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The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944, by Michael Neiberg

New York: Basic Books/Perseus, 2012. Pp. xxxxii, 310. Illus., maps, notes, index. $28.99. ISBN: 0465023991.

 Professor of History and  co-director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Southern Mississippi, Prof. Neiberg is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including, Making Citizen-Soldiers: ROTC and the Ideology of American Military Service and Fighting the Great War: A Global History, and is currently working on a study of the Second Battle of the Marne.  A member of the faculty of the United States Air Force Academy for eight years, Neiberg’s work is focused on the international dimensions of the First World War and warfare more generally.

The book is a good popular synthesis of the Liberation of Paris in the context of the campaign for France in 1944.  While weak on operational detail and very broad brush on the quite baroque French politics, it does a workmanlike job of integrating the multiple French, German, and Allied points of view.  Neiberg is especially to be commended for his
meticulous debunking of the ‘Is Paris Burning?’ legend found in many earlier treatments.  He is also excellent in stressing the key roles of contingency and individual personality in the events portrayed.  There is a tendency for military history to be written as if it were describing a chess match where all the pieces and possible moves are known to the players.  Instead, Neiberg shows the key personalities as human beings juggling multiple demands on their time and trying to make decisions with imperfect information and balky subordinates and superiors. Thus, Leclerc was simulatenously a subordinate divisional commander in an American army, the commander of a separate national contingent, and De Gaulle’s man on the scene.  The book shows him juggling all three roles, while  American superiors are forced to deal with him as both a subordinate and a separate national commander.

An excellent overview of the culminatiing moment of the Normandy campaign.

Our Reviewer: Scott Palter graduated from Dartmouth and Stanford Law.  A veteran war gamer, one of the old SPI playtesters, he is also a game developer and was founder and publisher of West End Games.  His most recent reviews for StrategyPage include Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia, Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, and Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle that Shaped World War II in Europe.

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Reviewer: Scott Palter   


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