134 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done look at famed invasion by a great military historian
Some may simply ignore this book, yet another look at the Normandy invasion that has been seemingly done to death. But what makes it good is that it was researched and written by well-known historian Antony Beevor, author of 'Stalingrad.' Beevor does an incredible job of interweaving the stories of soldiers involved in the invasion along with the decisions made at the...
Published on August 18, 2009 by G. Nasuti
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Done, But Necessary?
Beevor's book is well-researched, clear and engaging, but it adds little to what many others have said about the operational history of the campaign. The book is a narrative that ably blends operational history with the "worm's eye view" of those who suffered through the actual fighting (somewhat emphasizing the latter over the former). It does draw attention to seldom...
Published on January 22, 2010 by J. Moran
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134 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done look at famed invasion by a great military historian,
Some may simply ignore this book, yet another look at the Normandy invasion that has been seemingly done to death. But what makes it good is that it was researched and written by well-known historian Antony Beevor, author of 'Stalingrad.' Beevor does an incredible job of interweaving the stories of soldiers involved in the invasion along with the decisions made at the top. He finds a good deal of fault with his own countrymen, namely General Montgomery, who he finds reacted much too slowly to German counterattacks and even hints that the Brits may have been suffering from a bit of war exhaustion. Like Cornelius Ryans' classic 'The Longest Day,' Beevor explores the actions and reactions of each side, including the Brits, Americans, Germans, and the French. There was something of a controversy when the book was released in Britain after Beevor asserted that the bombing of Caen by the Brits before D-Day was "very close to a war crime." Many felt Beevor made the statement to help sell books. I don't think that was the case because I don't believe Dr. Beevor will have trouble selling this book, nor do I feel this statement is hardly controversial. Many of the bombings during the war could come close to being considered war crimes, especially when civilians were made to suffer, but each side was guilty of this. Also, with hindsight, this is an easy statement to make. The Brits did have a rough time taking Caen after German panzer reinforcements reached the town and held it against Montgomery's forces. I also enjoyed a section where Beevor discussed the highly controversial replacement system of the American army during the war. Many green soldiers were sent to the front lines simply as "bodies" to fill a space left by a dead or wounded GI. Beevor claims that the word "replacements" was done away with later in the campaign by the brass and changed to "reinforcements." That was news to me. I have spoken with many American veterans of the war that only ever referred to the "replacement" system, and none of them ever had anything good to say about it. His chapter on the fighting in the bocage is also well written and interesting.
The book does not reveal much new information or break any new ground, but the writing is excellent and the maps are very well done. Since I had an uncorrected proof of the book, I do not know what photographs will appear in it, but I suspect there won't be many that the public has not already seen. Beevor did a fantastic job of breaking the action up by chapter in sequential order as the invasion and later fighting in Normandy unfolded. I wish he had spent a little more time on the battles themselves, such as the battle at Pointe-du-Hoc or for the port city of Cherbourg, but overall this is a small complaint. I feel Beevor also did a commendable job of discussing the confusion that seemed to wrack the German High Command during the campaign, mostly due to Hitler, as well as the bravery and toughness of the Allied soldiers and their German counterparts. I recommend this book to those who enjoy military history and the Second World War.
91 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Beevor winner,
There have been many books written about D-Day, starting with Cornelius Ryan's "The Longest Day", and one (this one anyway) wondered whether there would be anything new to say about the momentous events of 6 June 1944. In short, the answer is no. Mr. Beevor relates all the familiar stories of the build-up and the great stories of D-Day - Pegasus Bridge, the Merville Battery, Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach - in relatively abbreviated fashion. The stories are told better elsewhere.
However, what is not told better elsewhere, and what makes this book so different and interesting, is signalled by the subtitle "The Battle for Normandy". Whereas many others stop at the successful establishment of the Normandy beachhead, Mr. Beevor takes us further - much further. He takes us into the hedgerows of Normandy and the bloody and difficult fighting that took place there, to the breakthrough, leading to the great turkey shoot of the Falaise Gap, where the Allied air forces and artillery caused staggering carnage among the Germans trying to escape the closing Allied pincers. The story ends with the liberation of Paris.
