on December 2, 2011
I've been collecting titles on Allied Airborne operations in the ETO for nearly 40 years. Much has been written about the epic battles at Market Garden, Operation Varsity, etc. While these stories of the ETO are nothing new, they never seem to get old.
"If Chaos Reigns" is by far one of the best...and one of the few books that deals with the Airborne operations from the American, Canadian, and British perspective in one volume. Whitlock begins his treatise with a discussion of the German airborne operations in the Blitzkrieg campaign. Its interesting to see how brillantly the Wermacht pioneered the airborne art. The rest of the book takes turns looking at the different Allied armies' skirmishes on the European mainlaind during D-Day. While these battles have been covered in other books, Whitlock tells the story with as great a gusto as any of his predecessors.
Highly recommended for any wishing to learn more about the history of the daring Allied airborne campaigns in World War II.
Before the first troops waded ashore on Normandy beaches, 30,000 American, British and Canadian paratroopers dropped out of the night sky to seize vital bridges and other choke-points. The drops generally did not go as planned. The fighting that ensued often took the form of desperate combats fought by under-strength groups of men determined to seize and hold their objectives until relieved. Flint Whitlock chronicles the development of the Allied paratroop effort and their role in the D-Day invasion in this exciting 2011 release from Casemate Publishers.
Whitlock, himself a former Army paratroop officer, subtitled his book THE NEAR-DISASTER AND ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OF THE ALLIED AIRBORNE FORCES ON D-DAY, JUNE 6, 1944 and that is an apt summary of the night drop. During the run-in to their Normandy targets, the Allied troop carrier groups ran into heavy anti-aircraft fire and obscuring cloud cover. As a result, the men of the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the British 6th Airborne Division were scattered about, landing miles from their objectives and often without needed equipment. Hurriedly banding together and orienting themselves, the various units set off to attack and seize prime targets such as Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Carentan and the Merville Battery. Initially thrown into confusion by scattered drops, the Germans were slow to respond but eventually moved against the Americans, British and Canadians. Bitter fighting ensued but as Whitlock states, through "the courage, cunning and indefatigable spirit of the Allied airborne/glider soldier," the Allies triumphed.
As Whitlock relates in IF CHAOS REIGNS, that triumph had its roots in pre-war experiments involving "vertical envelopment." Initial American, British and Canadian interest in airborne ops accelerated due to the Germans' successful use of paratroopers and gliders in their 1940 blitz, the attack on Crete, etc. However, the path to the Allied airborne success on D-Day was often convoluted, marked by hit-and-miss experimentation, lack of funding, innovative pioneers such as Bill Lee, John Rock and 'Tommy' Burns, far-sighted leaders like Churchill and Hap Arnold not to mention industrial incompetence as in the disastrous U.S. program to produce a combat glider.
In short, IF CHAOS REIGNS is an exciting, informative history of the D-Day drops and a marvelous tribute to the British, American and Canadian "sky soldiers" who landed in the pre-dawn hours of 6 June 1944. A great read...Highly recommended.
Dedicated to the memory of SSgt. John J. O'Connor, 100th TCS, 441st TCG, 9th AF who helped ferry some of those paratroopers in on 6 June 1944.
3,500 Helpful Votes!
on July 27, 2014
There is a lot of detail in this book about the individual actions of the various airborne units, of Britain, the U.S. And Canada on D-Day and beyond. There is also a lot of jumping back and forth between those small unit actions which tends to make the narrative itself chaotic and hard to follow. There is also a detailed history of airborne warfare and its development by both Germany and the allies. One must love military history to really enjoy this book otherwise it can be a rather sorrowful slog. What the author does do well is give us a new respect and admiration for those amazingly brave soldiers who jumped or glided into the harrowing night that preceded the D-Day landings, who fought courageously thereafter and in many cases died.
