BREAKOUT AND PURSUIT. By Martin Blumenson. (1961, 1984, 1990; 748 pages, 34 maps, 93 illustrations, 2 appendixes, glossary, bibliographical note, index, CMH Pub 7-5.)

This volume follows the U.S. First and Third Armies from 1 July 1944 in the Allied sweep across France to the German border, where The Siegfried Line Campaign takes up the story of the First Army (on 11 September) and The Lorraine Campaign that of the Third Army (on 1 September). The present volume includes the battle for Brest, which ended (on 18 September) when the front had been pushed across France and beyond.

By 1 July the Allies had consolidated a firm beachhead which included Cherbourg and left no doubt that their armies had come to stay. The theme of the book is their subsequent efforts to acquire the "lodgment area" projected in the OVERLORD plan (see Cross-Channel Attack); the effort of the Germans to contain them; the breakthrough beginning on 25 July; its conversion into the breakout; the encirclement of German forces; and the ensuing sweep across France that outran all plans and anticipations.

After an explanation of Allied and German situations (Part One), the battle narrative opens (Part Two) with an examination of the hedgerow fighting-the costly and disheartening battles in the compartmentalized fields of Normandy which, combined with rain, mud, and inexperience, deprived the Americans of the advantages of numbers and mechanization in the offensive and assisted the Germans in their stubborn defense. The volume gives special attention to the methods by which the Americans overcame the unexpected difficulties that beset them and became experienced veterans.

The next phase of the narrative (Part Three) includes an account of the genesis and evolution of General Bradley's breakthrough plan (COBRA) and follows in detail the measures and events that marked its conversion into a triumphant breakout into Brittany (described in Part Four). The author then (in Part Five) recounts the swiftly changing plans of the Allies as they seized the opportunity to break out toward the east;

Page 76

describes Hitler's counterattack toward Avranches and its defeat; follows (in Parts Six and Seven) the development of operations designed to encircle the Germans at Argentan and Falaise; and shows the fast-moving mobile warfare that characterized the drive to the Seine, the liberation of Paris, and the sweep to the borders of Germany. A tightening logistical tether (see Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume I) and the resuscitation of German resistance subsequently brought the First and Third Armies face to face with the bitter campaigning described in The Siegfried Line Campaign and The Lorraine Campaign.

The battle narrative in this volume is, in general, pitched at corps level, but the focus of attention moves up and down the chain of command to illuminate decisions, both Allied and German, at critical moments of the campaign. The action is carefully related to the declared or postulated intentions of the responsible commanders, and success or failure is examined with reference to these and the opposing moves of the contestants. As in Cross-Channel Attack, the access of the author to abundant enemy sources has made it possible for him to represent fully the strength, intentions, and tactics of the enemy.

Page 77

Return to the Table of Contents