Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Disaster At D-Day (Greenhill Military Paperbacks)
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on July 12, 2003
On the sixth day of the sixth month of 1944, elements of six Allied infantry divisions and three airborne divisions began the assault on Hitler's Fortress Europe. Within 24 hours, despite horrible losses at some points, the first wave of invaders breached the German line and a huge Allied host began pouring ashore.
Peter G. Tsouras, tweaking history's reality by presenting a plausible chain of alternate events, paints a chilling picture of a German victory over the invading Allies. In Tsouras' fictional history, German armored units destroy the Omaha Beach landings, Hitler and his generals react much faster than they actually did, and nothing the Allies attempt to do in order to save Operation Overlord works.
Tsouras uses the techniques of a traditional historian. His prose is straightforward and never veers into novelistic style, even though this is, indeed, a novel by any other name. The use of maps, photographs and footnotes gives the book the feel of a "real" history book.
The only complaint I have is the choice of typeface....it's too small and makes the text a bit hard to read. Otherwise, it is a great book for history buffs and fans of the "what-if" genre.
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on June 26, 2002
Alternate history novels are becoming increasing popular. Harry Turtledove sees to that. But almost as quickly is the category of non-fiction alternate history. In this latter 'history' the author takes a real life event and makes it come out different from the original. He makes no attempt to novelize it; thus, he does not have to worry about the proper use of typical writer's tools such as character development, symbolism, dialogue, and style. What this author must do is to write expository prose, clearly showing the relation of original cause to changed event. In DISASTER AT D-DAY, Peter Tsouras posits a German victory at Normandy in June of 1944. Tsouras notes that only a few changes would have been needed to insure an Allied debacle. In real life, Hitler refused to commit his reserve tank corps to back up his western wall on the beaches of Normandy. Had he done so, the Allies' advance could well have slowed. The problem with books of this type is that only the most determined of readers who have accumulated a vast reservoir of military history would have the fortitude to plow through a series of unconnected dots on a swirling map of war. I am a big fan of war in general and alternate war in particular, but even I had trouble keeping straight a constantly changing series of men, divisions, battles, and minor victories and defeats. The very nature of this genre precludes an author from connecting too many dots. The staying power of this book was the immensity of the background, but after having read it, I found that all I could take away from it was the realization that we came THISCLOSE to losing the big one.
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on January 15, 1998
I was extremely excited to read this book when it came out, going so far as to pre-order at B&N (the checking it out at the library). It was timed for the anniversary of D-Day. The book was worth being excited about. This book is written in the style of a military history of a battle. Therefore, few first-person accounts occur through the book (a la the killer angels), but do occur where needed. If you've ever read an overview of a battle, then that's what you'll get here. In our history the allies came ashore at d-day and the germans responded particularly slowly; by the time they had concentrated troops it was too late to push the allies into the sea. The narrative shows that an amazing confluence of events made an invasion of this magnitude possible; if any had gone wrong then the whole thing would have gone out of whack. In Tsouras' world the germans are a little faster and that makes all the difference. Don't expect an alternative history story like turtledove's. There's no hitler twirling his mustache and saying "if i send zee panzers here than i will foil zat roosevelt." What you do have is a compelling read for anyone who has ever read an account of stalingrad, or waterloo, or gettsyburg, and thought, gee, if the napoleon had sent this corps in here an hour earlier what might have happened? Also enjoyable is the author's bibliography and final pages, which assume a historian writing a history years later about these events.
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on February 9, 2004
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 just 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 bmobers destroyed hundred of key bridges, rail junctions, marshalling yards, track, signals complexes. 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.
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.
However 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:
Any Disaster at D-Day for the Allies in 1944, would have led to Atomic Devastation for the Third Reich in 1945.
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on February 12, 2004
For me, a keen student of military history since childhood, nothing is more fascinating than alternate history. What could have happened and what nearly happened. This book was a sensation for me and taught me to look differently at history. One can argue that the author gives the Germans too much good fortune, but on the other hand one must admit that the changes made towards reality are surprisingly small. Especially the early fall of Caen into Allied hands, which turns out to be the beginning of the end for the British forces is brilliant. Yes, one can find weak points in this book, but all in all it is one of the best alternate books I've ever read. I bought two copies and I can honestly say that I regret that Mr. Tsouras wrote only one chapter about the period following the German victory in Normandy in his book 'Third Reich Victorious' about how the Germans managed to stop the Soviets by throwing all their forces to the east and Rommel managed to turn the tide at the eastern front as well. It would have deserved another great book. Buy it! It will give you a better understanding of the Normandy campaign and a fresh look at history.
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on August 13, 2013
'Disaster at D-day' is a very compelling 'what if' book, which illustrate the idea of what small changes can make to a major story. The book may read very clinically unless you are into hardcore history / military history, however since I am into that type of stories and enjoy history in general I found the book very well put together, and answered the questions of 'what if' very well.

