D-Day reading, Part 2

By Rob Morgan

Having mentioned the “Penguin Atlas of D-Day and the Normandy Campaign” by John Man, it seems sensible to write a review note of it. My well-thumbed copy was bought when it was first issued in 1994 for the 50th anniversary. It sold well, and though currently out of print, is easily picked up in hardback or paperback editions on the internet.

This is a book with a sound commentary on the events of the 80-day campaign and its origins and planning. Though far from being a detailed history, this is the book, and “atlas” is the right term to use, which needs to be used alongside any of the better known and more widely read histories. I have found it invaluable since I bought my copy for, I think, £10. This is a 140+ page book with 62 full-colour maps of the run up, dispositions and the individual battles which go to make up the campaign as a whole. There are scores of photographs too.

The first maps deal with the evacuation from Dunkirk 1940, then the plans for “Sealion,” and the Dieppe Raid in 1942. The activities of Bomber Command are mapped; and the German dispositions, both the well known 84 Corps positions, and the entire Nazi military machine in the Western half of Europe. Very useful, with the key areas of resistance sabotage and activity in support of the landings separately mapped.

The Overlord assault is thoroughly mapped out, from the order of battle to the specific beaches and beach defences. The drop patterns of allied paratroops is a valuable inclusion, and one particularly interesting map for me is number 19, the disposition and targets of the 143 warships in the two naval task forces, this is backed by map 20, of the convoy routes, minefields, patrols and screens. Good naval wargaming material — the Mulberry Harbour layouts are also mapped, incidentally.

The D-day footholds, the expanding bridgeheads and counter-attacks follow, with the capture of Cherbourg and the Cotentin on from that. The flurry of Allied Operations in June and July are all thoroughly mapped, “Goodwood,” “Charnwood,” “Cobra,” and “Epsom” included. The later and utterly decisive attacks that ruined two German armies, “Bluecoat,” “Totalize,” and “Tractable,” as well as Luttich, the failure at Mortain. Maps 57 and 59 are specific and thorough illustrations of the Falaise Pocket, with potentially a hundred wargame scenarios. The last maps deal with Patton’s speedy breakout and huge right hook that led to the taking of Paris and most of Central France.

The value of this map book for WWII wargamers is obvious. Almost every page throws up an opportunity for a score of wargame scenarios backed by historical fact. I found myself wondering about the potential of map 49 “The Pluto Pipeline” for a raid, by Fallschirmjager for instance, much more likely to succeed than a snowy tank ride through the Ardennes, or the vulnerability of the rear maintenance and supply areas in map 40, similarly exposed, arguably, to a raid.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

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