Although the 1944 Normandy Campaign is now covered in great detail by both popular and scholarly histories, the immediate payoff of Allied success there - the liberation of Paris and the rout of the Wehrmacht across central France is surprisingly obscure to English-speaking audiences. As author Steven J Zaloga notes, there have been very few specialized studies on the liberation of the French capital and most readers with any interest in the subject have relied on the 43-year old popular account, Is Paris Burning? Finally, with Liberation of Paris 1944: Patton's Race for the Seine, readers can now turn to an insightful, well-researched account that provides a wealth of military data from both sides on this poignant moment in the Second World War. As the author notes, the heavy Allied losses at Omaha Beach and in the hedgerows of Normandy - often viewed in isolation - seemed worth the price to the GIs marching down the Champs Elysees to a cheering French audience just two months later (which was well ahead of the expected time to reach the Seine in pre-D-Day planning). This is a graphically-appealing, well-researched volume written by a military historian who knows how to deliver a coherent, but detailed campaign narrative.
The author begins with a tight, focused introduction that sketches out the strategic situation in August 1944 without getting distracted. Other introductory sections cover Opposing Commanders (von Kluge, von Choltitz, de Gaulle, Leclerc, Gerow), Opposing Plans and Opposing Forces. As the author notes, Allied forces arrived in the vicinity of Paris just as the Wehrmacht was disintegrating in central France and the new German commander, von Choltitz, was never able to form a coherent defense of the city. Allied planners had originally intended to bypass the city in order to avoid having to feed 4 million hungry civilians, but the author credits de Gaulle's insistence and Eisenhower's flexibility with a reversal of Allied strategy and the decision to advance directly upon Paris. These sections are particularly useful for readers trying to gain a sense for events immediately preceding liberation, as well as for the weakness of French resistance forces inside Paris (only 600 armed FFI fighters).
The 53-page campaign narrative itself begins with Patton's race to the Seine River on 15 August and concludes with the US military parade in Paris on 29 August - a rather eventful two week period. Zaloga covers the myriad of regimental and division-size engagements leading up to the liberation, as the Germans desperately tried to slow the Allied advance with a hodgepodge of rear area security and flak units. Once the uprising broke out in the city - due to German efforts to disarm the unreliable Parisian police - von Choltitz lacked even the forces to maintain order within the city, never mind hold off Patton's army. Eventually, von Choltitz surrendered his 20,000 troops - a rather large haul often overlooked - and de Gaulle arrived to re-establish the French Government. In addition to military details, the author succeeds in laying out the political dynamics in play during this protean event, which is essential to understanding its significance.
Liberation of Paris 1944 includes six 2-D maps (the strategic situation, August 16, 1944; the Battle for Chartres, August 15-18, 1944; The US Army approaches Paris: August 19-24, 1944; Paris Uprising, August 19-24, 1944; the advance on Paris, August 23-24, 1944; V Corps Storms Paris, August 24, 1944) and three 3-D BEV maps (the Seine Bridgehead at Mantes, August 19-23, 1944; Race for the Seine south of Paris, August 21-25, 1944). These maps are very high quality and pack a great deal of information which is not easily available elsewhere. The three battle scenes by Howard Gerrard (Fw-190 rocket attack on the Seine Bridgehead, 22 August 1944; German attack on the Police Prefecture, August 19, 1944; Sherman tanks advancing on the Rue de Rivoli, August 24, 1944) are superb. In addition, the author provides a well-stocked bibliography with sources ranging from the US Army Foreign Military Studies, US Army official studies and secondary sources in English, French and German. It is apparent from the start that the author has researched this subject thoroughly and provides the best material available to the reader.