Book Review
Operation Totalize
Operation Totalize 1944
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Operation Totalize 1944 from Osprey Publishing LTD is the 294th title in their series Campaign. It explores the details of the Allied offensive to destroy Nazi resistance in the British sector of Normandy.

Totalize was a predominately Canadian armored offensive with UK units and supported by strong Polish forces. It planned to penetrate deep into German lines defended by battered German forces backed by SS Hitlerjugend Division. The audacious plan was to launch several divisions in a night attack following devastating aerial and artillery bombardments. Totalize was unique for the Commonwealth forces as their first mass use of armored APCs. It also saw the first UK mounted armored infantry attacks of the war, following a rare extemporaneous change of plans based on battlefield initiative.

The first phase of Totalize was generally successful although the complex and difficult plan was scrambled by dust from vehicles and bombing. The second phase did not go as well and led to bad command decisions fueled by anger that resulted in tragedy for a large Canadian force.

Ultimately, while Totalize bogged down and sputtered to a stop, it was a precursor to the slaughter of German forces around Falaise.
    In Operation Totalize, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds' II Canadian Corps launched an attack from its positions along the Bourguébus Ridge south of Caen, striking south-southeast astride the main Caen-Falaise road toward the high ground that dominated the town of Falaise and the key west-east lateral road that ran through this town. Using sophisticated operational art the initial break-in achieved rapid success; indeed, more tactical success than any previous Allied break-in attack in Normandy.
    However, despite this rapid initial success, Totalize did not subsequently secure a decisive operational-level victory. Indeed, Simonds' forces subsequently struggled swiftly to complete the second break-in battle, and to transit into rapid exploitation operations. Had Simond's force been successful the German army may not have been able to extract themselves from the Falaise pocket and would have been surrounded and defeated - possibly bringing about the early end of the war in Europe.
    - Osprey

The book is authored by Stephen A Hart and illustrated by Johnny Shumate. It is 96 pages in length. Available as a softcover and also ePUB and PDF formats, the paper book has the ISBN 9781472812889.

Operation Totalize 1944 is 96 pages in length including Further Reading and the index, organized in eight chapters:
    Origins of the Campaign
    Opposing commanders
      Allied commanders
      German commanders
    Opposing forces
      Order of battle
    Opposing plans
    The campaign
      Phase I: the night infiltration break-in battle
      Totalize Phase II commences
    The battlefield today
Osprey includes the table Key to military symbols and a List of Acronyms and Abbreviations after the title page. Many color maps support the chapters to orient the reader. The book addresses the strategic and tactical situations leading to Totalize and the German plans to defeat the Allies, and how those differing plans affected the planning and execution of the operation.

Author Hart explores the operation in good detail, introducing key Allied and German commanders. A great deal of detailed research supports the text. The author also explored the battle area and the book includes several of his present-day photographs of specific spots. Viewing those areas greatly enhances the ability of the reader to understand the terrain and vantage points of the attackers and defenders.

Opposing commanders provides brief biographical sketches of the men who drove Totalize forward, and back. As expected, most are all general officers although surprisingly, author Hart includes one junior SS officer, SS-Hauptstrumfuhrer Michael Wittmann.

Opposing forces, Order of battle and Opposing plans explore the readiness, weaknesses, and compositions of the forces, including specialized Allied vehicles (like Hobart's "Funnies") and German anti-tank weapons resources, and how they would be used to thwart the enemy.

The campaign is the lion’s share of the book, spanning 55 pages. This is where the action is. It is well organized and flows in a sensible chronology. The use of specialized and improvised night directional guidance assets for the attackers is interesting. As is the success and failures of the planning. The author includes detailed accounts of fire support timing and the speeds of advance. Terrain is also described with useful detail. Terrain was the key objectives and key defensive points, plus directly affected how well the Allied were able to conduct the battle. A particular unique feature is Le Petit Ravin, a defile that helped the Germans derail Totalize. One of the most riveting parts of the book is the tragic account of the ill-fated Worthington Force and the total goat-rope (SNAFU) that created the debacle, then failed to recognize and rescue it. Aftermath and The battlefield today sums up the campaign. The author toured the area and sprinkles the book with recent photographs of particular sites significant in Totalize. These are appreciated as the mental image of described topography is often very different from what the camera reveals.

