Hitler's Final Defenses in France
The latest book from Osprey is "BRITTANY 1944 - Hitler's Final Defense in France", number 320 in their Campaign series. It is printed in the standard Osprey softcover format. It has 96 pages, 70 B&W photos, 5 color maps, 3 topographical battle maps, 4 color illustrations 3 of which are the two-page illustrations with the B&W illustration on the back explaining the contents of the picture. And, 2 color photos of present-day landmarks.
In "Brittany 1944" author Steven J. Zaloga summarizes the battle for the Brittany Peninsula. From day one the D-Day planners knew that they would need a deepwater port in order to supply the Allied armies in their drive across France and into Germany. There were four major ports in Brittany - Saint-Malo, Brest, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire. Zaloga tells us it was General George Patton and his newly formed Third Army's job to capture these ports. In typical hard-charging Patton style, some of the biggest advances of the war so far were made. Yet, early in the campaign, the ever-changing situations of war shifted and Patton was ordered to do an about face and attack eastwards straight into France, leaving the capture of the ports to a single Corps. The VIII Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Troy Middleton got the job.
Hitler and the Germans knew that the allies would need a deepwater port also. Hitler turned all the ports into Festung Ports or Fortress ports. He expected nothing less than a fight to the death in the defense of these ports. The Brittany coastline was part of the Atlantic Wall, and many spots the defenses were stronger than that in Normandy. The main German command in Brittany was the 25. Army Korps, led by General der Artillerie Wilhelm Fahrmbacher. With the two main ports of Saint-Malo and Brest under the command of Obst. Andreas Von Aulock and Gen.Lt Hermann Berhard Ramcke, respectively.
The French resistance also played a role in the campaign. Although they were unorganized and under-armed by army standards, as far as the resistance goes, they were better than most in France during the Summer of '44. So much so that by the spring of '45 they were launching their own attacks on some of the last holdouts of the German army in Brittany.
Including the introduction and the index, the book has 10 chapters. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 setup the campaign by explaining commanders, armies and plans of the up coming battles. In chapter 6 the book goes into the campaign itself and takes up the vast majority of the book. The last 3 chapters deal with after battle summaries and how the battlefields are today.
There are several color maps of the battlefields. They are in full color and easy to read. The map above is the one I referred the most as I read through the book.
The Book has 3 topographical battle maps. All of them have an crease that runs right down the middle witch I found somewhat annoying as I kept trying to flatten out the book to read it. I found this to be the only real downside to an otherwise great publication from Osprey.
During the battle for Festung Brest, which was the biggest battle in the campaign, the Germans utilized several old forts built in the 18th century. Some had earth filled ramparts 40 foot thick with 40 foot wide 15 foot deep moats. They could hold their own against ground attacks, they were vulnerable to land and sea bombardment.
The book is loaded with photos, over 70 altogether. Much to my surprise, I had not seen a single one of these photos before. These photos offer even more insight into this battle for both new military readers and old pros.
This book was an eye-opener for me, I knew very little, if anything, about the campaign in Brittany. When I think of the Normandy Campaign, I think of Beachheads, Operation Cobra, Falaise, Paris, and then into Germany. I even went back and check my old DVD recordings and nothing was even said about Brittany and the Battle for the ports. I really enjoyed this book, especially how it was laid out. Steven Zaloqa did an outstanding job explaining the Campaign from all sides. He also keeps the reader curious about the battle to the very end. I highly recommend this book about the untold (or under-told at best) Battle of Brittany 1944.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review book.
Reviewed by Rob Teubert
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