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Vercors 1944: Resistance in the French Alps

Vercors 1944: Resistance in the French Alps Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review January 2013 Title Vercors 1944: Resistance in the French Alps
Author Peter Lieb Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2012 ISBN 9781849086981
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $21.95


World War II France, Hollywood history holds, remained rife with romantic resistance fighters – Maquisards – during Nazi occupation.

Truth is, most French embraced a wait-and-see attitude of attentisme.  Lightly armed, factious Maquis often proved ineffectual and inept.  And German pacification programs remained relatively small compared to those on the Eastern front.

All changed with Allied landings at Normandy.  And Peter Lieb sifts fact from fable in his Osprey case study, Vercors 1944: Resistance in the French Alps.

After an understandably superficial prologue with chronology, coverage courses through opposing commanders, forces and plans.  Summer Alpine actions at the Vercors and Tarentaise consume the bulk of narrative.  And along the way, Leib evokes enduring issues like collaboration, cooperation, rebellion and repression.

The author's informative "aftermath" competently dissects the 1944 French defeat – and subsequent German retreat after Operation Dragoon.  Photos, maps, charts and index season his study.  And bibliographic notes ably illumine the paucity of primary sources.

But Lieb's prose proved periodically awkward and opaque.  And I often mentally edited text for diction, brevity, punctuation and precision.  One singularly snaky sentence retched and rambled for nearly 140 words – a truly clumsy clot of clauses spot-welded to one broad topic.  Dangling modifiers and redundancies also abound, further clouding clarity.

Technical gaffes tarnish text, too.  Most aviation historians would hardly call Reggiane Re.2002 fighter-bombers "old-fashioned" in 1944.  That's a Dornier Do 17M or P – not an He 111 – on page 39.  Did the "Iron Cross" really bedeck Luftwaffe warplanes over Vercors?  And were those German "light 2 cm mortars" actually 20 cm leichter Ladungswerfer types?

Reservations aside, I enjoyed Vercors 1944.  Make it a springboard to further study of this contentious campaign.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!