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Normandy to Victory

Normandy to Victory: The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges and the First U.S. Army

William C. Sylvan
Francis G. Smith
Edited by John T. Greenwood
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 616
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  • Book Info
    Normandy to Victory
    Book Description:

    During World War II, U.S. Army generals often maintained diaries of their activities and the day-to-day operations of their command. These diaries have proven to be invaluable historical resources for World War II scholars and enthusiasts alike. Until now, one of the most historically significant of these diaries, the one kept for General Courtney H. Hodges of the First U.S. Army, has not been widely available to the public. Maintained by two of Hodges's aides, Major William C. Sylvan and Captain Francis G. Smith Jr., this unique military journal offers a vivid, firsthand account detailing the actions, decisions, and daily activities of General Hodges and the First Army throughout the war.

    The diary opens on June 2, 1944, as Hodges and the First Army prepare for the Allied invasion of France. In the weeks and months that follow, the diary highlights the crucial role that Hodges's often undervalued command -- the first to cross the German border, the first to cross the Rhine, the first to close to the Elbe -- played in the Allied operations in northwest Europe. The diary recounts the First Army's involvement in the fight for France, the Siegfried Line campaign, the Battle of the Bulge, the drive to the Roer River, and the crossing of the Rhine, following Hodges and his men through savage European combat until the German surrender in May 1945.

    Popularly referred to as the "Sylvan Diary," after its primary writer, the diary has previously been available only to military historians and researchers, who were permitted to use it at only the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, the U.S. Army Center for Military History, or the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Retired U.S. Army historian John T. Greenwood has now edited this text in its entirety and added a biography of General Hodges as well as extensive notes that clarify the diary's historical details. Normandy to Victory provides military history enthusiasts with valuable insights into the thoughts and actions of a leading American commander whose army played a crucial role in the Allied successes of World War II.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2642-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    John T. Greenwood
  4. A Biographical Sketch: Courtney Hicks Hodges
    (pp. 1-4)

    Courtney Hicks Hodges was born in Perry, Georgia, on 5 January 1887. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, with the incoming class of 1908 in June 1904, a member of the same class as George S. Patton Jr. He was ʺfound deficientʺ in mathematics, as was Patton, and left West Point following his plebe year of 1904–1905. Unlike Patton, who reentered and graduated with the class of 1909, Hodges enlisted in the army as a private in Company L, Seventeenth Infantry, on 5 November 1906 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry...

  5. Chapter 1 The Invasion of France and the Lodgment in Normandy, 2 June–24 July 1944
    (pp. 5-64)

    Friday, 2 June 1944:The General [Lt. Gen. Courtney Hicks Hodges], Bill [Capt. William E. Smith, aide), and I [Maj. William C. Sylvan, senior aide]¹ left Bristol at 9 oʹclock in the morning on exercise ʺBrass Hatʺ² (see next page for inclosure). Passing thru Bridgewater and Exeter, we stopped briefly at noon for some sandwiches at the side of the road and then drove on to Plymouth, arriving at 1330. In a few minutes, an LCVP [Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel] took us to the Headquarters Ship—the USS Achenar [Achernar],³ 13,000 tons of the A53 class, commissioned in February,...

  6. Chapter 2 Operation Cobra and the Breakthrough at St. Lô, 25–31 July 1944
    (pp. 65-80)

    Tuesday, 25 July 1944:The General and Fran reached the OP—the same house at Vents—at 0927, and did not have long to wait for the opening air blow. Promptly at 0936 the first of nine groups of four P-47s each approached the target from over St Lo and then whipped down through a clear sky to plaster the road and the ground just south of it. We counted nine groups in all, the last finishing its pounding at 0958.

    Not a moment too soon. The sky was filled with the weary, earfilling drone of B-24s, and we looked...

  7. Chapter 3 Exploitation of the St. Lô Breakthrough, 1 August–12 September 1944
    (pp. 81-126)

    Tuesday, 1 August 1944:Today, at 1025, General Hodges signed four secret copies of General Orders No 4, First United States Army, and thereby assumed command. Three of the orders went to the Corps Commanders serving under him; the fourth to the AG [Adjutant General] safe. Until SHAEF releases news of the existence of two Armies in operation under command of 12th Army Group, there will be no general publicity given to General Hodgesʹ assumption of command.