It most likely is a best case scenario for Germany, it may not really be all that believable for many. However having read 'Rise and fall of the 3rd Reich' I know that active opposition did exist in Germany and within the armed forces.

The notes added to each major chapter makes the book read even better, as one sit with feeling of actually reading 'real' history, and the author manage not to take sides or make one side better or more human than the other.

If a 'what if' type of story is your thing, then 'Disaster at D-day' is a great read and highly recommended.
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on April 7, 2003
An excellent story about what might have happened at D-Day, if four things had turned out differently. The biggest change that Tsouras introduces is the disposition of the units, which occurs more, though not entirely, along the lines of what Rommel had in mind. The second greatest change is how the Germans react as the Normandy beachhead develops. The third is the weather and its effects on the battle. And the fourth is the resulting political fallout. In the afterword, the author discusses the basis for the major changes he made to the course of the campaign.
The book is broken up into chapters that correspond to each of the major offensives & counter-offensives, as the Allies and Germans slog it out in the hedgerows. Lots of details, as this and that regiment drive forward, then meet heavy artillery fire or what-have-you. And you'll see how the Allies react as their grand strategy takes some big hits, and what Rommel might have done had he been dealt a better hand.
My only gripe about this book is that it could use a few more maps. One of the chapters (Operation Spanner) has no accompanying map, so I found myself frequently flipping back a chapter or two to figure out where exactly the events described were taking place. In other cases, e.g. Operation Rossbach, it would have been helpful to provide not only an overview of the whole offensive (as the book does), but then zoom in on each zone of the front to provide more detail.
Otherwise, it's a great read, and, for my money, not too far out there.
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on October 21, 2015
Like most other reviewers I give this book four stars. Most of it I liked, a couple of points I didn't.

The good points: First, and most important is how a relatively few,relatively minor changes might have indeed reversed the outcome. In reality Rommel had only one Panzer division near the beach, in the book Hitler had allowed him to move another division into the area. Second, von Rundstedt is able to convince Hitler that this is the real invasion and get the release of many more divisions to be sent to Normandy. In reality the Germans held these divisions elsewhere until too late. Third, and the final one I'll mention is that the guns at Pointe-du-Hoc were installed with their supporting forces and the Rangers didn't quite make it to the top because of the additional troops up there.

There are other good points as well, but there's no point in telling the whole story in a short review. If you want to know, read the book.

Let's get the bad out of the way. First, it is written like a lot of military history: The US 18th Armored was here doing this. The British 24th Infantry was there doing that. The 29th SS Panzer was somewhere else doing something else. It even has fictional references to books published after the war on the actions of these divisions. As such, I sometimes had problems keeping the overall picture in mind (as I do with some real history). The story doesn't come through as easily as some other approaches such as that which Turtledove uses. Second, this shouldn't be the first book you read on D-Day. If so, you might never understand what really happened. Third, he repeats the claims made by Montgomery after the war that the battle turned out just the way he had planned it in advance. Actually, the author quotes this point from one of his fictional references, but finding this requires a pretty close reading.

The biggest overall thing that I brought away from the book is realizing, like Wellington talking about Waterloo, that the D-Day invasion was "a very nearly run thing." It could indeed have gone the other way.
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on August 7, 2000
Disaster at D-Day presents a realistic and quite believable what could have happened during the invasion of Normandy in WW2. The book shows how little things if they had gone the other way could have changed the outcome of the battle and possibly the war.
The Western Allies had bet almost everything on the success of the Cross Channel invasion and if it had not succeded it would have been monthes before they would have been able to try again if that would have been possible at all.
A very good alternate history read that was a very real possibility.
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on November 22, 2013
I purchased this book from the standpoint of an alternate history fan. I've read other works of Lieutenant Colonel Tsouras and in general have found them very impressive. Unfortunately, I didn't find this tome to be up to Tsouras' standards. First off, the author makes numerous changes to the course of history. Rommel is present in Normandy, armored units are better positioned, there's an extra Allied airborne drop, the Germans quickly determine the landings are the main effort (as opposed to Calais), etc. I found it very difficult to determine if these changes could impact events as the author posits as there is just so much to follow. In the end, I'm skeptical as there seem to be many contrivances in the story line to keep things flowing in a particular direction normally surrounding Allied aerial/naval support and Field Marshall Rommel. When LTC Tsouras wants to move a German unit to a given point to cause mayhem, bombing and naval shelling seems to become ineffective or just non-existent. At other times Rommel disappears from the picture at just the right time to allow the Allies to make progress against now leaderless German forces. Given all this, I have my doubts things would progress as stated in this novel.

After some thought, I came to the opinion the author was more focused on telling a story in an alternate history setting than producing a technically accurate analysis. As a simple story, its wonderful. There's lots of action and nice character development. The only problem I found looking at this novel from the vantage of it being primarily a fiction story is there is way too much military jargon for your typical reader.

Although I was initially not happy with this book, its far from a complete loss. Just go into it from the standpoint it is just a neat tale set in an alternate universe and you shouldn't be disappointed.
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