Many (myself included) have discounted D-Day and the Western Front as a drop in the bucket, compared to the titanic struggles of the Eastern Front, but Mr. Beevor convincingly shows that the Normandy effort was no mere sideshow. The Allies faced difficult terrain, a determined enemy (including fanatical SS divisions) with often vastly superior equipment (the 88mm gun, the Tiger and Panther tanks and the MG42 light machine gun), and incompetence, one-upmanship and dissension in the Allied upper ranks (the arrogant, difficult, prickly and often downright infuriating Montgomery and the vain, gung-ho, glory-hunting "Blood and Guts" Patton get special attention here).
The subject of prickliness brings up the Free French. Winston Churchill famously said that, of all the crosses he had to bear, the heaviest was the cross of Lorraine (the emblem of the Free French). Charles de Gaulle and the Free French military were afraid that the Resistance, of which a large part was ardently Communist, would seek to form a government once the Germans had been defeated, and were prepared to step on as many toes as necessary to ensure that this didn't happen. On the helpful French side, Mr. Beevor gives its due the tremendous work done by the Resistance in handicapping the Germans' effort to get men and matériel to the front. This success provoked some of the more vicious German reprisals, notably the acts of the Das Reich SS Division in Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane.
In terms of viciousness, the savagery of the fighting in Normandy was often on a par with that in the East. Thankfully, the many mistakes and misjudgements on the Allied side were more than compensated by those of the German side even without being hamstrung by the tactical and strategic genius of Corporal Adolf Hitler. In addition, the Allies had almost complete air superiority from Day One, and, given good weather, shot up and bombed everything that moved. They helped throw an enormous spanner in the works of any German attempt to counter-attack.
Most of all, and unlike any of the other D-Day writers I can think of, Mr. Beevor details the appalling suffering of the French population caught in the middle of these terrible events, looted and murdered in reprisal by one side, bombed, shelled and looted by the other. The Vietnam experience of destroying a town or village in order to save it is frequently repeated. The most famous case is Caen, an Allied goal on the first day, which they didn't make, and which was bombed flat, but it was to be repeated, by accident or design, in many other places. Never was William Tecumseh Sherman's famous remark that "war is hell" more true than here.
In short, an excellent volume and highly recommended.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Done, But Necessary?,
Beevor's book is well-researched, clear and engaging, but it adds little to what many others have said about the operational history of the campaign. The book is a narrative that ably blends operational history with the "worm's eye view" of those who suffered through the actual fighting (somewhat emphasizing the latter over the former). It does draw attention to seldom explored aspects of the fighting (such as the French experience) or to other factors not so fully discussed by others (such as some issues affecting the British Army).
Beevor's discussion of the French experience has much greater depth than is typical. He gives unusual detail on how much the fighting cost French civilians. The contending armies simply smashed everything and everywhere they fought over without concern for what damage was done to the French or their country. Immense personal and material suffering resulted.
Beevor also illuminates the politics that beset France before and after D-Day as DeGaulle struggled to insure France's national future. DeGaulle strove to control the resistance movement and prevent the strong Communist elements from dominating it. He also insisted on sending French Army units into battle as Allies reporting politically to DeGaulle's "government" (then unrecognized by the US and Britain). DeGaulle was equally adamant that French forces must liberate Paris even if this entailed some risk of major fighting in the city and even if the available forces had to disobey contrary orders from Allied superiors.
Beevor is good at describing the unusually savage (for the West) fighting in Normandy, fighting that produced heavy casualties and atrocities on both sides. Beevor is knowledgeable about the Nazi-Soviet war, so his suggestion that Normandy was often comparable to the Eastern Front in savagery carries weight.