The book is not without typos. A 40mm Bofors AAA is misidentified as a 6-pounder ATG in a photo, and a description of the roll barrage states that between 2345 and 0040hrs (55 minutes) that the barrages lifted every “120 minutes”, to pace the advance. Regardless, I think that the book is well written and the author knows the subject matter.
Photographs and graphics
There is a rare color photo of the battle, although not much can be seen. The author’s recent photographs of particular spots on the battlefield today are in color. Otherwise, all the photos are black-and-white. They are good photos, clear and useful for modelers, historians and artists, revealing a good amount of detail of personnel, equipment and terrain. Several are inspirational for dioramas or vignettes. I counted only seven pages devoid of a photo or illustration.

Original artwork by Johnny Shumate enhances the book with important scenes not captured by photography. These “in-action” paintings are:
    1. Two-page battlescene The Canadian Triple Column Formation Advances From the Totalize Start Line Near Beauvior Farm, 2330hrs, 7 August, illustrating the night approach of scores of tanks against surprised infantry in foxholes.

    2. Two-page battlescene The Royal Regiment of Canada Embussed In Priest Kangaroo APCs Assaults Hill 122, 0540hrs, 8 August, the historic first use of armored infantry assault by UK forces, from the vantage point behind German soldiers with rifles in foxholes facing the onrushing attack.

    3. Two-page battlescene German Counter-Attack Against the Defensive Perimeter of Worthington Force, 9 August 1944, viewed from behind Shermans as they are massacred by attacking Panthers and infantry of 12.SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend.
Several color maps explain the progress of Totalize and orient the reader:
    A. The strategic situation in Normandy, 1-8 August 1944.

    B. The revised II Canadian Corps plan, 6 August 1944.

    C. Final dispositions, 2330hrs, 7 August 1944. German and Allied formations and firepower.

    D. 3D bird’s-eye-view The western (Canadian) sector of the initial Totalize break-in battle: Allied and German dispositions at 2330hrs, 7 Aug., and the Allied advance and German counterattacks. Keyed with 15 events, nine German units and eight Canadian units.

    E. 3D bird’s-eye-view The eastern (British) sector of the initial Totalize break-in battle: British and German dispositions at 2330hrs, 7 Aug., and the British advance and German resistance. Keyed with 15 events, six German units and eight British units.

    F. The second Totalize break-in battle, 1200-2359hrs, 8 August 1944.

    G. 3D bird’s-eye-view The German counter-attack around Saint-Aignan-De-Cramesnil. The Allied and German dispositions around noon, 8 Aug., and the German counterattacks. Keyed with 10 events, five German units and eight Allied units.

    H. Diagram of the defensive position of Worthington Force.

    I. The final result, 7-11 August 1944.

    J. The aftermath of Operation Totalize, 11-29 August 1944.
Further graphics support in Operation Totalize 1944 includes color-coded flowcharts that I have not encountered in Osprey books:
    I. 4th Canadian Armoured Division Main/Rear Headquarters.
    II. 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade Group, a diagram of the four Canadian mobile column formations depicting the types of vehicles in each row up to a depth of 47 rows.
There is also a table:
    III. Table 1: command and control

This book does a great job of helping the reader visualize the battlefield both tactically and strategically.

Operation Totalize 1944 seems like a good concise history of the eastern Allied breakout south from Caen that culminated in the German rout in the Falaise Pocket. The reasons that such an intricately planned operation gained so little despite lavish organization and expectations are discussed in good detail to my liking. The text is supported with remarkable photographic content, as well as excellent maps and other graphics. I appreciate the detail that author Stephen A Hart included in describing the rolling barrage, and other events.

However, I found that the book dragged in places. There are some fascinating stories yet overall the book did not hold my attention. That is subjective and other readers may be absorbed into the book. The few typos can confuse readers not familiar with the subjects.

Operation Totalize 1944 has a lot of material to inspire modelers, artists and historians. It is educational and delivers a good narrative of Operation Totalize. Recommended.

Please remember to tell retailers and vendors that you saw this book here - on Armorama.
Highs: The text is supported with remarkable photographic content, as well as excellent maps and other graphics.
Lows: The few typos can confuse readers not familiar with the subjects.
Verdict: Operation Totalize 1944 has a lot of material to inspire modelers, artists and historians. It is educational and delivers a good narrative of Operation Totalize.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472812889
  Suggested Retail: $24.00
  PUBLISHED: Jun 15, 2016

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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