Author: Teska, David L
Date published: October 1, 2011
Beevor, Antony. D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. New York: Viking Penguin, 2009. 591pp. $32.95
The 6 June 1944 Normandy invasion has received ample research over the years, with works by such noted historians as Cornelius Ryan, Stephen E. Ambrose, and Max Hastings. Known as Operation OVERLORD, it was by all accounts a pivotal event of the war in Europe. Hindsight clearly shows that ending Hitler's control of Europe required the Allies to meet the Wehrmacht in the field in mainland Europe.
So what can another book add to the canon on Normandy? Antony Beevor's meticulously written and researched D-Day: The Battle for Normandy might at first blush appear to be simply another treatise on the famed battle. Yet anyone who believes this to be so without reading it will miss out on sweeping narrative and credible research.
Beevor minces no words in telling the story of this grand operation, the epitome of Allied wartime cooperation and a daunting plan to develop and execute. There is no shortage of controversies and points of debate, which Beevor meticulously brings out again and again. A fellow countryman, General Sir Bernard Montgomery, his famous ego well documented, comes in for pointed criticism for decisions and actions he made throughout the battle. In fact, both Allied and German military leaders face Beevor's scrutiny. The Americans, fixated on securing a port facility for logistical support, learned the hard way that the entrenched German garrison in Brest could hold out for a very long time. Despite a highly sophisticated air-ground coordination and the commitment of VIII Corps, the Americans had to pay dearly to pry Brest from resolute and determined German defenders -blood spilled for a port that in the end was never used.
Beevor is a well known historian of twentieth-century combat, one who knows his topic, capably weaves the broad sweep of the Normandy campaign into a compelling account, and provides the broader context, bringing in aspects of the battle that until recently have received short shrift. For example, he presents an excellent account of the battles fought by the Polish 1st Armored Division. Also, he shows the critical role of the 20 July assassination attempt against Hitler in how the German leadership responded to the relentless Allied onslaught. The subsequent hunt for conspirators wreaked havoc with the German military's ability to wage a cohesive and effective defense and helped set up the eventual Allied breakout and defeat of the Wehrmacht in France by the end of the summer.
Without a doubt, the battle for France in 1944 saw some of the most ferocious and savage fighting to take place in the European theater. There was the unrelenting fight by Montgomery to take Caen, which was won at great cost- Allied bombing during Operation GOODWOOD ultimately reduced the town to rubble. Seeing Caen as pivotal to the security of the beachhead, D-Day planners expected to have it in Allied hands by the end of 6 June, but it did not fall untilmid-July. Beevormakes the case that British sluggishness allowed a vast portion of the German army to escape the Falaise Pocket- German soldiers who would live to fight the Allies another day.
A constant thread throughout his book is the high cost paid by French citizens for the liberation of their land. Nearly twenty thousand French civilians died during the liberation of Normandy, in addition to the estimated fifteen thousand killed and nineteen thousand injured during the preliminary bombing.
CDR. DAVID L. TESKA,U.S. COASTGUARD RESERVE
San Diego, California