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Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944 (Stackpole Military History) Paperback – 1 Feb 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books (1 Feb 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081173384X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811733847
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 610,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"A meticulously researched and highly detailed account of German forces fighting in western France in the summer of 1944."

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On July 17, 1944, a pair of German soldiers dragged an unconscious officer into the Catholic hospital near Vimoutiers, France. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Aussie Reader on 9 Mar 2001
Format: Hardcover
This new book from Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., author of numerous books on the German armed forces during World War Two, is another great addition to literature on that subject. In this book the author covers the German defeat in France after the Allied invasion in June 1944. In just over 270 pages Mitcham offers the reader an interesting account of the German measures to defeat the Normandy invasion, the story is well told and the narrative flowed along quite smoothly.
The book is no where as detailed as the classic account by Carlo D'este, 'Decision in Normandy' published in 1983. However it does offer a very good overview of the invasion at Normandy and the fighting in the bocage country along with the subsequent invasion of Southern France. The story continues with the Allied drive to the Rhine and the failed airborne operation 'Market Garden'. One of the best points about this book is that it offers a biography of each of the major commanders and a mini history of each major fighting unit. The author presents this information in a way that it does not interrupt the story, it enhances it.
There are a number of first hand accounts by participants on both sides of the fighting and the author makes a number of interesting observations about the German and Allied forces and their commanders. The photographs supplied were OK but I think could have been better presented and I am a bit suspicious about some of the captions. The main disappointment with this book is the standard of the maps. They could have been a lot better and more detailed. This seems to be a common problem with a number of books on the market at the moment and I only hope that some publishers take note.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Solid contribution to the ETO literature - View from the other side of the hill 27 Mar 2008
By Mannie Liscum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Samuel W. Mitcham's "Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944" is solid look, mostly from the German perspective, at the action in Northwest Europe from the June 6 (1944) Allied invasion of Festung Europa to the failed Ardennes counteroffensive of mid-to-late December '44. While the war in Europe didn't end for another 5 months, the events of the six months Mitcham covers here are generally considered the period on the Western front that contributed most significantly to the ultimate Anglo-American-Soviet defeat of Germany (with the Soviet actions on the Eastern playing the overall dominant role). In focusing on this period of action from the German side of the equation, Mitcham - a noted historian who has contributed much to our current knowledge of the German army of WWII - has helped to fill in portions of the larger puzzle that are generally lacking on other accounts and analyses of the same period and geographical realm. Not surprisingly, given Mitcham's expertise, "Retreat to the Reich" contains much by way of German Order of Battle information (Mitcham has written one of the definitive books on the Werhmacht OB; "Hitler's Legions", 1985, ISBN-10: 0812829921) as the action is described. Sometimes this approach becomes a bit tedious to read, but one certainly cannot claim Mitcham fails as a quality historian. This is not to say that Mitcham has generated a prose that is difficult or uninteresting, rather it is deep in historical content in a way that not all readers may enjoy. Certainly those more serious about their historical readings/studies will thoroughly enjoy "Retreat to the Reich", while it may be more hit-or-miss as enjoyment for the casual reader of Second World War history. Three stars for writing style, 4.5 stars for historical prowess; 4 stars overall.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Decent Overview of German Defeat in France, 1944 9 Mar 2001
By Aussie Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This new book from Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., author of numerous books on the German armed forces during World War Two, is another great addition to literature on that subject. In this book the author covers the German defeat in France after the Allied invasion in June 1944. In just over 270 pages Mitcham offers the reader an interesting account of the German measures to defeat the Normandy invasion, the story is well told and the narrative flowed along quite smoothly.
The book is no where as detailed as the classic account by Carlo D'este, `Decision in Normandy' published in 1983. However it does offer a very good overview of the invasion at Normandy and the fighting in the bocage country along with the subsequent invasion of Southern France. The story continues with the Allied drive to the Rhine and the failed airborne operation `Market Garden'. One of the best points about this book is that it offers a biography of each of the major commanders and a mini history of each major fighting unit. The author presents this information in a way that it does not interrupt the story, it enhances it.
There are a number of first hand accounts by participants on both sides of the fighting and the author makes a number of interesting observations about the German and Allied forces and their commanders. The photographs supplied were OK but I think could have been better presented and I am a bit suspicious about some of the captions. The main disappointment with this book is the standard of the maps. They could have been a lot better and more detailed. This seems to be a common problem with a number of books on the market at the moment and I only hope that some publishers take note.
Overall I found this book to be an interesting and enjoyable read and I think that most people who have an interest in this subject should enjoy it. I would make the point however that this is more of a general overview of this campaign and not a detailed combat history. Regardless of that I hope the author intends to follow on with a book covering the Ardennes Offensive and the final drive into Germany.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A poorly written account with numerous inaccuracies 13 July 2011
By EndSieg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After the first pages, it seemed that this would be a good historical account with a wealth of information on the defeat of the Wehrmacht in France after June 6 1944. But, as I kept reading, I found too many inaccuracies (see examples below) for my taste, and I distrust information about facts that I do not know when I find errors about facts that I do know. That, together with a poor writing style, earns a bad mark for this book.

I found the writing style rather awkward with convoluted sentences such as "...blasted the area around the area from whence..." on p123, or "...little doubt but what Colditz could have..." on p187. Some words are incorrect in their context such as "involved" instead of "evolved" on p165; "residual" instead of "residential" on p242; "work did began" on p166.

