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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2003
This is a good, generally well-written 'alternate history' study, but it is not a classic in my view.

Tsouras' aim is to show how the Germans could have 'won' at D-Day. To do this he has to re-arrange things. Some of those rearrangements do seem possible -- but in one crucial area - his scenario demands a considerable suspension of belief. And this is NOT what is called for in a true 'alternate' history as opposed to a fictional treatment.

To start with Tsouras gives the Germans slightly better luck in their initial disposition of forces, he allows certain units to be in position, certain commanders to be with their troops as opposed to being absent either on home leave or attending a war-game inland. This is all fine. As the Allies land he allows the Germans to counter-attack much more quickly than they did. This has a significant impact on the Allies, it's interesting because it could have happened had not the defence been ham-strung as it was in reality by Hitler's orders over when to deploy his panzer divisions.

However, to win the campaign, as opposed to the landings themselves, the Allies or the Germans had to beat the other in the battle of the build-up. The winner would be the side which could amass the most troops, tanks, ammunition and supplies, to allow them to overwhelm the other. In reality of course, the Germans did not believe that the Normandy landings were the main landings, and they kept back key divisions defending the Pas de Calais until it was too late.

Tsouras allows the Germans to realise much more quickly than they historically did, that the Normandy landings were 'it'. He doesn't truly address the issues raised here. The reasons the Germans were slow off the mark were two-fold:

First, their intelligence regarding the Allied order of battle was poor -- they thought the Allies had more divisions than they really had -- so they thought there were enough troops and equipment for a second invasion in Northern France.

Yet for the Germans' intelligence to be better, they would have had to have a much better intelligence network in the UK, and they would have had to be able to take many more aerial photos of the south coast of England -- and this would have meant the Luftwaffe would have had to have been much stronger than it historically was in 1944 -- this 'better' intelligence is a re-adjustment that does not easily work.

Second, the Germans historically believed the Allies would attack via the shortest land-route to Berlin -- ie; across the Pas de Calais. Tsouras' treatment allows them to revise this deeply-held view very quickly. Without allowing them better intelligence, this change is unlikely.

But allowing for all this, the book's weakest point is in its treatment of air power. Even had the Germans immediately realised that the Normandy landings were 'it', and had Hitler ordered every unit in France to Normandy to contain and destroy the Allied build-up -- it is very hard to see how this could have happened given the Allies overwhelming aerial superiority over France in 1944-45.

In the build-up to the campaign, Allied bombers destroyed hundreds of key bridges, rail junctions, marshaling yards, track and signals complexes. This was a series of tactical bombing that was supplemented by the French Resistance, which in 1944 had a significant impact on the ability of the Germans to move troops and tanks. Had the Germans shown signs of moving in the way Tsouras has them in his book, the Allies would have reacted by heavily attacking units on the move. Historically this is what they did. Many German units only reached the front after a severe mauling and with numerous significant delays.

We are left with 'absent' Allied air forces -- which is rather far-fetched.

Saying all this, the book is a good read, if only to show how unlikely it was the Germans could have 'won' at D-Day.

However, what Tsouras does very well show, is that it could have well have been far more bloody than it actually was, and that the Germans could well have thrown back the Allies into the sea on at least one of the beaches - most likely Omaha. He also shows that in the first few days at least, the German might well have been able to give the British and Americans such a beating that they could have created a stalemate.

Yet while Tsouras' book has for Germany a reasonably benign outcome - in reality any disaster at D-Day would have ultimately see the USAAF dropping its first atomic bombs not on Japan - but on Germany.

In other words: Disaster at D-Day for the Allies in 1944 = Atomic Devastation for the Third Reich in 1945.
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on 13 November 2008
As a fan of alternative histories, I was predisposed to like this anyway. Having said that this is excellent, and completely believable and well paced history. I had to keep checking back with "true history" books like "Five Armies in Normandy" and Stephen Ambrose's "D-Day" to spot where Peter Tsuouras had taken the tale in a different direction. There are no big twists, and no unbelievable "what-if" moments - every alternative step was one that was actually considered at the time, all Pete does it string them together.

