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From Beachhead to Brittany: The 29th Infantry Division at Brest, August-September 1944 Hardcover – February 25, 2008


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From Beachhead to Brittany: The 29th Infantry Division at Brest, August-September 1944 + From Brittany to the Reich: The 29th Infantry Division in Germany, September - November 1944 + Our Tortured Souls: The 29th Infantry Division in the Rhineland, November - December 1944
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books; 1ST edition (February 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811703258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811703253
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joseph Balkoski is Command Historian of the Maryland National Guard. He has appeared as a D-Day expert on MSNBC, and his work has been praised by Joe Scarborough, the New York Post, the Washington Times, World War II magazine, and others. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

More About the Author

I was born in NYC and graduated from Vassar College in 1975. I also gained an M.A. in history at New York University. I moved to Baltimore in 1981 and have been here ever since. As soon as I moved here I became fascinated with the US Army's 29th Infantry Division because so many of my neighbors served in it. I have been very honored not only to know past members of the division well, but also its current members, since I serve as Historian for the Maryland National Guard. Both the old and young soldiers are fabulous people and always keep my life interesting. In my spare time, I play the piano and participate in various sports activities as much as I can.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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It takes the reader into the minds of the leaders in individual battles.
alpacalady
If you are looking for a well written, easy to read, and riviting history of the 29th ID, this is a book for you.
Freg14
I have read 4 of Joe Balkowski's books and I highly recommend all of them.
Richard T. Peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lorenzi on April 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is easy to think that once the Allies stormed Normandy that they raced east towards Berlin. Just as easy to assume that the bloodied 29th might have had a respite from the carnage. In fact, there was a terrible price to pay to finish off the Germans in western France, centered on Brest.

The fight was not long but it was not easy. From late August 1944 to the middle of the next month, a series of direct assaults on well-fortified, desperate German strongholds in Brittany killed and wounded hundreds of Americans in what ended up being a less than critical capture of the ports of Brest, best known for its formidable sub pens.

Worse, several generals thought that this would be easy, mopping up undersupplied, poor morale German troops eager to surrender, leading the commanding officer of the American efforts to expect fast movements and quick results. Only the Americans were short of men and ammunition and many of the Germans, for much of the time, were not easily convinced of their need to surrender. Hundreds died on both sides. The 29th had to meld scores of replacements into each regiment, trying to train and assimilate them during their few days off the fighting line. This introduction to real warfare did help, yet it also underscored the desperate situation of combat units with sky-high casualty rates.

Major General Charles Gebhardt, Jr., the demanding commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division charged with taking Brest, pushed all his men hard, expecting quick results against an underestimated enemy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Gawne on July 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Brittany Campaign has been one of the least written about and understood actions in WW2. In this book Balkoski continues to track the 29th Infantry Division from his classic book on d-day (Beyond the Beach head) from Normandy up to their move to Holland - covering their actions at Brest. No one is better suited to tell this story, as no one knows the 29th Division like Balkoski who has studied that unit all his life.

I have personally talked to a number of veterans of both the Normandy and Brittany fights, and to a man they all said Brittany was tougher. Partially because the Germans had nowhere to go, partially because many were well trained German paratroops, and partially because the defense was commanded by General Ramcke (who is arguably one of the more interesting German Generals of the war) who told his men that every shell used on them in Brittany was one less that would fall on Germany.

This book focuses on the 29th Division, as it should, and like his other books is very well done. Material on the Ranger Battalions is included as they fought under 29th command but little is covered of the other divisions talking part. The combat outside (and inside) the city was brutal; with events happening that put some of the more popular movies and TV shows to shame.

I think the entire question of why capture Brest, and its importance to the ETO campaign still needs to be examined in more detail, but it does not impact the fact that for a few weeks in August and September 1944, some of the toughest fighting in the war took place in Brittany- and has all but been forgotten.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donna C. Coulson on September 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I gave this as a birthday present to my friend, Spero,84,a D-Day veteran who landed on Omaha Beach with the 29th Division and was also in the battles in Brest. He came back to NJ in 1945 without his buddy Francis and without his hearing. He told me about how severe the fighting was in Brest and that no one had really told the story in detail--the attention was on D-Day. Well, now there's a good book about Brest, Spero. And for our Band of Brothers be they with us or gone, here is another documentation of the soldiers of the 29th at Brest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard T. Peterson on April 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read 4 of Joe Balkowski's books and I highly recommend all of them. This book like his others has great detail, contains new material, is well documented and written in a style that flows and is easy to read. His conclusions are well founded and explains the actions of the military leaders by giving the reader thier thought process behind the decisions.

Refreshing in it's thoroughness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Freg14 on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth book that I have read by Joe Balkoski. This book is well written and really conveys what the 29th Division went through in its seige of Brest. If you are looking for a well written, easy to read, and riviting history of the 29th ID, this is a book for you. Joe Balkoski can really tell a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kay Gutknecht on July 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am elated that after a nine year interlude, Joseph Balkoski has continued the story of the 29th Infantry Division. Beachhead to Brittany covers the 29th's role in the battle for Brest, August - September 1944. This book, like his first on the Division, is scholarly, yet engaging; full of combat facts yet peppered with stories and perspectives guaranteed to elicit fear, frustration, chuckles and tears.

My father served with the 29th, so I am hungry to know all I can about his service experience. With the exception of Joseph Ewing's official history of the Division published in 1947, everything written about the 29th has focused on the Normandy campaign. Now, unlike Ewing's white-washed, official military history, Balkoski delivers a thorough and objective story of the 29th's role in the capture of Brest, the men who led the battle and the circumstances that resulted in the Blue and Gray suffering thousands of casualties, including 700 dead, to capture a harbor that was never used by the Allies. He also includes information about the combat engineers--something that thrills me, as my father was part of the 121st Combat Engineer Battalion.

For anyone interested in the WWII European Theater and especially the 29th Infantry, this book is a must-read. Joseph Balkoski is the one of the world's leading authorities on the Division, and I have a deep appreciation for his ability to create a cohesive and readily understandable story from a vast and diverse number of primary sources and soldier recollections. I eagerly await volume three.
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