Bob's Reviews > D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Battle for the Normandy Beaches

D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Stephen E. Ambrose
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's review
Apr 30, 11

The book is a mix of big-picture analyses, a reference of details, and short testimonials from a large number of people who were there. Ambrose does a good but not great job at integrating these different scales and insights. Maybe that is I why I did not think this was a great book, but rather a very well-done book and a very practical reference about a profound event.

The author certainly conveyed some big picture perspectives successfully: the effect of complete Allied air and (effectively) naval superiority; the unbelievable success at keeping the Germans guessing about the planned invasion point and therefore keeping their troops spread thin; the amazing armada assembled; Rommel's catastrophic choice to place all preparations into trying to stop the Allies at the beacheads; over-reliance on Russian, Polish, etc., troops at the Atlantic Wall who were not all that excited to be fighting for Germany; and the complete failure of the German command to enable commanders to make the spur-of-the-moment decisions needed to respond to the invasion - which led to paralysis of Panzer divisions when they could have inflicted the most damage. Whether the last point really reflects inherent effects of a totalitarian government - suppression of all individual choices by all except Hitler - vs. the freedom of democracy, I don't know, but the author certainly implied so repeatedly.

Of course the individual stories are great and horrific - especially in terms of the near-certainty of being a casulty as part of the first waves at Omaha Beach and to a similar extent Juno and Sword beaches. Live is cheap: gliders or paratroopers weighed down with equipment land in a swamp and are drowned without firing a shot; landing craft operators stop short and infantry dive into deep water to struggle ashore, or the craft is riddled with machine gun fire as soon as the ramp drops.

The author makes several critical references to the habit of Brit/Canadian trops to stop at tea-time instead of pressing forward. Conversely, he strongly emphasizes the British inventiveness, such as the value of "Hobart's Funnies" - swimming tanks, tanks with portable bridges, tanks with flailing mine detonators.

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