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Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle that Shaped World War II in Europe, by John Prados

New York: New American Library/Penguin, 2012. Pp. x, 326. Maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $15.00 paper. ISBN: 0451236947.

Normandy Crucible is an excellent account of the Normandy Campaign, from the landings in France on June 6, 1944, through to the liberation of Paris on August 25th.

Dr. Prados, a noted scholar, author (Combined Fleet Decoded, etc.), and board game designer (Third Reich, etc.), specializes in the history of intelligence, and this shows in the excellent work he does synthesizing what has emerged from the declassification of ULTRA intercepts and other signals intelligence materials about the actual operational details of the campaign.  He is the first writer on this topic to seriously tie in the effects of the unsuccessful bomb plot against Hitler on August 20th  with German operational decisions.  Prados also does an excellent job of resolving the conflicting accounts of the major Allied commanders and problems in immediate postwar histories that have tended to be propagated in subsequent accounts.  Of special importance is how he ties together decisions made at the macro level, such as the German mobilization of the Volksgrenadier divisions and new panzer brigades, with their ability to rally on the German frontier after the race across France.  While his thesis that the German Ardennes Offensive in December can be traced back to a proposal for a major multi-corps counter strike against the Normandy lodgment seems a bit strained, Dr. Prados makes an excellent presentation of the available evidence.  There is also a impressive chapter discussing how he modified the old SPI board game Cobra to test his conclusions on the campaign; it’s unfortunate that he did not include a web posting of the variant rules and order-of-battle, as this reviewer, and surely many other readers, would have enjoyed trying out the idea.

Dr. Prados is to be congratulated on this work, and his publisher deserves praise for including truly excellent maps make that following the text a joy.

Highly recommended.


Our Reviewer: Scott Palter graduated from Stanford Law and Dartmouth.  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 previous reviews forStrategyPage include Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia, Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, and Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.

Reviewer: Scott Palter   

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