From the very first page, the American infantryman is the hero of this magnificent account of men at war. For five days in August 1944, the fate of the Allied campaign in Normandy longed on the refusal of a relative handful of men to give up the tiny village of Mortain despite a massive German counterattack there. Yet the history books are mostly silent about this momentous battle. It contradicts the satisfying picture of an Allied juggernaut rolling effortlessly from victory to victory across France. Now at last...
From the very first page, the American infantryman is the hero of this magnificent account of men at war. For five days in August 1944, the fate of the Allied campaign in Normandy longed on the refusal of a relative handful of men to give up the tiny village of Mortain despite a massive German counterattack there. Yet the history books are mostly silent about this momentous battle. It contradicts the satisfying picture of an Allied juggernaut rolling effortlessly from victory to victory across France. Now at last Mortain receives its due. Hitler gambled the fate of France on his counterattack there. Had he been successful, the Allies might well have been rolled back to the Normandy beaches. But American National Guardsmen of the 30th Infantry Division held on for five days against overwhelming odds, and the Allied victory in France was assured. The story is told largely in the words of the men who fought the battle. The author sets his account firmly in the context of the Normandy landing and provides the big picture, so that we can understand the importance of Mortain. Along the way, he disposes of a couple of myths. Contrary to the assertions of Ultra historian F. W. Winterbotham, General Bradley did not have advance warning of the German attack at Mortain. He did not lay a trap for the Germans there but reacted as best he could to events as they unfolded. It was the common infantryman who blunted the thrust and bought Bradley the time he needed. Another myth holds that Allied air power won the day at Mortain. But captured Germans confirmed that it was the dogged tenacity of American infantrymen, ably supported by American artillery, that broke the back of the German push.
This dramatic military history recounts the little-known WW II defense of the French town of Mortain by the 30th Division, a National Guard outfit whose troops hailed mostly from Tennessee and the Carolinas. By stopping the German counteroffensive at Mortain, the ``Old Hickory'' Division saved the D-Day invasion forces from being pushed back to the Normandy beaches and gave the Allied high command enough time to bring pressure against both flanks of the German thrust. Featherston, a journalist with the Durham, N.C., Herald-Sun , reviews the controversy over Gen. Omar Bradley's failure to close the gap, a measure that would have encircled large German formations in France and shortened the war. Two German armies escaped through the so-called Falaise Gap but, as the author points out, the Allies took 50,000 prisoners and counted 10,000 enemy dead. It was a great Allied victory--made possible by the heroic stand of the 30th Division at Mortain. Featherston's superb narrative illuminates the overall strategic situation while concentrating on that division's lonely struggle. His account explains why S.L.A. Marshall, the Army's official historian, picked the 30th as the finest division in the European theater. Illustrations. (May)
American National Guard units have often been disparaged for their combat performance during World War II. This book, by a veteran journalist for the Durham, North Carolina, Herald Sun , sets the record straight in dramatic fashion for at least one such outfit, the 30th ``Old Hickory'' Infantry Division. For several days, one of its regiments heroically fought off a major German counterattack designed to roll back the Normandy invasion. Like all unit histories, this one is stuffed with names, personalities, and hometowns, but the action is fast-moving and will captivate the general reader. Featherston takes the 30th from its founding through its final battles and ends up with a useful study of a typical wartime citizen-soldier outfit. For most libraries.-- Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Los Angeles
A popular account, largely based on eyewitness reports, of the stand of the U.S. Army's 30th Infantry Division at Mortain in Normandy in early Aug_. 1944. The heroic defense of Mortain critically delayed the last and most dangerous German offensive in France, and may have saved Patton's Third Army or even the Normandy beachhead itself. This is definitely war from the infantryman's viewpoint. It is also a useful addition to the body of material on just how closely controlled the Normandy campaign was--revisionist in the best (nonpolitical) sense of the word. A likely purchase for medium or large military and World War II collections.