Home Forums WWII Zetterling's Normandy 1944 Reply To: Zetterling's Normandy 1944

piers brand

Its quite an old book now, to be fair to him alot has been written since he wrote the book and he has acknowledged a number of errors that are present.


It still remains the best evaluation of German combat strength in Normandy so far compiled, the few mistakes are often repeats of previous errors and in one case the fault lies with an error on the original returns. Its still the best all in one appraisal of German combat effectiveness and combat return data for the Normandy, and post-campaign period and is a wealth of material for the student of the history of the campaign.


I think you have to use Zetterling’s book as a resource to dip into when reading other things. Its a rather dry book alone, but comes into its own when you require more detail on specific German units of the period. Its certainly a book anyone with an interest in the campaign should own, and when I lectured on our Normandy module on the War Studies course, it was recommended reading for anyone with a passing interest in the German side.


With regards some of his claims, they are all reasonably well accepted with some notes of caution and I think you have to divorce his ‘opinion pieces’ from the second part of the book that contains the unit statistical date and TOEs. I agree with Zetterling on many things, such as the performance of tactical airpower versus frontline combat vehicles, and I disagree with him on other things, though I have the benefit of further research, such as that by my old boss John Buckley in his book ‘British Armour in Normandy’. I also happen to believe that German tank crews, like all tank crews and fighter pilots, over claimed and the German propaganda machine and the Wehrmacht actively allowed this to happen. Otto Carius himself stated that German kill counts were inflated.

I think its hard to give conclusive proof that tanks were the main killers versus anti-tank guns of tanks in Normandy but the raw data from the British Army evaluation teams who went round Normandy seem to suggest this was the case, the problem is though that data for vehicles destroyed by ‘unidentifiable’ means and for tanks hit but subsequently repaired and returned to service, gives us a gap in the statistical data. That said, it does appear on the surface, at least in the British Sector, that German tanks accounted for the higher proportion of tank ‘kills’. It makes sense when we consider that the Germans deployed virtually all their armour to face the British for much of the campaign, and the British conducted operations to actively engage in a battle for attrition between the respective armoured forces, one that the Germans could not hope to win.


Its a campaign that still has a number of ‘myths’ that persist and Zetterlings book tries to punch a few holes in these. His book is important as I think it started a wave of books and historians who took the time to re-evaluate the campaign and his book really started a new wave of far more critical attention being payed to the campaign and a flow of new and revised views on the battle. Once you start looking critically at the various operations and discover the possibilities that things such as Hans von Luck’s single handed defeat of Goodwood might have been a work of more fantasy than reality and that ‘Barkmann’s Corner’  might have never happened, it gives a view that perhaps the history of the Battle for Normandy has alot of myths and secrets still to disprove… I believe Zetterling’s book started us down that road, and to his credit, his work still remains a very useful tool and valid resource.



  • This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by piers brand.