The official records of U.S. units in the field provide the documentary basis of Breakout and Pursuit. These consist of monthly narrative After Action Reports accompanied by supporting papers (journals, periodic reports, messages, staff section reports, and overlays), as well as administrative records, originating in each headquarters down through regiment and separate battalion. Without this collection of primary source material, in the possession of the World War II Records Division, National Archives and Records Service (NARS), it would have been impossible to write a detailed history of operations. All else has been supplementary.
The unit records naturally vary in quantity and quality. Some are so sketchy that they are historical in form only. Others are so complete that they could well have been motivated by a passion for history. Among those headquarters that preserved records of exceptional completeness and thereby lightened the task of the historian are the VIII and XV Corps and the 90th and 9th Divisions. Particular mention must be made of the valuable records of telephone conversations in the papers of the 2d, 29th, 30th, and 83d Divisions.
The U.S. Air Force Historical Section made available from its records primary source material on Operation COBRA. The Historical Sections of the French Army and Navy made available published and manuscript accounts to the author during his brief visit to France in the summer of 1953.
Certain headquarters consolidated their After Action Reports after the war and published official histories. In this category are the 12th Army Group Report of Operations (in fourteen volumes, which detail the work of the staff sections), the First U.S. Army Report of Operations (two separate series: one in seven volumes covering the period 20 October 1943 to 1 August 1944, the other in four volumes, covering the period from 1 August 1944 to 22 February 1945), the two-volume Third Army After Action Report (of which most of the official supporting documents seem to have vanished), and the V Corps Operations in the ETO.
Other headquarters published unofficial histories. Many of these tend to be little more than mementos for members of the command, strong on photographs, personal anecdotes, and a well-earned pride of unit accomplishment. Notable exceptions are the Combat Record of the 6th Armored Division, the 314th Infantry Regiment's Through Combat, the 3d Armored Division's Spearhead in the West, Robert L. Hewitt's Work Horse of the Western Front: the Story of the 30th Division, and Conquer, the Story of the Ninth U.S. Army, 1944-1945.
Combat interviews secured shortly after action by members of Information and Historical detachments assigned to the field armies provide detailed accounts
of activity on the individual, squad, platoon, and company levels. Among other things, they illustrate graphically the meaning of morale, the significance of leadership, the value of a foxhole, and the fragmentary nature of the information usually possessed by the individual soldier on the battlefield. The interviews sometimes give glimpses into the operations of a headquarters and occasionally note personal conferences and statements by key commanders. Particular mention must be made of the valuable material recorded in Maj. Franklin Ferriss' Notes on XIX Corps Operations and of the 4th Division interviews conducted under the direction of Lt. Col. William Gayle. James A. Huston's Biography of a Battalion, an independent work, presents a vivid picture of how a battalion staff worked. Hospital Interviews, made in the United Kingdom and collected into four typescript volumes, are transcriptions of conversations rather than recorded replies to searching questions and therefore are of variable value, their historical worth primarily being an occasional significant detail.
After the war, some of the combat historians were assigned to the U.S. Forces European Theater Historical Section to prepare a series of preliminary manuscript studies on the operations. Written during parts of 1945 and 1946, these accounts suggested an organizational basis for part of Breakout and Pursuit at the least and in some instances presented rather complete stories of segments of the campaign. Their deficiency in general is their lack of knowledge of decisions made on the higher echelons of command. Consequently, the writers were usually limited to a day-by-day presentation of events. The manuscripts used in this volume were written by Hollis Alpert, Franklin Ferriss, David Garth, George Halas, Kenneth Hechler, Monroe Ludden, and Jose Topete.
