Richard Atkinson: The Guns at Last Light:
On any given day now, Army Group B might suffer as many losses as Rommel’s Afrika Korps had in the entire summer of 1942. Only 10,000 replacements had arrived to compensate for 100,000 German casualties in Normandy over the past six weeks. A British cannonade of 80,000 artillery rounds at Caen on July 10 had been answered with 4,500 German shells, all that were available. Rommel had seen a battalion commander riding horseback for want of a car or of fuel. “The divisions are bleeding white,” his war diary recorded. Berlin anticipated 1.6 million German casualties on all fronts from June through October, far more than the Fatherland could sustain.
Rommel’s disaffection grew day by day. Hitler “will fight without the least regard for the German people until there isn’t a house left standing in Germany,” he told his confidant Admiral Ruge. The field marshal was aware of talk, dangerous talk, of a separate peace on the Western Front, and perhaps a coup; he opposed making Hitler a martyr but would consider taking command of the armed forces if necessary.
In early July, Rundstedt had been removed as commander in the west, ostensibly after pleading age and infirmity, but in fact because he had advised Berlin to “make an end to the whole war.” Hitler gave him a medal and a 250,000-mark gratuity to go take the cure at Bad Tölz. “I will be next,” Rommel predicted.
Rundstedt’s successor, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, known as Cunning Hans, had commanded an army group in the east for two years and brought to France a reputation as a fearless and tenacious innovator. In their first meeting at La Roche–Guyon, he accused Rommel of “obstinate self-will,” but within a week concurred that “the situation couldn’t be grimmer.” On July 15, Rommel composed a three-page report for the high command, in which he wrote: “The situation on the Normandy front is growing worse every day and is now approaching a grave crisis. The unequal struggle is approaching its end.” Kluge endorsed the assessment in a cover note to Berlin...