Beevor narrates the famous operational dilemmas, but does not often analyze them in depth. He seems to spend more time analyzing the problems and performance of the British (perhaps because he is himself a Brit) than that of the Americans. Thus he is good on the intractable manpower problems that so deeply affected the British and on the great war weariness from which famous British units and commanders suffered when pressed into combat again after (for many of them) four years of unrelieved hard fighting.
Beevor sharply criticizes the British Army for its failure to develop effective doctrine for employment of armor generally and for armor-infantry cooperation in particular. He is also no fan of Montgomery's egoism and inability to cooperate smoothly with the Americans.
He criticizes Americans as well, especially with regard to the Falaise pocket and regarding the Americans' particularly ardent belief in the efficacy of the use of heavy bombers in land battles. Beevor does not hesitate to criticize (politely) American generals either, especially Bradley whom he seems to consider overrated and an egotist in his own right. Beevor is in fact more objective than many writers in a field where sympathy seems to follow nationality rather closely.
The book is a good overall view of the campaign, but it offers little new except as discussed above. This book would be enjoyable especially for someone coming new to the subject.
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read,
At well over 500 pages, Antony Beevor's newest work is quite a lot to pick up. I'm happy to report that it's much harder to put down.
We are at an important point for historians of the Second World War. The events are two-thirds of a century in the past. But these events are still living memory for thousands of people. The outlines of the Normandy effort have been known and recounted for quite some time. What recent years and recollections have given us is detail. We can now say more about the effectiveness of a particular battle and how it may have had a completely different outcome. We have many more vignettes recounted by soldiers and civilians alike. And we finally come face to face with the enormous price paid by tens of thousands of people who called Normandy their home. The passage of time gives a historian perspective. The passage of too much time leaves a historian with no one to talk to.
While there are brief appearances by major historical figures--Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eisenhower, de Gaulle--Beevor tells this story primarily from a tactical point of view. The book opens with the last details of planning the assault and ends with the liberation of Paris. Most of us think of "D-Day" as the series of beach assaults beginning on June 6. That was only the beginning. There was terrible fighting and loss of life for more than two more months. The account of Omaha beach is unnerving. There is confusion, slaughter and there are atrocities on all sides. This is an effective telling, done with words alone. Those of us who were not there can only wonder what we would have done.
Our view of well-known names is sharpened. We get a better picture of the plodding but strategic Omar Bradley. We learn about the vain and often ineffective Montgomery, the vain but ruthlessly effective Patton. We learn how many of the best German generals knew it was a lost cause, but soldiered on. We get an even stronger picture of the qualitative advantages of German training and weaponry over almost anything in the Allied toolkit. If Germany had not extended itself all over Europe, it is hard to see how they could have ever been dislodged.
Beevor provides his own analysis of battle plans and results. Often a battle could have been won with a small change in allocation of manpower. Often the wrong battle was joined. This is what a half-century of post-game analysis gives you. Lack of information often caused the deaths of thousands. It may be hard to understand this fully from our technological time. There were no weather satellites, no GPS system, no U2 spy planes. Entire companies marched off, often not even knowing where they were.
It's not a perfect book, but I expect it to be in print for quite some time. There is time for follow-on editions to rectify any exclusions. While there were no photographs in my review copy, I understand there are quite a few in the book as released--I'll have to get a peek at the final version to see what I missed. There is a glossary, but it is insufficient for non-scholars. Important terms like 'E-boat' and 'Sapper' are missing. There are a great many tactical maps, perhaps of more use on a second read-through. But there is no single large map of the region. An index was promised, but not present, in my review copy. That index will be important and helpful for those inclined to pull the book off the shelf again and again. But my quibbles are minor.
