Author: Max Hastings
Hastings, Max (1984). Overlord: D-Day And The Battle for Normandy New York: Simon and Schuster
Date Updated: March 3, 2016
This book fills in a nice gap of WWII history in that it covers the initial battles that followed immediately after D-Day. Max Hastings does an excellent job of trying to figure out why certain parts of the Allied plan went so well, while others seemed to take forever. Additionally, he interviewed numerous Germans involved with the Normandy command in order to give perspective on what the German Army was experiencing and how this affected the outcome of certain battles.
The Double-Cross system was used as part of the deception surrounding Overlord, the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy. But it was only one part of a whole set of deceptions and ruses employed to give the Allies some edge in the invasion.
GARBO and the other double agents and notional networks in Britain helped convinced the Germans that the Allied invasion of Normandy would not take place near Cherbourg, but closer to Dunkirk. German intelligence had a whole file of GARBO (ARABEL) information that pointed to the attack to be aimed with dozens of divisions at Calais. GARBO’s credibility with the Germans was increased by a last-minute transmission from him informing them of the location of the actual attack as well as the names of the real units involved at Normandy. The British knew that it would be too late to affect German plans that had already focused on the wrong area, and that the Germans would soon learn the identity of the units. This particular deception confirmed for the Germans that GARBO/ARABEL was alert, active, and getting critical intelligence.
In many small ways, the Double-Cross agents provided false information, suggesting troop movements where there were none, reporting on regulations closing certain sections of the coast, and relaying rumors surrounding the false plans. Bogus radio signals (picked up by the Germans’ “Y Service”) were sent from notional units, and the Double-Cross agents helped confirm that the units were there when in fact there were none.
Hastings also tells the tale following D-Day. His treatment of the US Army is balanced. Some units fought well, while other “green units” had a tough time fighting the Germans. He draws some interesting conclusions. His point that American paratroopers and Ranger units were essential to the success of many battles highlights the success, and occasional misuses at times of these units.
Hastings goes into great detail about why the British and Canadian armies struggled so much to take Caen. He has some critical words about Montgomery performance. As usual, Montgomery promised much, but delivered little. Yet Hastings concludes that the British had a much more difficult fight against a stronger part of the German defense.
Hastings investigates the mistake of letting the German army escape at Falaise, although he concludes that the US Army would not have been able to close the gap with the units available. Whether this is correct or not makes for interesting discussion.