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Defenders of Fortress Europe: The Untold Story of the German Officers during the Allied Invasion Hardcover – August, 2009
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“Defenders of Fortress Europe will be of value to any serious students of the campaign.”
“Defenders of Fortress Europe is well crafted, informative, and very readable. . . . Mitcham not only clearly explains the major battles, but candidly assesses the performance of German commanders, such as the ‘tactical brilliance’ of Erich Straube and the ‘going to seed’ of Hugo Sperrle. His crisp writing brings to life these German officers who fought in the west and concludes by informing the reader what happened to them after the war (some lived well into their eighties and nineties!). Highly recommended; also has excellent maps and appendices.”
“In war it is important to know your enemy, which is valuable even in retrospect. This book practically puts the reader on a first-name basis with many famous and lesser-known German commanders and recounts their actions during and after the D-Day invasion. While many books provide information on the German field marshals and famous generals, such as Erwin Rommel, Defenders of Fortress Europe is an excellent reference on many other commanders and units that were important in World War II.”
“Samuel Mitcham provides a superbly researched account of the second-and third-level leaders of the German Army in 1944. I recommend Defenders of Fortress Europe to military professionals and to those interested in understanding the German army’s inner-workings during the final days of World War II.”
About the Author
Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. is an internationally recognized authority on Nazi Germany and the Second World War and is the author of twenty books on the subject, including Panzers in Winter and Rommel’s Lieutenants. A former Army helicopter pilot and company commander, he is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College. He has appeared on the History Channel and National Public Radio, among other media outlets. He lives in Louisiana.
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The profiles are brief but effective. Most men receive at least a page; a few will receive a half page. Model, Rommel receive three or more pages.
If your main interest is in learning about German officers then this book deserves your consideration. On the other hand, if your main interest concerns the operational events in France and Belgium, this book will probably disappoint. Specific battle history of Operation Overlord is thin. The author has also written other books on Normandy; the volume, "Retreat to the Reich" is a good example. This book presents a concise battle history of the Germans being pushed back to the Rhine. The combination of both these books would make a good overall summary of battle history and officer biographical for the new or intermediate student.
The "Defenders" have 18 maps and 23 photos of some of the key people covered. An Appendix, Notes section, Bibliography and the all important Index close out the book.
Over the years, the author has compiled an impressive amount of information on WWII. I've read eleven of his books and you can tell that these books are based on this huge database of knowledge and though there is some duplication in his books and you do have to work to retrieve that key information, his collective works will be worth the effort for many of us.
With the biographies being limited, the author attempts to tie them in to the action on the ground as the officers became involved. This technique doesn't always work. For example, General Marcks, commonly considered to be the best corps commander the Germans had in France at the tile of Overlord, is given bit player consideration, and it is difficult to follow what happened to his corps following his death. The result is a rather loose narrative, punctuated with various biographies, and a book that may be useful for reference (using the index extensively), but not something a reader pours through from cover to cover. It is probably best used with other works on the Germans in Normandy to fill in some personnel gaps on the German side.
In short, this is a mildly useful work, one that I am happy to have on my shelf, but not an important work.