A good book can answer questions and leave you with many more. Exactly what was it about the 'bocages' -- the hedgerows that hosted much of the early fighting--that made them so difficult? What was it that made the German tanks, particularly the Tigers, so much more effective than the Churchills and Shermans? I think there's room for a whole appendix on that. The people that fought this war are the generation of my parents. Whether it was reticence on their part or incuriosity on ours, it has taken too long to hear their stories. We seem to be making up for lost time. Beevor's fine and unflinching book goes a long way in filling those gaps.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh Eyes On D-Day,
Even sixty years beyond the Battle for Normandy it is still possible to present new material or take a different approach, which is exactly what Antony Beevor has done. He spends more time detailing the fate of those who lived in the Normandy area, the numbers killed and displaced, and their livestock slaughtered. Mr. Beevor also draws the conclusion that the tough battle of attrition in Normandy wore down the Germans to the extent that they had nothing left to contest the rest of France with, thus sparing it from the damage that befell Normandy. The narrative spans the whole chain of command, so that we are privy to the thoughts, conversations, and possible motives of many senior commanders, and then receive brief glimpses of actions by individual infantryman, so that a complete picture of cause and effect is created. Even two months into the invasion the Allies were still under the umbrella of battleship guns, a stern reminder of how slow initial progress was. Mr. Beevor also spends an excellent chapter on the plot against Hitler that occurred during this period, not something usually found in D-Day accounts. This is a solid work to put on your shelf next to Stephen Ambrose, John Keegan, and Cornelius Ryan.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive History of the Normandy Invasion,
In April and May of 1944, I frequently flew over southern England on my way to bomb targets on the other side of the Channel. The sight below me would strike awe in anyone. There were miles of parked tanks, artillery guns, and trucks. Tents housing soldiers stretched to the horizon. They were all part of the greatest invasion force in history, an invasion so ably described by Antony Beevor in D-Day.
In early June, the troops were ready, ships were ready, and air forces were ready, but the weather was not. We see the maddening wait for acceptable weather, with each hour of delay threatening detection by the German forces. Fortunately for the Allies, Adolf Hitler was a great help, as he insisted that the invasion would occur at the Pas de Calais instead of Normandy. The Allies were happy to help his belief by placing dummy equipment and activity opposite that coast. Several times, I flew to the Pas de Calais, fooled around for a short time, and returned to my base. Then, a brief period of good weather opened, and the massive invasion struck against tough, German defenses.
The main characteristic of a battle is utter confusion, and Beevor describes it perfectly. Much of the fighting was between small groups of Allies or Germans all over Normandy. Many soldiers became lost and died by blundering into the enemy. A surprising number broke down in the savage violence of battle. Death and destruction were everywhere. Beevor's descriptions are the best I have seen.
A huge help for the Allied ground forces was the overwhelming presence of their air forces overhead. They had already destroyed most of the German Air Force, and they attacked German troops and tanks without letup. Still, the going was very tough, and the author describes the battle's effects on soldiers and on French civilians, many of whom died during the desperate fighting. We hear of tiffs between commanders, especially involving General Montgomery.
We see how the Allied forces fought their way inland until they blasted a gap in the German defenses, and their troops, especially those of General Patton, poured through. British and American troops destroyed much of the German army in France in the Falaise pocket and swiftly reached Paris. Again, we see confusion, as Allied forces enter, and German forces struggle to leave the city, General De Gaulle and the small French force ignore the Allies who got them to Paris.
The book is a pleasure to read. I had the feeling that I was right there with the troops. This is the result of Beevor's fine writing.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive telling of the Normandy campaign,
After previously looking at the Eastern Front with the superb Stalingrad and Berlin, D-Day is Antony Beevor's first look at WWII in Western Europe. Beevor does not confine himself to D-Day as 6 June alone, but closes the book with the liberation of Paris by French mechanized forces (using, of course, equipment provided by the US, and landed from the UK). It is, of course, remarkably readable and wonderfully accurate.