The prose is pretty good too "England mourned its lost army" is a phrase that will stay rattling around in my head for a long time. Can't recommend this highly enough, but it would be good for you to read one of the two best "true history" books on the subject first.
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on 17 December 2007
The book is a good read but nothing more. The author has let his imagination run wild and as a result has made many errors regarding deplyments prior to the landings. He displays a lack of understand in the movement of the units involved, particulary diffuculties in move units the size of a division across country. He has also fallen into the trap of rehashing other peoples works instead on researching his own. In particular he fails to understand the training and motivation of Waffen-SS units and prefers to continue the well worn tale that they shot a disproportionate number of POW's compared to other units, when any indepth study of the subject will show this not to be the case. On the whole, the book is at best only a pot-boiler.
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on 24 February 2010
A well thought out book. A bit confusing if you know the actual story of D-Day and while I agree that the smallest thing can change a battle, I disagree with the outcome as put forward by the author. A good, thoughtful read though.
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on 7 July 2015
Frightening in its ability to show what was "a close run thing." The argument offered was complex and difficult to follow at times but then , so was the real event. I had the feeling that had the author laid his ms aside for a couple of months and then re-read it he would have been able the make the text clearer for the average reader.
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on 9 August 2015
On my secnd copy of this book (Beware loaning it as you may never get it back)

A realistic alternative history that shows how close the battle could have been, intermixed with actual events. I particularly liked the comments of a British Tank Regiement commander.

Superb read!
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on 17 September 2013
Initially it held my attention, but you can only take so many improbable, not to say impossible happenings, it then became more of a fairy story.
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on 25 August 2006
It was going to be a disaster. Who could have foreseen that the temporary gap in the cold front would last for only a few hours? Captain Stagg, the chief meteorologist of SHAEF and personal adviser to Eisenhower certainly hadn't. Nobody had. At his headquarters at La Roche-Guyone, Fieldmarshall Rommel was packing his bags -or rather: one of his aides was packing them for him. Tomorrow he'd leave for a trip to Germany. Before going to a conference with the Bohemian corporal -as the German army officers condescendingly referred to Hitler- on Obersalzberg, he was visiting his wife as her birthday was coming up. He was confident that the poor weather would last for several days to come and afterwards the tide and the moon would be working for him, making an invasion in the near future almost impossible. At the same time his gregarious staff was bidding him goodnight, several thousand Allied soldiers were being violently sick. They were all huddling in rickety, heaving boats that were being tossed about like toys across a bad-tempered sea. Most of them were energetically vomiting and they were all thoroughly wet. The glorious liberation of occupied Europe was supposed to be on its way. It was the night of 5/6 June 1944. Their destination: France.

The Atlantikwall was, by far and by large, a joke. Of course, the German illustrated propaganda magazine Signal -which was by the way a pioneer in publicism- carried raving articles about the coastal defences of 'Fortress Europe' with impressive pictures of huge bunkers, even huger guns and vigilant-looking Aryan soldiers, challengingly staring towards an enemy that lurked somewhere beyond the sea. Great editorial stuff, to be sure, but just think of it: the Germans had to defend a line that stretched all the way from the Polar Circle towards the Spanish border, quite a bit of coast to defend. Especially when most of those Aryan troops -not to mention guns, concrete and other resources- were engaged elsewhere, as the German army was bleeding to death at Monte Cassino and of course on the Eastern Front. What was left in the West, were second-rate 'Osttruppen' (Russians, Ukranians and even a few Koreans) and garrison troops, as well as several divisions that, even though they could show a impressive battle resume, were on a desperately needed break and were being reorganised, reinforced and resupplied. Not exactly a force any general would pick if he had to fight a decisive battle against an overwhelmingly superior foe. But still: the Germans had plenty of fighting spirit left in them. The crucial factor, according to the German high command, was: will Hitler allow a quick deployment of his famous panzer (armoured) divisions? If yes: the Germans would stand a chance. If not, the invasion would succeed and the war would be utterly lost. And as far as the fortifications of the Atlantikwall itself are concerned: even though some of Signal's pictures were actually faked, the Atlantikwall could indeed boast a few enormous defence complexes, including guns that could shoot all the way across the Channel. But all of those were concentrated at Pas-De-Calais. Needless to say, the Allies didn't intend to walk headfirst into a carefully prepared killing ground, so they shifted their attentions elsewhere: Normandy.