There are many mistakes in the names of persons and places and since they occur more than once, it's more than an occasional typo.
Biographical errors include: General von Sueplnagel (p52, 53) [instead of General von Stuelpnagel]; General Albert Jodl (p124) [instead of General Alfred Jodl]; General de Lattre...and...General de Tassigny (p210) [these two generals are one and the same person: general deLattre de Tassigny, not two separate commanders].
Geographical errors include: "Palace de la Concorde" instead of the correct "Place de la Concorde" (p187); "Melum" instead of "Melun" (p194); "Velse (river)" instead of "Vesle (river)" (p204); "Marseilles" instead of "Marseille" (p211); "Le Harve" instead of "Le Havre" (p220,224). As well as an egregious one: "...forces had reached Antibes, 140 miles from the Mediterranean." (p210) but Antibes is on the French Mediterranean coast. The correct spellings and locations can be found in the French Atlas 2000 Atlas 2000: La France et le monde (French Edition) and in the US Army Atlas of the European Theater U.S. Army Atlas of the European Theater in World War II.

There are some additional historical inaccuracies which do not directly impact the subject of the book. Still one can remark that "the Reichswehr period (1919-1933)", on p161, is incorrect: the existence of the Wehrmacht was officially announced on 15 October 1935, a few months after the reintroduction of conscription on March 16 1935. Also, on p23: the V1, or flying bomb, was not powered by a rocket (the V2 was) but by a rudimentary jet engine. On p2, it's not factually correct to state that Hitler was "the legally elected chancellor of Germany" since he was legally appointed by the president Hindenburg (Hitler only ran once for elected office, that of the presidency, which he lost to Hindenburg). Finally p214: "He had fought in the Demyansk pocket for more than a year" is incorrect: that pocket, which was formed 7 January 1942, was relieved in May 1942, although, due to the shifting winds of war, fighting in that region lasted until March 1943.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Just perfect for the fans of military details 8 Mar 2007
By Dimitrios - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I believe that Mr Mitcham is today the leading expert on the German Army and its officer corps during World War II and this book is a real gem for everyone who's looking for a nice account of the German defeat in France in 1944. It starts with the D-Day invasion and goes on with the bocage battles, the "Cobra" breakout, the Mortain - Falaise terrible battle, the Allies' advance to the Seine and Paris and the reach of the German frontier. Instead of what happens often in other military history books, Mitcham's works are a joy to read, because they are very well written, contain a wealth of rare material and information (especially the numerous biographical sketches of German officers), and most important, they do not have mistakes commonly found elsewhere, like the designation of units and formations, the ranks of German officers, the spelling of their names etc. I wish Mr Mitcham will offer us many more titles in the future, using always his talent for smooth writing, detail and professional research. His books remain always in my library as valuable and credible sources of reference.
Excellent overview of the Battle for France in 1944 24 Dec 2014
By John E. Larsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mitchum is one of my favourite writers on matters World War 2. This book explores, as the title spells out, the ejection of German forces from France in 1944. The war was almost five years old when the Allied army famously invaded France on D-day. In the preceding years the Germans had gone from unbeatable to bludgeoned. They were not now able to win the war they had started and were facing a quickly advancing Russian army set on revenge and 24/7 destruction from British and US bombers. The best they could hope for was to defeat the Allied landing and obtain time and men to avert catastrophe in the East. This at least was Hitler's plan. Mitchum recaps succinctly on it all. There were however many things against German success. Aside from exhausted armies there was Hitler himself. His many misadventures as a strategist and the evil effects of his nature caused many Germans to despair. Mitchum addresses this in an excellent chapter on the July 20 bomb plot and ties the failure to a crippling of German leadership when it was most needed. The big picture situation is spelled out very clearly.

Even so, the fascination with the Germans in France, principally regarding Normandy, demands a good look at the battle there and Mitchum does not disappoint. He examines many of the units and while the good were very good, many divisions were of poor quality. Worst of all, the Luftwaffe had failed as a force on the battlefield. Remarkably for a service that could barely get a few hundred planes into the air, it had several hundred thousand personel! There's more to this figure and details like this are what makes this book so readable. Nazism always favoured party cronies and this lead to some monumental failures in organization and just plain common sense. Other areas that are particularly valuable are the strength states given for units at crucial stages. For instance, many readers on this subject would be aware of the destruction of Panzer Lehr division by American bombers and the resultant breakout from the hedgerow country by Patton. This book is the only one I have encountered where an informed strength of Panzer Lehr is given. There are similar figures for many other key actions, reflecting excellent research and a determination to go beyond generalisations and clichés. Basic figures for monthly losses and production are provided too. There is also the unsettling, if not surprising, murder by Partisans of many thousands of cut off German soldiers. This information is a key strength of the book.

Mitchum has a long standing interest in German generals and this is reflected here. There are extensive footnotes for all those mentioned as well as often pithy summaries of their quality. Other strong points of interest are the coverage of the invasion of Southern France, the besieging of the channel ports and the examination of the two opposing plans to use the precious force of panzers that had been assembled for the fight. There are many German accounts provided to support the main text. Many of these are by higher officers, rather than ordinary soldiers but this is apt for Mitchum's focus. The conclusion covers the remarkable feat that the Germans performed in establishing a defensive line of their border and extending the war for another six months.

This is the second time I have read this book. Despite this and my extensive reading on the whole subject, it was absorbing. This book really delivers in terms of explaining the overall situation, examining the contributions to the disaster of the key players and with heaps of fascinating specifics that you won't find elsewhere. Very highly recommended!
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