Breakout from Juno: First Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign, July 4–August 21, 1944

With its trademark “you are there” style, Mark Zuehlke’s ninth book in the best-selling Canadian Battle Series graphically describes First Canadian Army’s bitter and costly combat debut in World War II — the breakout from Normandy’s beaches to the closure of the Falaise Gap.

On July 4, 1944, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division won the village of Carpiquet but not the adjacent airfield. Instead of a speedy victory, the men faced a bloody fight. The Canadians advanced relentlessly against Hitler’s finest armoured divisions, at a great cost in bloodshed. Initially, only the 3rd Division was involved. But in a couple of weeks two other Canadian divisions —  2nd Infantry and 4th Armoured — along with a Polish division and several divisions of I British Corps came together as First Canadian Army.

While their generals wrangled and planned, the soldiers fought within a narrow landscape extending a mere twenty-one miles from Caen to Falaise. The Canadians won a two-day battle for Verrières Ridge starting on July 21, costing them 1,500 casualties. More bloody battles followed, until finally, on August 21, the narrowing gap that had been developing at Falaise closed when American, Polish, and Canadian troops shook hands. The German army in Normandy had been destroyed, less than 50,000 of about 400,000 men escaping. The Allies suffered 206,000 casualties, of which 18,444 were Canadians.

Breakout from Juno is a story of uncommon heroism, endurance and sacrifice by Canada’s World War II volunteer army. It pays tribute to Canada’s veterans at a time when many Canadians, young and old, are actively engaged in acts of remembrance.

Published by Douglas & McIntyre, 2011: 513 pages.

Read more….

Reviews:

Winnipeg Free Press

This is a monumental series of books, each of which presents the events of a particular battle in amazing detail. The exploits of the Canadian Army during the war have often been lost among the flood of books, movies and television documentaries about the American and British forces. Zuehlke’s efforts right this wrong and ensure that the bravery and sacrifice of the Canadians will be remembered… Zuehlke’s research for all his books is meticulous, making use of regimental histories, interviews with veterans and the masses of paper reports that the army produced during the war. In Breakout from Juno he uses this material to recreate each engagement, his writing style effectively capturing the confusion and chaos of warfare. He presents a seemingly endless parade of Canadian soldiers, naming them, describing their actions that are often extraordinarily heroic, and sometimes telling us how they died.

Rocky Mountain Outlook, Canmore, AB

In what is the first major account of Canada’s role during this period of the war, Breakout From Juno is a challenging and difficult book, as it reflects in extensive detail what was a complex two months of the war. But that doesn’t mean this is a poorly written or researched book. Not at all. It is excellent and on par with Zuehlke’s other Canadian Battle Series books which strive to present the war through the eyes of the individuals who were there.

Victoria Times Colonist

Another great chronicle from award-winning local author Mark Zuehlke. Zuehlke examines Canada’s heroic, costly and successful efforts that ultimately led the Allies to victory in the Second World War.

FFWD-Calgary Arts

Breakout from Juno’s devotion to naming as many soldiers as possible is one of its strengths. Too often in books and TV documentaries, wars are summarized as the movement of armies, not the actions and fate of individuals…

Appropriately, Zuehlke closes the book with his visit to Juno Beach one recent May, where gentle waves roll across the gleaming sand, and tourists mingle in and around the Juno Beach Centre, an architecturally stylish edifice to Canada’s Normandy achievements and sacrifices, distinguished by the statue Remembrance and Renewal by Canadian sculptorColin Gibson.

Many visitors are school kids. The author rightly observes, “It is children who are the hope of remembrance…. It falls on our shoulders to keep the stories and the history alive.” In that, Zuehlke does a superb job.