Staff officer," I learned that his job was essentially a combination of the positions of division chief of staff and G-3 (Operations Officer) in an American division. As such, he was certainly an officer who was completely "in the know" about his division's combat actions from battalion level up, as well as the decisions at corps, army, and even army group echelons of command. Not only did this book provide me with an excellent, in-depth appreciation and understanding of the structure of a German panzer division, but the strategies and execution of battle plans as well. It has also inspired me to learn more about, among other topics, German tactics, equipment, and replacement training, and then to be able to compare them with those of the US Army with which I am more familiar.
More than the author's style, it is the rich detail and important insights he provides that compelled me to read this book from cover to cover.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book to flesh out your knowledge of the West Front 10 April 2002
By Anthony Cooper - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sort of like Forrest Gump in the 60's, the 116th Panzer Div was in the middle of many of the famous and key battles in the Western Front in '44 and '45. This book is an excellent description of the battles from the German point of view. The writing and research are fair and scrupelous. If you've read the major histories by American or British authors, this one will fill any voids, correct a few misunderstandings, and explain the other side of the story. You might want to keep those major histories handy, because sometimes I got a little confused about the larger picture (though Guderian describes the action on either side of the 116th).
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
From Normandy to the Ruhr 1 Aug. 2005
By Hugh F. Foster III - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Rare Insight 9 Mar. 2002
By James M. Hanson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Heinz Günther Guderian's "From Normandy to the Ruhr The 116th Panzer Division in World War II," should be required reading for everyone with an interest in ground operations in Europe after the D-Day landings. Guderian's diligent and comprehensive research of both the American and German plans and operations makes this book an essential for professional soldiers and historians. The Aberjona Press does an excellent translation to English. The selection of military terminology of both sides and explanatory comments by editor Keith E. Bonn are helpful for all readers. There is a remarkable collection of detailed maps and photos of the participants and battle scenes. This book is at the top of World War II history list for the reading public. Further details can be viewed at the Aegis Consulting Group, Inc. web site: [...]
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Superb! 3 Dec. 2001
By "crabtownprofs" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For WWII enthusiasts, Heinz Gunther Guderian's _From Normandy..._ is a must! "The little Guderian," who was the 116th's (1a) and awarded the Knight's Cross for leading the division's remnants out of the Falaise Gap, first published it in 1994, some twenty years after retiring from the Bundeswehr. Fortunately for those of us language hindered, Aberjona Press has just issued an excellent translation.
This is much more than a book about panzer battles and includes astute observations about the political realities of 1944-45 and how they impacted on the German military. It's also a succinct revelation about the French and German cultures. For example, Guderian discusses some prevalent French thought about the Transportation Plan's relentless bombing of the Seine bridges and Normady's RR system. As one French woman told Heinz Gunther, "they'll bomb us until we turn German," an observation I picked up on when living in Vernon(Eure), France in the 1950's.
I adopted _From Normandy.._ "cold" (prior to publication) as a text for my American Military University World War II(ETO) course and am glad I did. However, I wasn't taking many chances since I had just used _Six Days in January, the 6th SS Mountain in NORDWIND_ and knew the quality of publications Abjerna puts out. See Aegis Consulting's website for some great maps which correspond to Aberjona's books.
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