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"Platoon/Company narratives in Normandy campaign?" Topic

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wscarvie17 Apr 2013 4:30 p.m. PST

Hi all.

Does anyone have any recommendations for fiction or non-fiction set during the Normandy campaign? In particular, I'm looking for descriptions of hedgerow and urban combat (e.g. St Lo), that would give me a sense for the kinds of objectives typically assigned to platoons and companies. I'm interested in written works covering any of the forces involved (e.g. Americans, British, Canadians, German, etc.).

I'm working on rules for this particular theater, and an iPad game to go with them. Every time I look at photos of the urban ruins in the area, it baffles me how company, platoon and battalion commanders broke up the work of attacking such a huge, complicated, imposing area.

Any suggestions?

John Armatys17 Apr 2013 4:41 p.m. PST

18 Platoon by Sidney Jary

mjkerner17 Apr 2013 5:21 p.m. PST

This would be a good place to start, wscarvie:


This too:


Weddier17 Apr 2013 7:04 p.m. PST

D. Burgett's "Currahee!" is sort of first-person shooter oriented, but it's a good read. His later books on the other airborne ops are good also.

Sparker17 Apr 2013 7:25 p.m. PST

'Armoured Guardsmen' by Robert Boscawen gives the perspective from a Sherman troop commander's hatch…Not too much FIBUA though as you would expect from a tankie…

delta6ct17 Apr 2013 7:44 p.m. PST

Beyond the Beachhead by Joseph Balkoski and Night Drop by S.L.A. Marshall might be worth looking at too.

Cardinal Hawkwood17 Apr 2013 9:37 p.m. PST



jowady17 Apr 2013 9:40 p.m. PST

I'd be careful about anything written by SLA Marshall, his works have been pretty thoroughly discredited (i.e. he didn't actually talk to people he said he did,in other cases he misrepresented what they said. For example he did speak with then Lt. Winters about the attack at Brecourt Manor and decided that it was impossible for Easy Company to have done what they did, so he increased the numbers of the attackers. In checking his timelines he occasionally claimed he spoke with soldiers in the PTO and ETO on the same day.)

While its not specifically a company/platoon history try "The Americans In Normandy" by John McManus

freerangeegg17 Apr 2013 11:47 p.m. PST

Tank by Ken Tout
D Day to Victory by Trevor Greenwood
Troop Leader by Bill Bellamy
Battle by Kenneth Macksey
Grenadiers by Hubert Meyer

Theres another good one which I can't remember the name of, about the battle for Raurey during Operation Epsom, which gives an blow by blow account of the battle as it unfolded for the Durham light infantry.

Any of the Battlefield Europe series of books will also give you lot to go on with.

Some Chicken18 Apr 2013 12:06 a.m. PST

Theres another good one which I can't remember the name of, about the battle for Raurey during Operation Epsom, which gives an blow by blow account of the battle as it unfolded for the Durham light infantry.

I think that might be "Breaking the panzers" by a chap called Baverstock.

Jary's "18 Platoon" and White's "With the Jocks" are two of the very best in my view.

Sparker18 Apr 2013 1:44 a.m. PST

Amen to both, but didn't White join the Kosbies after Normandy? Fine book though…

Martin Rapier18 Apr 2013 1:59 a.m. PST

Many good ones above. I also wouldn't discount Marshall as many of his observations were corroborated by postwar operations research.

To add to the list,

'Mailed Fist' by John Foley
'By tank into Normandy' by Stuart Hills

for some reason tankers write more of these memoirs than infantrymen…

I dimly recall another good one on my shelves, possibly 'So Few Came Through' ?? by an officer in the Black Watch.

John Keegans 'Six Armies in Normandy' has some good individual accounts.

There are very few good ones on the German side, although there are some decent extracts in Mike Reynolds various offerings 'Steel Inferno, Sons of the Reich'. Meyer is an entertaining read, bearing in mind he was an unrepentant Nazi. Von Lucks 'Panzer Commander' is OK.

Very few of these accounts focus on urban combat though, although there is a lot on hedgerow fighting.

For a specific study or urban fighting, one of the better chapters in Anthony Farrar Hockleys 'Infantry Tactics 1939-45' covers urban warfare including St Lo. Essentially they are all variants of the Soviet combined arms combat assault team approach, with devolved heavy weapons and low level groups assigned particular blocks to work down, but limited coordination between them.

FIBUA is also the subject of many postwar Operations Research studies, both based on films and post engagement analyses of training exercises as well as actual engagements.