A growing body of published historical literature throws increasing light on the period. The volumes in the European subseries of the UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II by Hugh Cole, Forrest C. Pogue, Gordon Harrison, Charles B. MacDonald, and Roland G. Ruppenthal have all been most helpful, as the frequency of their appearance in the footnotes will attest. Stacey's The Canadian Army, 1939-1945 has served as the principal source on Canadian operations; Montgomery's Normandy to the Baltic on British operations. Wilmot's The Struggle for Europe has been helpful for both Canadian and British activities. No single source has been used for the operations of the 2d French Armored Division, but Even's account in the Revue Historique de l'Armée has been most satisfactory. St. Lô, in the Army's American Forces in Action Series, has been used extensively. Europe: ARGUMENT to V-E Day, a volume in the series THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II, has proved valuable. Also helpful were the Reports of Generals Marshall and Eisenhower and the Despatches of Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory and Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay. The British Army of the Rhine in 1947 compiled a series of books as the basis for battlefield tours; excellent accounts of key actions, the titles applicable to this volume are GOODWOOD, BLUECOAT, TOTALIZE, and NEPTUNE--the code names of the operations covered. Dansette's Histoire
de la Liberation de Paris is a superb account of that subject.
Memoirs have furnished insights into the activities as well as the personalities of important personnages. The published accounts by Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, de Guingand, and Air Marshal Harris are well known. The Brereton Diaries fall into the category of memoirs rather than of primary source material. On the German side the published recollections of Speidel, Choltitz, and Ramcke have been consulted, as has Blumentritt's description of Rundstedt, a memoir rather than a biography.
Herval's two-volume Bataille de Normandie offers an interesting collection of scenes of warfare as remembered by inhabitants of the terrain over which the battles were fought. Some of these reminiscences that detail the hazards of civilian life during a bombardment or attack were compressed from book-length manuscripts; others were later expanded into published volumes. Among the best are accounts by J. and G. Buisson (on Mortain) and by Commandant Richard Mouton (on Argentan-Falaise). In the same category of personal or community adventure is the collection edited by Xavier Rousseau, who was interested in the region around Argentan. Other local historians have written narratives of the battles around their towns, among the better ones the volume by R. Fouque on St. Malo. Such material has value to the military historian as a reminder that warfare does not take place on an abstract sand-table level. It also serves to explain vividly such matters as liberation. Witness the exclamation of a Frenchman who has just come into contact with an American soldier for the first time: "Oh! I beg your pardon. Excuse me. How quite joyful we are to be delivered . . . Rule Britannia . . . Yankee Doodle . . . Oh!" (Rousseau, La Bataille de Normandie au Pays d'Argentan, p. 30).
The Pogue Files, OCMH, mentioned so frequently throughout the volume, belongs in a special classification. Dr. Forrest C. Pogue collected a vast amount of material while preparing his volume, The Supreme Command. One part consists of interviews and letters that Dr. Pogue obtained after World War II from important participants. Another part includes papers, journals, and letters written by key participants during the war. Dr. Pogue kindly opened much of his collection to the author, making available in some instances original papers, transcripts, and photostats, in other instances his own notes of interviews or of papers. Much of the material in the Pogue Files is not available elsewhere, though some documents that have been cited as in the Pogue Files exist in SHAEF or 12th Army Group files as well.
Principal research on the German operations of the period was performed by Mr. James B. Hodgson, who wrote several manuscripts (in OCMH Files) more or less attuned to the organization of Breakout and Pursuit. These manuscripts are based principally on German documentary sources, the most important being the daily war diaries of operations, Kriegstagebuecher (KTB), maintained by the forward echelons of all commands, together with supporting documents in annexes (Anlagen). The captured German records seized by the U.S. Army
during and immediately after World War II are in the custody of the World War II Records Division, NARS.
Though many of the German military records have been lost, enough are extant to give a remarkably clear picture of operations. The details are vivid, primarily because of the small size of the German staffs. Stenographic notes of commanders' conferences were more frequently preserved than not. All the diaries contain reasons for commanders' decisions. The after action reports were approved by the chief of staff or comparable officer of the unit who obviously was aware of the scrutiny that later historians would give them.
