Monday, 16 August 2010
Overlord by Max Hastings
Max Hastings has built a firm reputation as an erudite historian displaying clear objectivity but with an eye for detail. He also has a narrative style that is easy to read and flows effortlessly across the page. Despite the immense complexity of Overlord, Hastings brings the detail together in a way that gives an overview of the whole campaign while not losing sight of the individual actions that made the whole.
Much has been made by many historians of the apparent failure of OVERLORD to achieve its objectives as planned (ie to schedule). Many books on the Normandy campaign have focused on the blunted offensives of the British and Canadian armies while giving possibly overdue credit to the sweeping success of the US push to Cherbourg and the wild ride of Patton across Brittany. Hastings does not undermine the sacrifices and successes of the American army in Normandy but he does go some way to restoring the image of the British effort on the eastern flank.
Montgomery was often inclined to rewrite the objectives of operations like GOODWOOD and EPSOM to fit the outcomes achieved. This did little for his popularity with other Allied commanders, it damaged his reputation and undermined the post war analysis of the importance of those offensives in grinding down the German Army. Hastings acknowledges that most of the allied offensives up to COBRA did not achieve all that was hope for them but he shows that that was as much because of the quality of the enemy as it was a lack of will amongst the allied troops.