Long on engrossing combat vignettes but short on historical perspective, this fine-grained narrative covers some 80 days of the American campaign in France, from the bloody stalemate in the hedgerows to the decisive breakout and defeat of the German army in Normandy. In line with the Stephen Ambrose school of populist historiography that sees the campaign as the Greatest Generation's finest hour, military historian McManus (The Americans at D-Day, etc.) challenges historians who have characterized the U.S. Army's performance as sluggish, tactically inept and dependent on a colossal superiority in numbers and firepower over its German opponents. He does so by focusing on the battlefield exploits of small infantry units and individual GIs, whom he feels displayed plenty of drive and tactical ingenuity. These well-paced and often moving stories, based on veterans' first-hand reminiscences, are full of blood and guts, squalor and heroism, pathos and despair, and they add up to an indelible portrait of the horror of war. But McManus's conclusion that the Americans were""better soldiers"" than the Germans is both unfair and untenable. The details of his account make clear that American infantry tactics did indeed rely on the crushing assistance of tanks, artillery and airpower. Meanwhile, he avoids meticulous comparisons of front-line strengths that would reveal how hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned the Wehrmacht was, while his exclusive interest in the American side neglects the tactical achievements German soldiers pulled off with incomparably skimpier resources. The many war stories McManus offers make for a gripping read, but they add up to a seriously biased picture of the Allied victory.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2004 Release date: 10/01/2004 Genre: Nonfiction
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