Beevor is a remarkably evenhanded historian, for instance noting the caution and errors of Montgomery in his consistent failure to capture Caen, while pointing out that the British under Monty did, in fact, have a hard road to hoe in the calibre of opponent they faced. Caen, and Monty, is usually a point of difference between Anglo-US historians, and Beevor finds a way to show both sides of the story.
D-Day looks first at the airdrop landings, and each beach in turn, and then moves on to the camapaign in Normandy. The role of the French resistance and collaboration is discussed, and atrocities committed by both sides are brought forward (although nothing can compare to the deliberate massacre in Oradour sur Glane by the SS). There are touches of humanity - and even humour - amidst the war. There is little "new" here - these facts are known, and have been for the last 65 years for the most part - but the clarity of the presentation is excellent.
As well the conflict itself, the political dimension to D-Day is not ignored, and the role of de Gaulle in the liberation of France made clear. It is hard to see de Gaulle as anything other than a delusional grasping opportunist constantly biting the hands that fed him, while at the same time understanding that if de Gaulle was not the answer, then a civil war in France was a possible outcome. To treat France as other than a vanquished enemy (similar to the treatment of Italy in 1944-45) was to treat with de Gaulle.
Another example of the political background is the bringing to the fore of the plot against Hitler by the German Generals, and how this was brought on by D-Day and then affected the subsequent response. The difference between the SS and army is also emphasized, with the SS the Nazi State military, and the Army simply the army of Germany. SS units were better equipped and had fanatical morale.
If there is a quibble with this book, it is that the main title is misleading: it is about far more than D-Day, and does not have the depth of focus on the 6th of June, 1944 that one might expect. But is it a superb telling of the campaign in Normandy, and the beginning of the end of the Third Reich.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The longest day and more,
Mr. Beevor usually writes about the Eastern Front of World War II, so this new book is somewhat of a departure for him. Even so, he brings the same scholarship and meticulous writing to the invasion of Normandy and its aftermath.
Usually books on Overloard go into detail about the invasion and basically stop when it is successful. Mr. Beevor, however, follows the Allies through the entire fight up to and including the liberation of Paris. He covers a lot fo the ground written about in "Six Armies In Normandy", a book I read several years ago and enjoyed very much. This book is written in a style more conducive to easier reading and comprehension.
The author appears to fault Montgomery's pride and insobordination for some of the less than stellar results of the battle for Normandy after the success of the invasion. That is an approach fairly agreed upon by historians, and the upshot of it is that if Montgomery weren't so intent on following his own agenda, many more German soldiers could have been trapped in the Falaise "pocket". His failure to close the "pocket" enabled many Germans to escape, and the Allies would see a lot of them again during the Battle of the Bulge.
This is excellent historical writing, and it gets down to the level of individual soldiers in the field. I'm most proud of General Gavin, who was born and raised in my home town of Mount Carmel, PA, one of our local heroes. You can never read too much about D-Day, and this book is an excellent place to learn more about it and what happened beyond.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LARGE BOOK IN EFFORT AND SCOPE,
I admire Antony Beevor's books having 4 others (Stalingrad, Fall of Berlin, A Writer at War, and The Mystery of Olga Chekhova) besides this newest D-DAY volume. His books are generally large in both effort and scope with D-DAY being possible the largest of all.
As other reviews have mentioned, this book follows the campaign to completeness rather than stopping at D-Day or D-Day plus one. For die hard military readers who enjoy an indepth or 'tactical' read as one reviewer puts it this book will be a real treat, for some others, only a few possibly, this book will be large and possibly offer much more detail than they are seeking. For readers of military history a treat, for general readers possibly a bit long in both depth and detail.
I enjoyed the book and will set it on the shelf beside Max Hastings's (OVERLORD), Cornelius Ryan's (THE LONGEST DAY) books and THE GERMANS IN NORMANDY by Richard Hargreaves. All three books still being excellent works but with differing styles, details, and viewpoints, with Hargreaves book (2006) being the latest of the three offering a German view. Though I am content with Mr. Beevor's book overall I would suggest again that propective readers at least check out the book before purchasing as it might not suit the non-military, general reader.
