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Fields of Fire

Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy: Second Edition

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 406
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  • Book Info
    Fields of Fire
    Book Description:

    This new edition of Copp's best-selling, award-winning history includes a new introduction that reflects on the genesis of the book and its impact on our understanding of the Second World War.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1944-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction to the Second Edition
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    The first edition ofFields of Fireand its sequel,Cinderella Army, offered a new interpretation of the Canadian role in the liberation of Normandy and Northwest Europe. The argument – that ‘the achievement of the Allied and especially the Canadian armies … has been greatly underrated while the effectiveness of the German army was greatly exaggerated’ – has had some impact on subsequent research contributing modestly to a less theoretical, evidence-based approach to military history.¹ Concentrating on Canadian operations and tactics left little room for a discussion of the ways in which strategic decisions influenced the campaign and the Canadian experience....

  5. Preface
    (pp. xxix-2)
  6. 1 Introduction: Military History without Clausewitz
    (pp. 3-32)

    WhenSaving Private Ryanwas filling the theatres in the summer of 1998, a Canadian journalist commented that if the film had been made in this country, ‘the Allies would never have got off the beach. Private Ryan himself would have been flattened by a German Tiger tank and the rescue squad dead to the last man.’¹ This approach, which is usually associated with the Vietnam War generation and the CBC, has in fact been dominant in Canadian universities and military colleges since 1962, the year C.P. Stacey publishedThe Victory Campaign. Stacey’s volume of the official history was strongly...

  7. 2 D-Day
    (pp. 33-58)

    The best place to begin an inquiry into the D-Day landings is at Dieppe, where the ill-fated 1942 raid took place. The Canadian Battle of Normandy Foundation Study Tour brings university students there each year to walk the ground, analyse the events of 1942, and provoke a discussion of the lessons the Allies ought to have learned from this experience. The students have no difficulty developing a wish list for the assault troops. They want more firepower in all possible forms and a landing site that does not offer the enemy the advantage of clifftop positions overlooking the landing beaches....

  8. 3 The Bridgehead
    (pp. 59-76)

    An assault landing on a defended shore is perhaps the most dangerous military operation in modern war, but by midnight on 6 June it was clear that the Allies had pulled it off. The landings at Omaha beach had run into serious difficulties, but elsewhere the battle had gone far better than anyone could have expected. Much was owed to the weather, which had won surprise, but the Allies were also assisted by the confusion that enveloped all levels of the German command.

    At the strategic level, the German decision makers held to the view that a landing anywhere south...

  9. 4 The Battles for Caen
    (pp. 77-106)

    The battles for Villers-Bocage and le Mesnil-Patry were part of Montgomery’s first attempt to capture Caen. His plan for a pincer movement, with 1st British Airborne seizing ground south of the city, had failed, with both the 7th Armoured and 51st Highland running into determined resistance and powerful counterattacks. Montgomery decided to think the problem through again. He prepared a new plan that would employ the three divisions of Lt.-Gen. Richard O’Connor’s 8 British Corps in the area west of Caen. Crocker’s 1 British Corps, including the Canadians, was ‘to practise aggressive defence’ in front of the city, forcing the...

  10. 5 Stalemate?
    (pp. 107-130)

    By the second week of July, the senior German officers in the west feared that their armies were on the verge of collapse. Battle casualties now totalled more than 100,000, and fewer than 9,000 replacements had arrived. The loss of 2,360 officers was especially worrying. Nine generals, seven officers of the general staff, and 137 ‘commanding officers’ had been killed or seriously wounded between 6 June and 7 July.¹ Hitler’s ‘Directive for the Conduct of Operations in the West,’ issued on 8 July, offered little hope. Hitler remained convinced that ‘the enemy will probably attempt a second landing in the...

  11. 6 Operation Goodwood – Atlantic
    (pp. 131-154)

    As the battles for Caen and additional bridgeheads a cross the Orne wound down, Montgomery issued a new directive on 10 July that offered a clear and balanced plan of action. The Americans were now facing ‘some seventy infantry battalions and 250 tanks,’¹ so progress in thebocagewas bound to be slow. It was up to the 2nd British Army, Montgomery insisted, to stage operations that would ‘have a direct influence on the American effort’ and that would hold enemy forces on the eastern flank. This meant a new offensive west of the Orne to support the First U.S....

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 7 Operation Spring
    (pp. 155-184)

    Operation Goodwood was a failure both tactically and operationally, but it became a strategic success because of the enemy response. By the end of the first day the Germans had succeeded in containing 8th Corps’ advance and destroying scores of British tanks. They had been forced out of the Caen suburbs by the Canadians and pushed back to Troarn by British 3rd Division, but they had lost no really vital ground. Casualties on the night of 18 July included hundreds of men from 16th Luftwaffe Division and some battlegroups from 21st Panzer, but 1st SS Panzer Corps, with its painfully...

  14. 8 Falaise
    (pp. 185-214)

    Field Marshal von Kluge’s fixation on the threat of an Anglo-Canadian offensive toward Falaise was based on the certainty that a breakthrough east of the Orne would trap all of the German forces in Normandy, whereas an offensive in the west might be contained by a staged withdrawal. When on 26 July it became evident that the Americans were on the verge of a breakthrough, Hitler agreed to von Kluge’s request to allow 7th Army to withdraw in the sector west of the River Vire. Both von Kluge and Hausser apparently thought this would allow the battered 7th Army to...

  15. 9 Victory in Normandy?
    (pp. 215-252)

    While the First Canadian Army was fighting its way toward Falaise through a well-organized defence-in-depth, General George Patton was, in his own words, ‘touring France with an army.’ Patton’s lead corps advanced from Avranches to Laval, a distance of 80 kilometres, in five days. They met only scattered resistance and were slowed by command indecision rather than by the enemy. Once the German counterattack at Mortain, which began on the night of 6 August, was contained, Patton ordered Lt.-Gen. Wade Haslip’s 15 Corps to continue the advance to Le Mans, 70 kilometres to the east. Le Mans fell on 8...

  16. 10 Normandy: A New Balance Sheet
    (pp. 253-268)

    The Allied campaign in Normandy resulted in one of the great military victories in modern history. After a successful assault on a defended coast, General Eisenhower’s naval, air, and ground forces destroyed two powerful German armies in just seventy-six days. Enemy losses of close to half a million men included the combat elements of thirty-seven divisions deployed in Normandy as well as another six left behind to delay Allied access to ports. Other large fragments of Army Group B – about 25,000 men from twenty different divisions – were encircled at Mons on 4 September.¹

    This extraordinary achievement has failed to impress...

    (pp. 269-276)
    (pp. 277-278)
    (pp. 279-279)
  20. Appendix D. Prisoners of War
    (pp. 280-280)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 281-320)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-328)
  23. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 329-330)
  24. Index
    (pp. 331-344)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 345-347)