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Rückzug: The German Retreat from France, 1944

by Joachim Ludewig edited by David T. Zabecki

Availablecloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-4079-7
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Foreign Military Studies
504 pages  Pubdate: 10/05/2012  6 x 9  21 b&w photos, 25 maps, 3 figures, 1 table

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The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, marked a critical turning point in the European theater of World War II. The massive landing on France’s coast had been meticulously planned for three years, and the Allies anticipated a quick and decisive defeat of the German forces. Many of the planners were surprised, however, by the length of time it ultimately took to defeat the Germans.

While much has been written about D-day, very little has been written about the crucial period from August to September, immediately after the invasion. In Rückzug, Joachim Ludewig draws on military records from both sides to show that a quick defeat of the Germans was hindered by excessive caution and a lack of strategic boldness on the part of the Allies, as well as by the Germans’ tactical skill and energy. This intriguing study, translated from German, not only examines a significant and often overlooked phase of the war, but also offers a valuable account of the conflict from the perspective of the German forces.

Joachim Ludewig is an officer in the German Army Reserve. He currently serves as a civil servant in the German Defense Ministry.

Major General David T. Zabecki, AUS (Ret.), is the author of The German 1918 Offensives: A Case Study in the Operational Level of War and editor emeritus of Vietnam magazine. He holds the Shifrin Distinguished Chair in Military and Naval History at the United States Naval Academy and is also an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the War Studies Programme at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom).

Much has been written in English on the Normandy invasion and campaign, as well as on later events, but virtually nothing is known of the crucial period from mid-August to mid-September 1944. Ludewig is the first historian to document in detail the Wehrmacht's retreat from France from the German perspective. He has produced a very solidly researched and documented study on a neglected area of the 1944 campaign in France. His analysis is clear and his explanations of German skill and missed Allied opportunities judicious. -- Stephen G. Fritz, author of Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East

The story of how the final offensive stalled for months. . . . Ludewig offers insight into a phase of the European theater that I had not read elsewhere. -- Washington Times

A detailed, comprehensive account of the Wehrmacht's retreat from France. In spite of the desperate conditions under which it was conducted, it allowed the Germans to reconstitute a front along the Reich's western frontier and continue the war into 1945 at terrible cost to everyone. This is a major contribution to the history of World War II. -- Williamson Murray

Ludewig has written a first-rate historical study that sheds important light on a critical period of World War II in western Europe. His solidly researched and well-documented book provides a much needed German perspective on planning and conduct of operations that has been lacking in English for far too long. -- John T. Greenwood, editor of From Normandy to Victor:The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges and the First U.S. Army

Authoritative, compelling, and very-well researched. Rückzug is an invaluable addition to our understanding of the European war in 1944-1945, offering a long, hard look at the other side of the hill. -- Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle

An excellent historical study of a course of events in need of explication. -- New York Journal of Books

Rückzug is an important book. It is the first serious study to focus on the six-week period from the Operation Dragoon landings on the Mediterranean coast in mid-August and the partial Allied victory at the Falaise pocket. . . . A professional and well-researched assessment of this surprisingly under-examined phase of World War II. -- Anthony Beevor, Wall Street Journal

Extensively documented from German sources, with this English edition edited by retired U.S. Army Major General Zabecki, this superior work is for all serious students of World War II military maneuvers. -- Library Journal, starred review

In Ruckzug, Joachim Ludewig, an official in the German defense ministry, who first published this newly translated study more than twenty years ago, describes the sudden collapse of German resistance in August 1944 and the headlong flight towards the German border... By stopping the story in September 1944, when the new front stabilised along the German and Dutch borders, he is writing a history of German military success and with it the possibility that absolute, unconditional defeat might have been avoided -- London Review of Books

Ruckzug is a most valuable addition to the historiography of the North-West Europe campaign, giving us a most revealing account of how the Germans managed to snatch salvation out of the jaws of certain defeat. Deeply researched and well written, the book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the campaign. Both the author and David Zabecki, the editor, are to be much congratulated. -- Journal of Military History

The translation, documentation, and editing of this new contribution to military studies are uniformly excellent, and Ludewig is to be commended on the value of his work and its accessibility. The study makes fascinating reading and is recommended not only for miliatry collections, but also for general and academic libraries. -- Geoffrey Orth -- Yearbook of German-American Studies