I have already provided as close as I can achieve in giving a rave review of the late Robin Neillands' book "The Battle of the Rhine 1944" but now I must 'ice the cake', as it were, by praising his other WWII history "The Battle of Normandy 1944". I am still only part way through it but it confirms my opinion that Neillands, although not a historian in the classical sense, is a superb chronicler of WWII, perhaps the very best and my reading goes back to the mid-'50s and Chester Wilmot's "The Struggle for Europe" and innumerable books since then. Neillands was a Brit but never once do I detect any national bias in his telling of these dramatic events. Yes, he lays into Patton for being the total arsehole that he was but equally he damns Montgomery for his manifold personal faults which only harmed the joint cause everyone was fighting for.
However, part way through the Normandy volume he raises a subject which has barely impinged on me despite all my reading and that is the exceedingly awkward and tricky strategic problem faced by Rommel and his immediate superior von Rundstedt. It is worth pondering because it sums up the sort of diabolical choices which face all commanders of all times prior to battle - do we follow Plan A or Plan B?
In late '43 and early '44, the Germans were well aware that an invasion of NW Europe via the French coast was imminent. Rommel was convinced that the allies needed to be held on the beaches and absolutely everything should be hurled at them before they could bring ashore their armour and their big guns. He was probably right but one factor he did not take sufficiently into account, possibly because he was a German army officer with little or no experience of naval warfare, was that the huge resources of the Royal Navy would be crammed in as close as possible to the shoreline and their guns would blow beach defences to pieces.
Von Rundstedt, by contrast, believed that the German reserves should be held back until such time as it was absolutely clear exactly where the main invasion was taking place before they were released to crush the enemy and push them back into the sea. In the meantime, he insisted that all the ports should be heavily defended in order to deny them to the allies and to cut down their sources of resupply.
Happily, as an ex-Corporal (substantive, mind!), that sort of decision-making was way above my pay-grade. In pondering the issue, once again I join those who with far greater qualifications than me constantly offer prayers of gratitude to Hitler's stupidity in invading Russia, and Russia's incredible endurance in tying down the bulk of the German army on the steppes of Russia!