Details on Hitler's planning are in the Fuehrer Fragments--remnants of notes of Hitler's conferences--found in the published U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Fuehrer Conferences and, partially, in Gilbert's Hitler Directs His War. The ONI Fuehrer Directives (in two volumes) and the International Military Tribunal Documents (in forty-odd volumes) include most of the important policy papers on Hitler's strategy. Hitler's field orders for operations on the Western Front may be found in the OB WEST KTB Anlagen and in the Army Group B Fuehrerbefehle.
The daily situation reports on which OKW based its knowledge of the war in the west are collected in the OKM war diary, which is also useful as an index to Hitler's strategic thought. The Jodl diary, actually Jodl's memo book, is helpful. The most important document on the OKW level is the OKW/WFSt KTB, Der Westen, written from his own notes by Maj. Percy Schramm in the spring of 1945 (referred to in the volume both as Der Westen (Schramm) and as MS # B-034 (Schramm). Though the supporting documents of this manuscript have been destroyed and though it is sometimes difficult to check obvious errors and inconsistencies, Der Westen is the only source that reflects Hitler's day-to-day planning.
The OB WEST KTB is principally useful as an index to select supporting documents, which present much material on OKW intentions and sometimes the reasons for decisions both strategic and tactical. The OB WEST KTB Anlagen, in the custody of the German Bundesarchiv in Bonn, became available for consultation only after completion of Breakout and Pursuit and were used primarily to check information already secured from other sources.
The Army Group B records are by far the best of any echelon, the war diary opening each day with a description of events and following with a chronological listing of telephone conversations, conferences, and notes. Supporting documents, collected according to category and not indexed to the text, include the Fuehrerbefehle, field orders, and periodic reports.
The Seventh Army KTB is wordy and less useful than its telephone journal. Though no Seventh Army field orders for July have survived, the telephone notes, as well as command conference minutes in the supporting documents of other war diaries, provide a rather complete picture. The Fifth Panzer Army (Panzer Group West) records are quite short, while those of the LXXXI Corps, the only corps that has left a record, are detailed and excellent.
Few, if any, division war diaries survived the war. The operations of Panzer Lehr are reflected to a small extent
in the division rear echelon Ib Kriegstagebuch, which preserved some messages and field orders. The 352d Division diary, which was not available, seems to have been the basis of a manuscript written by Lt. Col. Fritz Ziegelmann, the Ia. The diaries of the 155-mm. howitzer battalion of the 353d Division and of the 17th SS Engineer Battalion are exceptional survivals.
Some after action reports (through 15 July 1944) appear in a collection of documents entitled AGp B KTB Anlagen. A few others were collected by the OKH Abwicklungsstab Rudolstadt, which had the task of completing the administrative affairs of deactivated units.
Rear echelon headquarters under the Ib or OQu of the command also maintained diaries that detailed the activities of administrative and technical services. The Oberquartiermeister West KTB and the AGp B Versorgungsabteilung KTB (Ib KTB) reflect most of the German logistical difficulties in the west.
Maps of the changing situation are mostly on the OKW level and often represent the cumulative errors of reporting dispositions through the multitude of headquarters.
The officers' personnel files of the OKH (in OCMH Files) provide much personal history of important participants, as does Josef Foltmann and Hanns Moeller-Witten, Opfergang der Generale (Berlin, 1952).
Immediately after World War II, the USFET Historical Section was responsible for organizing a project wherein high-ranking German officers wrote accounts of their experiences. This work still continues under the supervision of the USAREUR Historical Section. The Guide to Foreign Military Studies 1945-54, Catalogue and Index, published in 1954, indicates the broad scope of the more than a thousand studies. It is difficult to evaluate the manuscripts. Those based on contemporary material are in the small minority. The bulk, written from memory, must be accepted with caution. Many officers indulge in apologetics. Most seem to hold Hitler responsible for their own tactical errors. Yet all give details that are to be found nowhere else.
Table of Contents