As the armada of invasion craft with its unhappy cargo was drunkenly steaming towards the Calvados coast, the airborne part of D-Day was already well on its way. For weeks the Allied airforces have been bombing and strafing German coastal defences, communications and transport facilities. Of course, the planes had to cover a wide stretch of the Atlantikwall and its hinterland, as not to give any clues about the intended invasion area ; in fact, more forces were used to pound the crap out of the Pas-De-Calais area, than there were being deployed over Normandy. No wonder the Germans were getting confused. But they did have a clue. The knew somehow -it's amazing the things torture can do for you- that the BBC was going to announce to the French résistance the impending invasion, as the latter had to disrupt the German communication lines. They were going to do so by broadcasting -amidst a flutter of other incomprehensible chatter- parts of a Verlaine poem. And they were going to do so in two parts - the first part would announce that the invasion was imminent, the second part'd mean that it was actually on its way and that the various résistance groups had to go and do whatever they were supposed to do. And the BBC had already broadcast the first Verlaine bit a few days ago. So the Germans were ready and waiting, even though they still didn't know where this invasion attempt was supposed to take place. But Adolf himself had had one of his last strokes of 'divine inspiration' when he guessed that the inevitable invasion would come in Normandy and ordered reinforcements to be sent to the region, blatantly ignoring the opinion of his military commanders.

Of course, the Allies had been putting a lot of effort into gathering intelligence as well (even though they didn't rely on divine inspiration). For years, they had been sending out commando parties to test the coastal defences, with the infamous Dieppe raid as a sad highlight. They went so far as to deploy frogmen who had to take samples of the invasion beaches for future (and, as far as I can tell, irrelevant) analysis. And of course, the asked the résistance to spy on the Germans as much as possible ; which is a lot easier asked (from behind a wireless in a well-heated room in London) than done (in occupied Europe with the Gestapo breathing down your neck). Nonetheless, the résistance dutifully obliged and at one point had a huge stroke of luck. A local résistance leader in Normandy happened to be an interior decorator. As he was walking through his town -no doubt wondering how the hell he was supposed to get an overview of the coastal defences as getting a job with the -construction- Organisation Todt, would only give him a tiny bit of info- he suddenly noticed a sign posted on a German barracks window: 'painter wanted. please apply here'. After a bit of Babylonic confusion (the sentry didn't speak French and he didn't speak German), he managed to get the job. As he was discussing it with a German foreman, the latter was called away. The Frenchman found himself alone in the room as he noticed some blueprints lying about. Surprise: they contained the entire Normandy defence system. He eventually -after hiding them behind a painting of Adolf Hitler and later smuggling them out hidden in a roll of wallpaper- managed to get the blueprints to Britain, where some intelligence officer must have exclaimed "Jolly good show, froggie!" Better still: the foreman was soon afterwards transferred to another job and in the bureaucratic melêe that ensued, the Germans never found out about the dissapearance of those blueprints.

So borth parties were well-informed about each other's intentions. Put in a fairly mild change of the weather conditions, a few (seemingly) minor changes in both German and Allied desicion-making and 'Disster at D-Day' is well on its way.
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on 16 February 2011
Up until this point, the vast majority of Alternate History books I've purchased have been pure Fiction, in that they typically follow a cast of main characters around, detailing their involvement in the alternate history. This book stuck with the military, and virtually only the military side of the story. As a result, I rate it up there together with "The Moscow Option" as being among my all-time favorite Alt History. This type of factually intense Historical fiction is a must have for the reader really interested in the military side of the story, how the armies square off against each other, what equipment is used, what happens to major historical personalities etc. My only disapointment was the length of the book, too short for my tastes, but I always say this when I greatly enjoyed the book. I recommend it!
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on 28 January 2014
A very well written series of counter-factual essays. The authors all have detailed knowledge of the events of that period and put it to excellent use in these essays. In some essays, only tiny details have been changed and the snowball effect from there is explored with consummate skill. After reading this book, one can almost believe the South really did win.

Highly recommended indeed.
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