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Michael Reynolds weaves a compelling and highly informative account of this elite unit comprising the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions in Normandy and during Operation Market Garden, and later the 2nd SS and 9th SS Panzer Divisions in the Ardennes and at the end on the Eastern Front.
As with all of his books this one is meticulously researched and very readable. I particularly appreciate his unsparing and honest appraisals of the respective abilities of the German and Allied military leadership, and the performance of the forces involved. Although he is a clearly a great admirer of these Waffen SS units he does not shy from recounting their atrocious behavior, particularly against civilians.
The section on Market Garden is particularly interesting and it's hard to argue with his conclusions that whilst the Germans and the American airborne divisions, and their leaders, performed magnificently, the same could not be said of the British (as a dual US and British citizen it pains me to say.) From the badly flawed plan for landing the doomed 1st Airborne Division too far from Arnhem to XXX Corps' lacklustre performance in the drive to relieve the airborne troops (and 1st Airborne in particular at the end of the road), Reynolds is razer sharp and on point in his criticisms. Among others, he demolishes the myth that the presence of the II SS Panzer Corps was unknown to Montgomery and the operation's planners, or that the Guards Armoured Division had insufficient infantry available to support a drive on Arnhem once the US 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment had stormed the Waal bridges at Nijmegen, at great cost, in conjunction with Guards tanks.
The sections on the brutal war of attrition in Normandy and the desperate fighting in the Ardennes are also riveting.
For those interested in three of the most important and interesting battles of the campaign in Northwest Europe, and the role of these fearsome German units, this book is a must read.
Posted April 26, 2013
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