Divided on D-Day

Title:                      Divided on D-Day

Author:                  Edward E. Gordon

Gordon, Edward E. (2017) and David Ramsay. Divided on D-Day: How Conflicts And Rivalries Jeopardized The Allied Victory At Normandy. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books

LCCN:    2017010411



  • Setting the stage — First shots — Who will command OVERLORD? — The OVERLORD gamble — Cracks in Fortress Europe — The ‘longest day’ comes up short — Who is in control? — Breakout blues — Patton unleashed — Falaise follies — The lost victory — Allied fumbles — Crisis in command.

LC Subjects

Date Updated:  October 13, 2017

Reviewed by Ken Mueller[1]

In this latest contribution to the growing literature on the 1944-1945 campaign in Western Europe, the authors—one American and one British—argue that conflicts among the Allied generals repeatedly caused victory over German forces to take longer and to cost more lives than might otherwise have been necessary.

Arguing what-ifs is risky business, but Edward E. Gordon and David Ramsay make a compelling case in Divided on Day as they recount the arguments between British and American leaders over whether even to attempt a cross-Channel invasion; the eventual appointment of General Dwight D. Eisenhower as supreme commander for Operation Overlord; and the actual invasion that launched the crusade to liberate Europe. Throughout the story, divisions and personality clashes lead to miscalculations, delays, and missed opportunities that allowed the enemy to recover, prolonging the war into 1945.

For readers already familiar with the campaign’s history, there isn’t a lot that’s new here. The authors’ characterizations of the principal Allied commanders offer few surprises. Eisenhower is portrayed as a hands-off leader uninvolved in the ground campaign’s details—a “political general” using his considerable diplomatic skill to hold the fractious Anglo-American coalition together, but failing to provide leadership at the operational level. US Lieutenant General Omar Bradley is the “dependable commander,” a modest and intelligent team player. Lieutenant General George Patton, on the other hand, is the maverick, difficult to control but a master of armored warfare and the Allied general the Germans most feared.

The authors also give several of Eisenhower’s British lieutenants their due, particularly Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay[2] [sic] (father of one of the co-authors) whose careful planning for the invasion’s amphibious phase and farseeing logistical concerns were indispensable to the campaign’s overall success.

The most controversial member of the team is British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery [sic], commander of ground forces for Overlord. Prickly, egotistical, and too often self-serving, Monty has never been popular among American historians. But the British Ramsay agrees with co-author Gordon that blame for many of the campaign’s delays and disasters rest on Montgomery’s shoulders. So, when asking why the Allies initially failed to break out of the Normandy beachhead, the answer is Montgomery’s excessive caution. Why did the British not capture Caen, a top D-Day objective? Ditto. Whose decisions entangled the Americans in a bloody fight for the hedgerows? Again, Montgomery.

The authors repeatedly contrast Monty’s bluster during the planning stages with his hesitation on the battlefield. They concede that British unwillingness to suffer heavy casualties in Normandy was due to the near exhaustion of their manpower reserves by 1944. What the authors find unforgivable, however, is Montgomery’s dishonesty. When his original plan for a bold dash to the open country south of Caen degenerated into a series of costly slugfests, Monty rationalized his failure by claiming his plan all along had been to tie down the bulk of German panzer forces, setting the stage for the American breakout in Operation Cobra.

Who, ask Gordon and Ramsay, was responsible for the Allied failure to close the gap and destroy the German army at Falaise? For the disastrous Operation Market Garden? For the failure to seize the vital port of Antwerp in a timely manner, which might have solved the Allies’ resource drought sooner and even ended the war before Adolf Hitler had the opportunity to launch his Ardennes counterattack? In one way or another, all were Montgomery’s doing. But, by extension, the fault was ultimately Eisenhower’s. Deferring to British sensibilities, the supreme commander repeatedly abstained from sacking his troublesome subordinate.

Gordon and Ramsay analyze triumphs and miscalculations on the road from Normandy’s beachheads to VE Day in convincing and readable fashion. Unfortunately, Divided on D-Day is marred by what appear to be the publisher’s failings. The text is riddled with mistakes that detract from the work’s quality. Typographical errors abound. Usage is inconsistent (military style capitalizing operation, e.g. OVERLORD, is sometimes observed and sometimes not). Regiments are identified as divisions. Photographs are particularly problematic. The negative for a photo of Eisenhower and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay (p. 76) appears to have been reversed. Elsewhere, German Field Marshal Walter Model is identified as Montgomery’s chief of staff, and vice-versa (pp. 249 and 257). The absence of an index is inconvenient[3], and while the authors provide a thorough set of maps at the end of the book, these are sometimes incorrectly referenced in the text. [Mr. Gordon, one of the authors, states that such errors have been corrected in the released version of the book.]

Divided on D-Day may still serve as a useful addition to our understanding of one of history’s most closely documented campaigns. I hope Prometheus Books will soon issue a revised edition that addresses the flaws in the current version.[4]

[1] Ken Mueller, “Divided on D-Day: How Conflicts and Rivalries Jeopardized the Allied Victory at Normandy ,” in America in WWII (13, 3, October 2017, pp. 58-59). Mr. Mueller is from Lafayette, Indiana. Note: Edward E. Gordon says: “This review is based on the advanced reader’s copy of Divided on D-Day which explicitly states that this is an unedited version of this work. The errors cited by Mr. Mueller have been corrected in the published version of Divided on D-Day. Also the published book has an index.”

[2]Interestingly, although reviewer, Mr. Mueller, chides the publisher for typographical mistakes, Field Marshall Montgomery’s name is printed incorrectly in the review. It is Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery

[3] Note: Mr. Gordon states that the book does, in fact, have an index. The review was based on an advance copy.

[4] As one who has reviewed pre-published books, I know in fact that errors are caught and corrected before the book is actually available to the public. Please note Mr. Gordon’s note, sent to me, about the updated version of the book. I would disagree with his characterization of Eisenhower in part, but that does not make it an error.


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2 Responses to Divided on D-Day

  1. This review is based on the advanced reader’s copy of Divided on D-Day which explicitly states that this is an unedited version of this work. The errors cited by Mr. Mueller have been corrected in the published version of Divided on D-Day. Also the published book has an index.

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