GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fantastic little read about D-Day

I was looking for a good D-Day book to read this year for the 70th Anniversary and came across this little gem.  I have read  Dr. McManus' titles on the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Market Garden and found both of them to be enjoyable reads.

For this book, he takes a look at the 1st Infantry Division's fight to land and take Omaha Beach on D-Day.  70 years after the invasion, this battle has rightly passed into legend, almost mythology to the US military, and the US Army in particular, and rightly so, as the near impossible victory of a scattered group of sea-sick infantrymen could very well have ended with a disastrous failure to get off the beach and up the bluffs into Normandy.

Told through a huge array of primary sources, including loads of both personal and archived interviews with survivors, this book delivers almost a landing craft-by-landing craft tale of the effort to clear the beaches of German defenses...or often times merely staying alive under an umbrella of machine gun, mortar, rifle, and artillery fire.

Dr. McManus has some interesting analysis from this book that gave me a few "hmmmm" moments.  First, the Allies had a complete intelligence failure to know that the German 352nd Infantry Division was manning many of the defenses.  Although I already knew this from previous books, two things stood out; first, the Germans actually didn't have that many troops actually manning the defensive bunkers, pillboxes, and trenches.  Yet these troops inflicted massive casualties and bottled up the beach for most of the morning.  Second, the Germans actually sent a battalion sized force to counter-attack in the afternoon and were only stopped after some intense fighting by the troops who had made their way up the draws and around or into the town of Colleville.  One does wonder how the story of D-Day might have been different if those reinforcements had arrived earlier in the day when the first two waves of the 1st Division were still pinned on the beach.  The victory at Omaha was clearly much more of a near run thing than even well read historians like myself realized.

McManus spends a lot of time on the other units involved in the fight off the beaches, in particular the engineers, beach demolition clearance teams, and the medics.  I was also a little surprised to learn how many Navy guys died on Omaha Beach, and even that seven Navy Crosses were awarded that morning.  The predecessors to today's Navy SEALs clearly did themselves proud that day.

As a microhistory, this book overall was a great little read (about 300 pages that turn pretty fast).  The book has a nice collections of maps and an excellent set of photos of the events and major players from that bloody morning, including the three Medal of Honor winners that day, 2 of them posthumously. 

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