    General Bradley, and his two aides left, with bag and baggage (and the trailer) shortly after 0900, and from then on, until late...

  8. Chapter 4 The Battle of Germany, 13 September–15 December 1944
    (pp. 127-212)

    Wednesday, 13 September 1944:General Bradley flew in unannounced this morning and had a long and secret conference with General Hodges in the War Room. General Brooks also was present throughout most of the conference and both stayed for luncheon. Later in the afternoon the General took off for V Corps by plane but the latter had unfortunately forgotten to notify this headquarters that they had changed the location of their field. The General landed in a cow pasture only to be swarmed by thousands of Belgian tots, from whom no information was forthcoming. After searching the area thoroughly from...

  9. Chapter 5 The German Counteroffensive and the Drive to the Roer River, 16 December 1944–22 February 1945
    (pp. 213-304)

    Saturday, 16 December 1944:Today, exactly one month after we launched our attack towards Cologne, the Boche began a counteroffensive, on which, according to a captured order, which was signed by Von Runstedt [Rundstedt], the enemy is gambling its life. According to Von Runstedt the fate of the German nation depends upon the success or failure of this savage blow directed at the VIII Corps. According to PWs captured, who were more precise, the counteroffensive is a pincer movement on Aachen, and an attack is apparently about to begin in the Ninth Army area to join up with those troops...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. Chapter 6 Crossing the Roer River, 23–28 February 1945
    (pp. 305-314)

    Friday, 23 February 1945:This morning at 3:30, preceded by 45 minutes of artillery preparation in which 936 guns were active—the greatest barrage that the Army has yet put on over a small area—the VII Corps launched a coordinated attack with the 8th and 104th Divs. From all accounts this artillery barrage either stunned or killed the enemy so that the enemy reaction to our crossing the stream was extremely light. Mortar fire and machine-gun fire was used principally. However, great difficulty was encountered with the swift current which tore the boats loose, upset them, and prevent cables...

  12. Chapter 7 Crossing the Rhine River, 1–24 March 1945
    (pp. 315-346)

    Thursday, 1 March 1945:The main Boche opposition came, not during the day, but at night, when over 100 planes, flying singly or in twosomes, attacked the VII and III Corps front areas and bridges. The final count according to Colonel Patterson was 34 downed with another 10 probable. Losses to personnel are believed light.

    The ground opposition during the day did not seem to be very heavy although the artillery fire on the bridgehead of VII Corps was more intense than usual. The VII Corps did not push very far out in this direction, although the 414th cleared Horren...

  13. Chapter 8 Exploitation of the Remagen Bridgehead, 25 March–18 April 1945
    (pp. 347-376)

    Sunday, 25 March 1945:The General is today showing the public that when it comes to using armor he is second to no one. The 9th Armd Division of V Corps advanced eight miles to clear Bendorf. The 3rd Armd of VII Corps advanced to Rott, Ersfeld and Rettersen, making an advance of some ten miles against opposition which was extremely heavy in spots. The 104th Division, mopping up in rear of their advance, took over 450 PWs as against the armored 850. To the north of them, the 1st Division continued to meet the strongest enemy pressure all day...

  14. Chapter 9 Final Operations, 19 April–7 May 1945
    (pp. 377-394)

    Thursday, 19 April 1945:The headquarters today was filled with representatives of the Ninth and Fifteenth Armies and Twelfth Army Group as negotiations went under way for settlement of the new boundary turn overs. Ninth Army will assume responsibility for the area now held by us on noon of the 22nd, but Fifteenth Army whose motto is ʺspeedʺ refuses to give any definite date, arguing that they cannot assume responsibility so early. Third Army is anxiously awaiting news that we will take over VIII Corps on the 22nd also, but whether we can establish communications and supply installations by that...

  15. Appendix: Locations of First U.S. Army Command Posts, 9 June 1944–14 May 1945
    (pp. 395-396)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 397-524)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 525-530)
  18. Index
    (pp. 531-576)