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The Battle of the Generals: The Untold Story of the Falaise Pocket-The Campaign That Should Have Won World War II Hardcover – December, 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

General Omar Bradley called it "an opportunity that comes to a commander not more than once in a century." General Dwight Eisenhower, in a letter to his wife, predicted that the war could be over in 10 days. Blumenson reveals how the two military chiefs, along with British General Bernard Montgomery, let slip an opportunity to destroy a large portion of the German army at the Falaise Gap in Normandy in August 1944 by failing to close the jaws of a trap as quickly as they could have. Though several thousand German soldiers were killed, wounded and captured in the Falaise pocket, the Allied victory was disappointingly incomplete, and the war continued for another eight months. Blumenson ( Patton ) analyzes the emotional dynamics among the three ill-matched generals, showing how their mutual antipathy affected the conduct of operations and led them to neglect the basic precept of warfare: instead of concentrating on destroying the enemy, they focused on capturing territory. His careful examination of General George Patton's role at Falaise Gap brings into clearer focus his skills as a high-level field commander. "Unlike most of his contemporaries whose reputations have steadily declined since the war," writes the author, "Patton's has continued to rise." Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In the months following the D-Day landings in Normandy, Allied forces fought to dislodge defending German troops from northern France. A huge encirclement at Falaise destroyed the German position but allowed the escape of many troops, prompting accusation that the war in Europe could have been won months earlier. Blumenson ( Patton , LJ 11/1/85) masterfully examines the complex, behindthe-scenes relationships of generals Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, and Patton to provide a command-level view of the incident. Blumenson's work is insightful and analytical, with no new surprises. It makes a nice companion to Alwyn Featherson's account of the Mortain siege, Saving the Breakout ( LJ 4/15/93). Recommended for general collections.
- Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Los Angeles
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (December 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688118372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688118372
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,272,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Alex Diaz-Granados on October 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Martin Blumenson's The Battle of the Generals is an interesting, though never quite captivating study of the controversial Battle of the Falaise Gap, the climax of Operation Overlord in August of 1944.
Blumenson, author of Breakout and Pursuit (1963) and an eminent military historian, focuses on the "big picture" as he focuses on what he frankly believes was the Allies' biggest blunder in the campaign in Northwest Europe: the failure of the Allied armies to close the Falaise Gap and trap the shattered remnants of two German armies west of the Seine River. Blumenson states point-blank that had Eisenhower, Bradley, and Montgomery paid more attention to the immediate goal of destroying the German army in Normandy instead of being diverted by visions of a triumphal march into Germany, a large number of German troops and their equipment would have been sealed in a huge pocket and the war could have ended in 1944.
Instead, American, British, and Canadian generals, with the exception of George Patton, opted to stick to the Overlord plan, often passing up promising tactical opportunities and, as Blumenson often says, playing it safe.
I found this book interesting in its even-handed approach of not going the "it was all Monty's fault," though that British commander's flaws as an army group leader are pointed out. Bradley and Eisenhower don't escape Blumenson's critical gaze; indeed, it was Bradley's desire to keep the more dashing Patton on a short leash that the author says was a critical factor for the Germans' last minute escape from a potentially disastrous double envelopment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Battle of the Generals: The Untold Story of the Falaise Pocket - The Campaign That Should Have Won World War II," by Martin Blumenson, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1993.

Martin Blumenson's book is one of the best on the Battle of the Falaise Gap. He is an excellant writer and has been researching WW II history in the European Theater almost since the war ended. For 60 plus years the powers that be in military history have "poo-pooed" any claim that the Battle of the Falaise Gap was anything less than a great victory. The Allies killed over 10,000 Germans in the pocket, they captured another 50,000 and barely 20,000 to 40,000 of the enemy managed to escape while leaving all of their heavy weapons and vehicles behind. Flush with public adoration for their victory over the German Nazis, Allied generals and their friends writing the history books have repeated this rosey scenario ad nauseam since the end of the war.

Ladislas Farago's book on George Patton (Patton: 1964) and Carlo D'Este's book "Decision in Normandy" (1983) both challenged the official version of events. But it was Canadian Major General Richard Rohmer's book "Patton's Gap" in 1981 that really raised questions. General Rohmer was, to my knowlwdge, the first writer to publish the Forrest Pogue interview with Montgomery's intelligence officer E.T. Williams, where Williams told Pogue he was there when Montgomery ordered US General Bradley to halt his forces on the inter-Army Group boundary line south of Argentan. The official version of events had Bradley issuing the halt order to Patton because he did not think Patton was strong enough with only the 5 divisions in Haislips' XV Corps to complete the 14 mile drive to Falaise while holding a firm shoulder at Argentan. Rohmer's book changed everything.
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Format: Hardcover
When I bought this book, I couldn't help but wonder if it would validate my long-held beliefs about the Allies' top three generals in Europe during World War II (Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Bradley) and their subordinate, General George S. Patton Jr. --- views which I had formed as a boy by reading newspapers, watching newsreels, listening to the radio and over-hearing adult conversations as the war progressed.

As it turns out, it does much more than that. It delivers a detailed history of the early stages of the war in Europe AND confirms my long-held beliefs. And by reviewing the personal reflections of these four men --- in their notes, journals, letters, etc. --- it also appears that, unbeknownst to one another, they, too, viewed each other in much the same way. But, sadly, it does one other, more important, thing. It effectively proves that by their actions, inactions, and ineptitude, and by ignoring the urgings of General Patton, these three top-level generals: 1) failed to capture or destroy the bulk of the German Army in France, leaving them to regroup and live to fight another day, thus prolonging the war by several months, and 2) in all probability caused the deaths of tens-of- thousands of Allied and Germany soldiers in what would have been unnecessary battles.

So, what views were confirmed? General Eisenhower appears to have been more of a politician, administrator, and coordinator than a military leader. During the battles discussed in this book, he delegated his military responsibilities to Montgomery and spent most of his time ensuring that the Allies continued to collaborate. Perhaps, as a military man, he had reached the level of his incompetence, since there is some question as to whether or not he really understood the battle plans he was approving.
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