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The Americans at Normandy: The Summer of 1944--The American War from the Normandy Beaches to Falaise Hardcover – September 23, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Long on engrossing combat vignettes but short on historical perspective, this fine-grained narrative covers some 80 days of the American campaign in France, from the bloody stalemate in the hedgerows to the decisive breakout and defeat of the German army in Normandy. In line with the Stephen Ambrose school of populist historiography that sees the campaign as the Greatest Generation’s finest hour, military historian McManus (The Americans at D-Day, etc.) challenges historians who have characterized the U.S. Army’s performance as sluggish, tactically inept and dependent on a colossal superiority in numbers and firepower over its German opponents. He does so by focusing on the battlefield exploits of small infantry units and individual GIs, whom he feels displayed plenty of drive and tactical ingenuity. These well-paced and often moving stories, based on veterans’ first-hand reminiscences, are full of blood and guts, squalor and heroism, pathos and despair, and they add up to an indelible portrait of the horror of war. But McManus’s conclusion that the Americans were "better soldiers" than the Germans is both unfair and untenable. The details of his account make clear that American infantry tactics did indeed rely on the crushing assistance of tanks, artillery and airpower. Meanwhile, he avoids meticulous comparisons of front-line strengths that would reveal how hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned the Wehrmacht was, while his exclusive interest in the American side neglects the tactical achievements German soldiers pulled off with incomparably skimpier resources. The many war stories McManus offers make for a gripping read, but they add up to a seriously biased picture of the Allied victory.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

McManus, a professor of military history, follows up his widely praised Americans at D Day with a worthy successor. The narrative begins the day after the Normandy landings. There is a common misconception that, with the beachheads secured, success was a foregone conclusion, because of overwhelming Allied materiel and numerical superiority. McManus convincingly refutes that assumption. From the beaches to the hedgerows to the breakout and slaughter at the Falaise gap, the Americans fought bravely, effectively, and often brilliantly against a tenacious and well-led opponent. McManus seamlessly weaves the experiences of individual soldiers into the broader strategic picture. The result is a tough, inspiring, but often heartrending portrait of ordinary men compelled to do extraordinary things in combat. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765311992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765311993
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Great historical writing.
Tom Beadles
The Normandy battles extended well beyond the landings on D-Day and this books captures those elements faced by the Americans.
Anyone interested in this theater of WWII should read this book.
Jay Gerak

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John C. McManus's "The Americans at Normandy" is the best work of history I've come across on the American role in the decisive battles comprising the Normandy campaign from the beaches of Normandy to the closing of the "Falaise Gap", which nearly suceeding in wiping out Nazi Germany's French army of occupation. McManus is a gifted storyteller, recounting numerous fascinating vignettes which showed how inexperienced American troops managed to hold their own against, and then finally defeat, a superbly trained force of Wehrmacht and SS soldiers. Although there have been many books devoted to the Normandy campaign, few have been as successful as McManus's book in rendering the events from the perspectives of those who fought in this campaign.

Though there isn't much in the way of significantly new historical research, I was certainly intrigued by McManus's poor assessment of General Omar Bradley as the overall commander of American forces. More than once, he indicates that Bradley wasn't as willing as his colleague General George S. Patton in waging an extremely aggressive campaign against the Nazis. Indeed the best instance of this is Bradley's own reluctance in closing the "Falaise Gap" by linking American troops with British and Canadian armies. If the gap had been closed successfully, McManus suggests that the war in Europe could have drawn to a close much sooner.

"The Americans At Normandy" is divided into three parts corresponding to each month of the campaign. "June" begins on June 7th, describing American attempts to expand the Omaha and Utah beachheads, followed by an ill fated attempt to seize the strategic town of St-Lo and the brutal assault on Normandy's largest port, Cherbourg.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mannie Liscum on March 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
With so many books written (many over the past few years) about D-Day, hedgerow fighting, and exploitation to drive the German war-machine back to the Fatherland, what makes John McManus' "The Americans At Normandy" special? In short, why should someone interested in World War II history pick up this book over any one of the plethora of other on the subject? Quite simply, "The Americans At Normandy" is a unique contribution to the genre as it brings material together from several distinct sources to tell a broad-portrait story of America's citizen soldiers and their fight to free Europe from the grips of fascism. Having said this, most of what McManus covers is not particularly new, nor does he shed new insight on old topics. Rather, McManus does what so few historians attempt, and so few other achieve - to tell an encompassing and gripping story that maintains historical depth while not causing mass sleep induction. Broad-portrait stories are most usually either shallow in depth, or deep but arduous reading. "The Americans At Normandy" falls into neither of these common traps!

McManus' first contribution to his Normandy duet, "The Americans At D-Day", was a solid book but lacked significant punch to set it apart from other works covering D-Day. Being American Army-centric one could also argue that "The Americans At D-Day" lacked depth necessary to convey the weight of the allied invasion of Europe in June 1944. However, with "The Americans At Normandy", McManus redeems himself wholly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jay Gerak on December 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
McManus' detailing of the events of Normandy (post-D-Day landing) is just that - an awesome detailing of the struggles faced (and overcome) by the American Army in Normandy during the summer of 1944. I was struck by the absolutely appalling machine gun, mortar and HE fire that the American forces were required to endure in each and every hedgerow-bordered field they crossed. The lack of pre-planning by Allied commanders on how to effectively deal with an enemy entrenched in such ideal defensive positions is appalling. The number of lives lost due to such short-sightedness is sobering.

McManus' book does a great job of giving the background, setting the scenes and giving the reader the perspective of the men in the field. He liberally uses maps - but these are reproduced in the hardcover edition in a scale that is far too small to be as effective as they could be.

McManus' treatment of American leadership is honest and unvarnished. He - as could be predicted - discusses many of the Patton's foibles - but so have many other historians and biographers. I was struck by his less-than-admiring treatment of General Omar Bradley and Bradley's decisionmaking. McManus really takes Bradley to task for certain of his decisions regarding Operation Cobra and the northward pincer movement south of Falaise.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It makes me appreciate all the more the bravery shown by many American combat vets who were forced to learn - through trial and error at horrible cost - how to use combined arms to dislodge the entrenched Germans from Normandy's hedgerow country. Anyone interested in this theater of WWII should read this book.
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