Why Normandy Was Won, Operation Bagration and the War In the East 1941 – 1945
How Stalin and the Russian Army Contributed to the Allied Success at Normandy
Copyright © 2010 Ostfront Publications, LLC
By Ken Weiler
Click on a question to reveal Ken’s Answers:
Why did you write the book?
What’s it all about?
If this was such an import battle why haven’t we heard about this before?
Who is it written for? Is it technical? Filled with facts and figures?
Why should I read this book? Why should I buy it?
Ken’s Answer: Over the many years of reading about World War II I became interested in the European Eastern theater, in particular its Russian Front as it is more popularly known in military circles. During the 1970’s when board war games or their more formal title, conflict simulation games, were growing in popularity I became aware of how vast and important the war between Germany and its Axis allies and the Soviet Union was. However, I was unable to find much to read about it in book stores and libraries. It was frustrating and in the pre-Internet days quick and easy access to knowledge about this part of the war was difficult. As time went on and the amount of published material on this theater continued to be slim, I was also astonished at how few American’s were aware of the war in Russia, especially the under 30 population. At about this time I also was examining the relationship between the Allied landings in Normandy and the German combat units in Russia. I knew the order of battle of the Wehrmacht, the name of the German armed forces during World War II, and the number of infantry and panzer divisions, Germany’s tank divisions, in June 1944, but of the hundreds available, why were only a fraction of them in France? Where were the rest? It was this question that triggered the writing of my book.
Ken’s Answer: In the early Spring of 1944 the western Allies had decided the preparations for the long planned landing in western Europe was nearing completion and the choice of northwestern France was made for the landing site. Even though the war for Germany had turned against them and their armies were being pushed back towards Germany, the Wehrmacht was still a very powerful and deadly force. At this same time the U.S. Marines were discovering in the Pacific, amphibious landing operations are fraught with uncertainty and risk; the smallest change in weather, location, the enemy and timing could spell tragedy. Even under ideal conditions these operations are risky. One of the more worrisome parts of the planning was how to minimize the defenses of the German defenders both on the beaches and inland. The Allies had very good knowledge of the physical defenses constructed by the Germans, the fortifications, what worried them most was the movement of defending combat units in France to the landing zones as well as the transfer of combat units, especially panzer divisions to Normandy from other parts of France, from Germany and especially the better equipped panzer units in Russia. As most of these units were in Russia in May 1944, a means had to be found to keep them there and that’s where Operation Bagration and the Russians come into the picture.
Ken’s Answer: The battle and its consequences are pretty well understood by military historians, writers and the cognoscenti of the war in the east but even this has occurred only recently. The reasons for this are two-fold; 50 years of cold war between Russia and the West that began a few years after the war in Europe ended and the fact that very few Americans were involved in the war in the east. There was no uncle Joe or grandpa Bill that came home with stories for the grandkids of fighting in Poland or Ukraine, like they did from the Pacific or France, Italy or Germany after the war was over to make this a part of the American historical experience. Add to this the difficult post-war relations the U.S. had with Russia resulting in 50 years of adversarial cold war confrontation, an atmosphere not conducive to the exchange of historical information.
Ken’s Answer: When I started out I wanted to bring to light the importance of the huge battle that was launched by the Russians on 22 June 1944 in Belorussia a few weeks after the Allied landings at Normandy on 6 June. This battle, Operation Bagration, was Stalin’s somewhat reluctant support to assist the Allied landings at Normandy, by preventing the Germans from transferring combat units from Russia to France to repel the western Allies, the reference in the subtitle of the book. Initially I was writing for the military specialist in eastern front operations, the group who was familiar with Operation Barbarossa, the code name of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, also launched on 22 June, in 1941, and the events that took place there from 1941 to 1944. It was technical, it has all sorts of minutiae that I and the specialists would be interested in and a lot of peripheral information and data that gives depth to the story. However, during the writing I decided to broaden the scope, contrary to all the advice I had received on focus, focus, focus and make it a primer on the war in Russia in general and a discussion of Operation Bagration in particular. This was my attempt to fill in the knowledge gap in the younger reading population of what went on there and why this battle was so important to the Allies and American’s in particular as well as address the conflict for the serious military historian. Recently books have been written on specific, individual battles in Russia but none of them examine the entirety of the war in Russia, especially the connection with the Allied efforts in Normandy. I changed the style of the writing and put most of the technical and statistical information into footnotes, glossary, index, chronology and appendices that the reader could consult if and when he or she felt the need. The choice is theirs.
Ken’s Answer: This book is the companion work to all the books written about Operation Overlord, the code name for the Allied landings in Normandy. It is the missing link in the written history of World War II in Europe. It connects the two major fronts in Europe together and explains their importance and interdependence. However, I hasten to add that the importance of Operation Bagration and the Soviet efforts and sacrifices in no way diminishes the efforts and sacrifices made by the western Allies at Normandy, that’s stands on its own merits, this book is the rest of the military history story.
The book addresses a key component of the war in Europe during World War II, the Normandy/Russian connection. Heretofore many authors writing about the subject have written about specific battles or campaigns independent of the larger theater the battle was fought in. The two fronts have usually been addressed separately but their impact vis a vis each other is strongly linked.