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Good but ultimately unbelievable - I still enjoyed it
on 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.