BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Blood of Free Men’

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As the insurgency raged, the Allied command feared the eruption of a civil war that would rival the Reign of Terror of 1870. Intelligence reports went to Allied headquarters cautioning that “communist groups were preparing a coup once the truce expired.” So Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered the U.S. 4th Infantry Division to Paris, along with a French division commanded by Maj. Gen. Philippe Leclerc, who had twice escaped from German POW camps to join de Gaulle in Paris.

Joy reigned in Paris the last days of August, and Eisenhower praised residents on his first visit to the liberated city: “Liberty has returned to one of its traditional homes. The glory of having freed the capital belongs to Frenchmen.”

The taking of Paris was of scant strategic importance but served as an enormous morale booster — so much so that Allied generals began speaking of a final victory in 1944. Such was not to be. The story of how the supposed “final offensive” stalled for months is documented in Joachim Ludewig’s “Ruckzug.” Mr. Ludewig, who serves in the German Defense Ministry, delved into records of both adversaries and concluded that a quick defeat of the Germans post-Paris was hindered by excessive caution and a lack of strategic boldness on the part of the Allies. He also cited the Germans’ tactical skill and energy.

His book, first published in Germany, is part of a new series, “Foreign Military Studies,” a joint venture of the University Press of Kentucky and the Association of the U.S. Army. Mr. Ludewig offers insight into a phase of the European theater that I had not read elsewhere.

Joseph C. Goulden, formerly Washington bureau chief of The Philadelphia Inquirer, is the author of 18 nonfiction books.

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