The town of Saint-Lo was one of the two major American objectives in the period immediately after D-Day. While the right wing of the US Army pushed into the Cotentin and up to Cherbourg, the left wing attempted to advance south towards the important road junction at Saint-Lo, which was expected to be the starting point for the breakout from Normandy. However the Allies had failed to realise just how difficult it would be to fight in the Normandy Bocage country, which was dominated by a network of small fields, each surrounded by thick hedges built on sturdy banks. This was the ideal landscape for the defenders, allowing them to turn every hedge into a fortress,
This is the sort of indepth combat history that tells you much more about the daily experience of the soldiers than about the course of the battle itself. As is so often the case with books that go into this much detail, that overall story is rather lost as we focus on a field-by-field account of the action. It doesn’t help that much of this battle was a slogging match in the bocage, with progress measured in individual fields rather than in dramatic sweeping advances. The author also assumes that we are aware of the context for this battle – there is no ‘aftermath’ section to explain how it fitted into what came next, we simply end at the fall of Saint Lo.
One rather unusual and welcome feature of this book is that it provides an equal amount of detail from both sides, following both American and German units in great detail. This helps us understand that both sides faced serious problems during this battle – the Americans were having to struggle forward through the infamous bocage country, where every hedgeline could be a fortress, while the Germans were soon outnumbered, lacked replacements, and were being constantly worn down by superior Allied firepower. Even successful defensive battles ended up costing them casualties they couldn’t replace.
The 'Blue and Gray' Division
Saturday 10 June
Crossing the Elle, 11-13 June
The Bloody Hill
The Static Period
The Final Battle
Author: Georges Bernage
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military