At an operational level the Dupuy Institute carried out an extensive analysis of the effects of urban terrain on combat, with some surprising conclusons wrt casualty rates. It is one of the publically available research papers on the site. The conclusons were backed up the FIBUA studies in David Rowlands 'The Stress of Battle' wrt losses, loss exchange ratios, advance rates and the implications for effective tactics in urban fighting. (essentially that it is a battle of small groups deployed in great depth, with a great emphasis on counterattack, rather like trench fighting).

nazrat18 Apr 2013 6:33 a.m. PST

Great suggestions, guys. Thanks!

No idea what FIBUA is, though…

John D Salt18 Apr 2013 6:47 a.m. PST

FIBUA is the British term for what is now called OBUA, what the Americans used to call MOBA but now call MOUT, otherwise known as FISH & CHIPS.

FIBUA = Fighting in Built-Up Areas
OBUA = Operations in Built-Up Areas
MOBA = Military Operation in Built-up Areas
MOUT = Military Operations in Urban Terrain
FISH&CHIPS = Fighting in Someone's House and Causing Havoc In Public Spaces

All the best,


Badgers18 Apr 2013 6:56 a.m. PST

Martin, is there any way to get hold of Rowlands' findings elsewhere? The Stress of Battle is £672.00 GBP on Amazon!

MajorB18 Apr 2013 7:09 a.m. PST

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.

PeterH18 Apr 2013 8:15 a.m. PST

If You Survive by George Wilson (4th US ID "Ivy" Division)
Beyond the Beachhead by Joe Balkoski (29th ID)
Normandy, The Real Story by Shelagh Whitaker (varied American units)
The Germans In Normandy (Richard Hargreaves)
The Americans in Normandy by McManus
D-Day These Men Were There by Richard Howarth (fantastic book, covers many different angles from the street level)
Dying for St. Lo – Hedgrow Hell by Didier Lodieu
Battle of the HEdgrows – Leo Dougherty
Clay Pigeons of St. Lo. – Glover Johns

Good luck, it's my favorite campaign to read about !

Martin Rapier18 Apr 2013 8:17 a.m. PST

"Martin, is there any way to get hold of Rowlands' findings elsewhere? The Stress of Battle is £672.00 GBP GBP on Amazon!"

It is a bit of a bu**er to find a copy unfortunately. I got one off Amazon a lot cheaper than that, you just need to keep looking and hope you get lucky. If you are interested in combat simulation it is worth the effort to find.

A lot of Rowlands analysis as it applies to the rural infantry battle is also in an article in the Journal of Military Operations Research (Volume 13, No 4, 2008).

The Dupuy study on urban combat is still up on the Dupuy Institute site, there was also a modern Canadian Army study about urban fighting and infantry tactics.

PDF link

I can't for the life of me remember where I found the Canadian study, although it is on my kindle so must be downloadable from somewhere.

wscarvie18 Apr 2013 10:43 a.m. PST

Wow. Clearly, I asked in the right Forum :-)

Thanks very much to all of you. I'm going to be reading for years, it seems.


Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2013 3:22 p.m. PST

Since it hasn't been mentioned, I'll add Andrew Wilson's Flame Thrower, which describes his service in command of a Churchill Crocodile. I found it to be an invaluable insight into how both the units and the tanks themselves operated. Spoiler Alert! Wargames (and gamers) usually get it wrong…

I've also found Patrick Delaforce's books to have lots of useful bits. Although they are brief Divisional histories, his generous mining of info from ORs and Company officers yields some real gems, and not just from rifle coys and tankers! Plenty of input from ATk and LAA Gunners, mortar crew from Support Coys and MG Battalions, men from Carrier platoons, etc.

Etranger18 Apr 2013 7:18 p.m. PST

Delaforce himself was an FOO in 11AD IIRC.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP18 Apr 2013 7:40 p.m. PST

Yes, he was in 11th (HAC) Regt., RHA (part of 11AD) but I think he was in a firing battery.

jowady18 Apr 2013 7:51 p.m. PST

Many good ones above. I also wouldn't discount Marshall as many of his observations were corroborated by postwar operations research.

Actually quite the opposite, according to current studies at Carlisle. For example, Marshall's contention that only about 25% of men in an American Infantry unit would ever participate actively in combat was vehemently denied at the time and, based not only on subsequent interviews but on statistical research such as ammunition expenditure and interviews with Axis opponents, shown as demonstrably false.

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