Samuel Mitcham has written an account of the Normandy invasion from the German perspective; in particular that of Erwin Rommel. Probably the most talented of all Germany's army commanders it reveals his limitless energy and resourcefulness to prepare the Atlantic Wall for the forthcoming Allied invasion. From December 1943 when he took over command of Army Group B to his death in October 1944 it follows the unfortunate demise of a great man. His was a thankless task, which he more or less acknowledged from the beginning, but through his misguided loyalty continued to follow the orders of Hitler. After D-Day, and with Hitler's absolute refusal to believe that this was the real invasion and not simply a diversionary assault for the real invasion which would come in the Pas de Calais, Rommel and his army were fighting a losing battle. He pleaded incessantly for reinforcements and received 10,000 to replace 120,000. He was never permitted to follow his own strategies, which would have saved a great deal of blood shed on both sides. From early July the story focusses also on his inner turmoil. How to balance the massacre of his army in Normandy and indeed of the whole German nation against his past loyalty for Hitler. It suggests, that although he was politically naive Rommel was prepared,together with his immediate subordinates to "open the western front to the allies" to ensure that Europe did not fall into Russian hands. It leaves the reader wondering what Europe would have looked like today if that had happened. Unfortunately an allied fighter bomber ensured that this would never be a subject for discussion as he was taken out of the frony line on July 17. The failed assassination plot against Hitler and Rommels' perceived involvement leads to a very sad ending to the book. Although he was an enemy, there is little doubt that Rommel was indeed a great man of his time.
Mitcham's thoughtfully researched analysis of Rommel's final months reads a bit like hero worship, but the thorough documentation of sources (and quality thereof) makes this a definitive third-party analysis of this period of Rommel's career. Mitcham casts Rommel as strategic seer, chronicling the Field Marshal's workmanlike foretelling of so many Allied tactics that you really do wonder if the U.S. would've been pushed back into the sea at Omaha had Rommel been able to a) properly fortify the coastline and b) bring up the 15th Panzer Division, which stood idle during so much of the crucial fighting in the bocage and on the Cotentin Peninsula. In explaining Rommel's role in the Hitler assassination attempt, Mitcham distances Rommel from direct involvement, painting him as politically naive and motivated to prevent a Russian overrun of Germany by "arresting" Hitler and seeing to a political restructuring of the Reich through a negotiated, Allied truce. Whether ! ! or not this was the case is uncertain to me, but it does make me speculate about what a post-Hitler Germany would have been like had the plan worked. Rommel as its president? Mitcham thinks this could have been the case.