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Steel Inferno: I SS Panzer Corps In Normandy Hardcover – July 21, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A great read. . . . belongs on the book shelves of the Armor Force." -- Armor

"First rate . . . makes it terrifyingly clear just what a gamble the invasion was." -- Publishers Weekly

About the Author

British Major General Michael Reynolds formerly commanded NATO's Rapid Deployment Force.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (July 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885119445
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885119445
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By matt8386 VINE VOICE on October 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There are several things about Steel Inferno that I liked. It is written by a British General, so at least he knows what soldiering is all about, it is told from the German perspective of the Battle of France and it has incredible detail down to individual unit level facts. Perhaps most enlightening of all things to me were the small numbers involved in the German counterattacks.

German military philosophy is very simple. If you loose ground, attack immediately to re-capture it. The Germans are experts at using terrain to their advantage and even small numbers of good panzers, highly motivated troops and a handful of the impressive 88 mm cannon made the Allies stop many times.

And herein lay the horns of a dilemma for the Germans. To wait for sufficient forces to counter attack means the Allies will gain numeric superiority, yet to attack immediately is risky, as you do not have all of the forces you want. Another German Army trait - small unit decision making. With the command of the German units back in Berlin (Hitler), the local commanders had to make decisions based on what they saw.

Several things I did not like about the book. Although the author is British, he is an apologist when it comes to war crimes that the Germans committed. True, all armies are guilty to some degree, but I think General Reynolds goes overboard. The maps are very confusing - the author has you flip flopping between pages and chapters to see what he is talking about. The reader can easily get bogged down with the details of what unit went where or when. Some may enjoy that, but it can make you loose the overall perspective.

All in all, I would recommend the book to gain an insight of June-August in France 1944.
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By Carl on November 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Michael Reynolds' 'Steel Inferno' covers the history and deployment of the German I SS Panzer Corps during the Second World War. The book details the foundation of the corps, a brief history of the Waffen SS and of the 1st SS and 12 SS Divisions, and the fighting the corps - and in particularly these two divisions - was involved in during the Normandy Campaign of 1944.

On the whole 'Steel Inferno' is an easy to read book. However, whole sections of text are over-explained. In particular, throughout Reynolds continues to "translate" British terminology to American when there is no real need after the differences have been first explained. This is somewhat ironic since German terms are presented with little to no translation. In addition one needs some basic background knowledge of the campaign to get the most out of this book since little is elaborated on. Furthermore, there is a major issue when it comes to sources and Reynolds bibliography. Only the secondary sources Reynolds has used - a pretty decent sized collection - are listed but little specific information is given on the primary sources he has consulted. Finally, the inline citations are limited, sometimes problematic, and do not cover most of his claims made and quotes provided, leaving what seems to be most of the book un-sourced.

The opening chapters provide a background on the Waffen SS, and the foundation of the 1st and 12th SS Divisions and the I SS Panzer Corps. Reynolds highlights how the SS was founded in racist/nationalist philosophies, that its combat formations were afforded no special training (later units, as stated further in the book, provided barely adequate training) and instead relied on high morale from a fostering of a family spirit and arrogance of being better than other German troops.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides the most balanced and detailed review of the fighting in Normandy that I have ever read. Other books about the same subject from both German and British viewpoints often contain bias and foggy memory. The British are particulary famous for re-writing historical defeats as victories. That is why we have the "Miracle at Dunkirk" instead of the disaster in France and why Montgomery's failed initial attack in Normandy became a "holding action" with failure blamed on the Americans. Montgomery even tried to claim the disastrous "Market Garden" operation was a glorious success! This seems to be the official opinion at Sandhurst.

On the other hand, many German commanders fought in multiple theaters without significant pause and went through the trauma of American war crimes trials or endured horrible conditions in Russian prisons. They could not write anything down in prison. Years later, they tried to remember what happened in 1944 without implicating themselves in any wrongdoing. The solution? Blame Hitler for defeats and skip over details that may seem inglorius.

This book is excellently organized and includes detailed descriptions of the fighting in Normandy 1944. It is refreshingly balanced. The allies won because they had an overwhelming advantage in air power and artillery. This is a lesson that America learned well, but the Birtish still don't seem to understand. (Someone needs to write a book about this.) In hand to hand fighting, when air power and artillery could not be used, the Allies often were stopped despite a huge disparity in the number of Allied attackers versus German defenders. Many Brittish commanders made poor decisions based on rigid tactics, poor planning, and overconfidence.
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