I did have a few problems with the book, but will only mention one that stands out to me. On page 112 in a footnote, Mr. Beevor mentions the 'Bedford Boys' of Company A, using the word 'myth' to apply to the Bedford, Virgina story, saying only 6 dead of Company A had come from the city, with only 24 being in service that day from the entire county; I am left a bit confused as to exactly what he means here. Being a lifelong Ohio resident, I have resided in Virginia only a few years but have read that 19 or more young men were killed in the first wave, scythed down as it were, by German machine gun fire. Wish he would have amplified or bolstered his contention with more detail. Other than citing a couple sources not generally available to the average reader I'm left unsure his contention is correct. The dedicated memorial in that city wasn't built for just the death of 6 men on D-Day.
Overall a good, detailed read with many smaller details included, a few of which represented new material to me. An excellent 4-star read for me, maps were more than adequate for a work of this size, however, additional or better choice of photos could have helped as a few have little meaning to me, but overall this book was well worth my money and reading time.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beevors' Newest (D-Day), But Not His Best,
This review is from: D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (Paperback)
Anthoney Beevor's newly released book on D-Day and the events that followed up to the liberation of Paris, is a very informative book. It is a good book but not a great book. Beevor covers in well documented detail, the war on the Western Front with Nazi Germany. At first I was prejudiced about this aspect of the war compared to the much larger campaigns on the Eastern Front. This book does a good job of explaining how the Allies were facing a very real threat with 9-10 divisions on a 60 mile front versus the same amount of fire in the east on a 200 mile front. In general, the book covers the pre-D-Day scenarios, the landing, and the slow progress of the Allies in the weeks and months after the invasion. It goes into detail about many of the important events, i.e failures at Caen, St.-Lo, Operation Colbra, to name a few. Also off interest is the plot against Hitler, and the final liberation of Paris.
Beevor not only covers the personalities of the many generals, like Montgomery, Bradley and Patton, but also the rest of the players from colonels on down to privates. This is done on both sides and is one of the strong points of the book. He also does a good job on how the war affected the people of France and the power struggle that developed between De gaulle and the French Communist party. A very interesting part was the super storm on June 19th, 1944, that played a large part in the war, and would have been a total disaster for the Allies if they had planned their invasion two weeks later. One advantage this book has over previous accounts of the war is that it was released in 2009. By this time, many if not all of the classified information, had been released so the reader is treated to many new revelations. Not only does he do a good job of weaving Ultra intelligence (the breaking of the German signal codes) into the accounts but also the role of the clandestine Jedburghs teams (Special Operations Teams) as well. This was very well done.
The invasion and the aftermath was not a smooth operation as many believed. There were many poor decisions made that cost the lives of many soldiers. Some of note were: the friendly fire mishaps by allied bombers, Commanders failing to quickly attack the Germans after pounding the enemy with artillery, the over bombing of many French villages, and the many mistakes made by the generals, most noticeably Field Marshall Montgomery. It is refreshing to get the full picture with both the good and the bad. We get into the minds of both Allies and Germans and see the human and inhuman side of both. Much is discussed on how the German generals were in a bind, knowing that the war was lost but still had to pledge allegiance to Hitler and obey his crazy orders.
I think that many will find this book informative, but I liked Beevors' other books better. It covered many things well, but it was not a fluid read and a little choppy. There are maps to show details of the many battles, a wonderful picture section in the middle of the book and a small glossary to help the reader with military terms. But when I read Beevor's earlier book on the Battle of Stalingrad, I was so impressed I read it twice. Maybe it was that at that time in the war all looked lost, and the Soviet Army started to turn the tide. In mid-1944, things were not as critical and the battles were not as impressive. I am not sure. Either way, this book was not nearly as good as his other works.
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D-Day: The Battle for Normandy by Antony Beevor (Paperback - September 28, 2010)