on May 5, 2013
It is unusual for an American author to devote any time to writing about British and Canadian efforts on D-Day and as such this book is to be applauded. The British 6th Airborne Division's landing and the fierce fighting around the Dives and Orne valleys on the eastern flank on the Operation Overlord was just as important as the American jump 80 miles to the west. However where many books have been written by both American and British authors about the American battles, few American authors have tackled the British action. This well written book covers both sectors and I found it a very enjoyable read. There have been more detailed books published about specific units and actions, but for a concise and readable overview this book is excellent. Some readers may find the lengthy introduction about the development of Airborne units a little heavy going but it is important history and sits the scene for the action that follows.
on September 6, 2012
This book puts you right in the battles with the first person accounts of these fighting paratroopers.These men are truly of the greatest generation. Very well written, I highley recommend this book for some real insight to what these men went through to defeat the German war machine.
on March 3, 2015
The first thing to understand about this book is that it is a HISTORY book, not an adventure novel. An adventure novel might say something about the troops working through the hedgerows, being raked by machine gun fire, when suddenly three panzer tanks appeared on the causeway. Because this is a history book, Whitlock tells us the name, rank, and unit of several of the men in this battle, plus the unit names of the panzer division and the Germans manning the machine gun.
It's not a textbook, but rather a very well-researched documentation of glider and paratroop operations during the Normandy invasion. That being said, it is quite well written. I found no flaws in the grammar, spelling, etc., and for the most part it was quite readable, if made somewhat ponderous by all the details.
Whitlock does an outstanding job of putting together a deep look into what may be one of the least-well documented aspects of the invasion, and helps us to fully appreciate that while the glider and paratroopers did not single-handedly win D-Day, it is clear that D-Day would not have been successful without them.
Finally, even though Whitlock gives us the cold, hard numbers regarding casualties, KIAs, MIAs, horribly mutilating wounds from the savagery of war, he does a fine job of humanizing these numbers with such statments as this: "For each KIA number, there had once been a living, breathing human being - someone's son, husband, brother, nephew, or father. For each number, there was an anguished, grieving family who would forever mourn their loss..."
If you enjoy military history, you should enjoy this book. It's not a fast read, but it's a good one.
on May 23, 2014
Well researched and well written book about the paratroopers, English, American, and Canadian, who jumped behind the lines the night before D-Day. A great deal of detail and stories I had never read before. Recommended to all those who enjoy reading about WWII.
on March 4, 2016
Even though the book presents a lot of details behind the airborne operations related to D-Day I found it somewhat disappointing and had trouble finishing the book. The details are interesting but some of the real details (for instance the pahtfinders and their to the most part lack of success in marking the landing zones) are only sparsely covered even though the results of their failure are of course throughout the book. In some cases interesting details on the equipment (including the gliders) but sometimes also conspicuously absent (yet again the pathfinder equipment, radios, ...).
The overall discussion around the sense of airborne operations has been covered by others in more detail. I am an avid reader of history books with detailed narrative on specific operations but I didn't get a warm feeling with this book. It does add some depth to the existing information but a lot less than I was expecting. There are bigger "fish" out there to "fry".
on January 11, 2016
A truly amazing book. To face sure death is courageous. But that is what these heroes did. Without forethought they jump into the black sky. Amazing falling into gunfire into each other and into the fire.
Also, the wooden stick planes with only canvas walls for bodies. How daring is that? It was a remarkable time for heroes. Every story is note worthy. There could have been thousands more!
on February 20, 2015
Flint Whitlock obviously spent a good deal of time in careful research, and gives the reader a clear picture of the overwhelming chaos and doom that our airborne soldiers faced on D-day. I oftentimes found it confusing because of the rapid change in characters, my lack of experience in identifying people by numbers, and the unfamiliarity of the places mentioned, but these things could hardly be helped. Mr. Whitlock dealt with a cast of thousands in a foreign setting. This book raised my appreciation for the sacrifices made by the men, their families, and the people of Normandy during those desperate days of that horrible war.