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Operation Dragoon and Beyond, Then & Now

...from After the Battle/Pen & Sword Books

Title: Operation Dragoon and Beyond, Then & Now
Author: Jean Paul Pallud
Publisher: After the Battle
ISBN: 978-1-39904-6114

The latest addition to the marvellous series of Then and Now books from After the Battle, now a part of Pen & Sword Books. The author is well known for his other books in this series, and his many contributions to the old After the Battle magazine over the years. This is a 296-page hard-cover book.
The book is split over an Introduction which sets the background to the story covered by the book, and this is then followed by three individual sections. The first is Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France itself. That is followed by Pursuit to the North and finished off with The Battle of Alsace. Each element has text which tells us the stages of the whole story, and they are all profusely illustrated with the archive and modern comparison 'Then & Now' pictures that this series of books is so well known for. Although the advance was quick, the German forces carried out a well managed retreat back towards Germany and the Rhine, along the Rhone valley. There are plenty of stories within the wider stories, such as the occasion when Audie Murphy, the most decorated US serviceman in WW2 won his Distinguished Service Cross. Pictures of the landing beaches include places which today are popular tourist places, and where I am sure many visitors won't really be aware of what happened there all those years ago. There are also plenty of concrete beach obstacles and bunkers which are more commonly associated with the coast of Northern France. There are also a set of photos of some German railway guns that were in the area and make for some more unusual subjects. Then in another instance, an archive picture shows a knocked out M10 tank destroyer, while the modern day comparison has a Sherman mounted as a memorial in almost the same spot.
Despite liberating Southern France in as little as 4 weeks there is a lot to learn within the story and within the images. In some places the buildings and surroundings have changed very little from how they were back in 1944, but many others have changed through rebuilding or redevelopment and the author has done a great job in identifying the sites thanks to terrain in the background which fix them. The author lives in the Alps, so in the region covered by the book. Our own elder daughter lives in Grenoble, one of the cities mentioned in the story, and a number of the places pictured, such as in Nice, I recognise from her photos. Next time we go to visit I will certainly be taking this book with me so I can take some of my own comparison photos. Recommended without any hesitation.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for the review copy.


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