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The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach Hardcover – April 29, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 254 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Magnificent! I could not put this book down. John McManus has expanded our knowledge of D-Day history by a considerable factor. It is a great read and will appeal to both devoted students of World War II as well as those with a more casual interest. Don't miss it!” —Joseph Balkoski, author of Omaha Beach and Utah Beach
The Dead and Those About to Die is a gripping, first-hand account of the desperate battle for Omaha Beach on D-Day by the legendary 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. On the 70th anniversary of that momentous event, John C. McManus’s tale of courage under fire is a vivid reminder that freedom isn’t free and that when the chips are down stalwart American soldiers will always answer the call of duty.” —Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius For War and Warlord: A Life of Churchill at War, 1874-1945
“At first I thought I would draw the reader's attention to the simply magnificent narrative of one of the most famous and gripping events of modern military history, the nineteen hours epic of the First Division's landing, purgatory, and then near-exhausted triumph at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Then I thought I would draw the attention of my professional fellow-historians to the outstanding set of notes and oral histories, so neatly tucked away at the end, superb scholarship but worn so lightly. But finally I had to choose its ending, the chapter called ‘Meaning,’ on the thoughts, emotions, and later lives of this remarkable group of warriors. I closed this book with the deepest respect. ” —Paul Kennedy, New York Times bestselling author of Engineers of Victory and The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
“With painstaking research, military historian John C. McManus delves behind the broader canvas of Omaha Beach to capture the courage, grit, and sacrifice of the 1st Division’s D-Day landing. This is as real as it gets without having been there.” —Walter R. Borneman, national bestselling author of The Admirals, Winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award
“A skilled and highly talented author, John McManus has delivered another first-rate piece of scholarship. The Dead and Those About to Die is a tour de force of historical writing.” —Robert von Maier, Editor-in-Chief of Global War Studies
“In vivid and chilling detail, this brilliantly organized battle narrative immortalizes the 1st Division’s assault on Omaha Beach. Having unearthed eyewitness accounts of courage, carnage, fear and leadership never told before, McManus’s masterful work deserves a place alongside those of Cornelius Ryan, Stephen Ambrose and Rick Atkinson.” —David L. Roll, author of The Hopkins Touch

“John McManus’s brilliant chronicle of the Big Red One’s experience on Bloody Omaha captures the grit, pathos, and valor of the battle like no other book that I have read. This is gripping history—beautifully and masterfully told by one of America’s premier historians. ” —Patrick K. O’Donnell, national bestselling author of Dog Company

“McManus elicits moving details of courage and hardship… An exciting account from the personable point of view of the soldier.” —Kirkus

“[A] powerful book.” —St. Louis Post–Dispatch

“John C. McManus has created a portrait with words as Spielberg did with images in Saving Private Ryan.  Of course, creating such a vivid picture with words is, for my money, far more difficult.” —Paul Reid, co–author of The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965

About the Author

John C. McManus, author of September Hope: The American Side of A Bridge Too Far, earned a PhD in American and Military History from the University of Tennessee, where he served as Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society and was a Normandy Scholar. As a leading authority on the Normandy invasion, he holds a Cantigny First Division Museum Fellowship. He is currently a full professor of U.S. Military History at Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he teaches a variety of courses, including one on World War II and another on the Modern American Combat Experience. He also serves as the official historian for the United States Army’s Seventh Infantry Regiment.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; First Edition edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451415299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451415295
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (254 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you've ever watched the beginning of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and wondered how it really was storming Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion, then you need to read this book.

The U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, "The Big Red One", had served with distinction in Africa and Sicily and thus was tabbed to spearhead the liberation of Europe on the most crucial invasion beach. While there was a prodigious amount of planning which went into the invasion, the actual execution left much to be desired. The pre-invasion bombardments by aerial and naval forces were almost completely useless and the German obstacles and defenses remained virtually untouched. Into this well-prepared meatgrinder came the 1st. Troops overloaded with too much equipment and placed in the wrong spots on the beach were thrust into a hell on earth which many did not survive.

Piecing together interviews, after-action reports and personal correspondence, John McManus has done a masterful job of chronicling the action as the 1st struggled to secure the Omaha beachhead. It's a tremendously compelling read, full of tragedy, triumph, bravery and ingenuity. I don't think I've ever said this before, but when I finished this book I actually felt like reading it again--IT'S THAT GOOD.

Buy this book. Read this book. You will not be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
In this 70th anniversary year of D-Day, there have been dozens on books published on that epic undertaking. Among the D-Day books put out this year, John McManus' THE DEAD AND THOSE ABOUT TO DIE, D-DAY: THE BIG RED ONE AT OMAHA BEACH certainly ranks as one of the very best. In compelling detail, McManus traces the 1st Division's harrowing experience on Omaha Beach on 6 June.

Having fought in North Africa and Sicily, many in the division felt they would be shipped home. Instead they found themselves spearheading the Normandy invasion. Since the Division was the Army's most experienced unit, GEN Bradley decided that, for the landings to succeed, his spearhead needed such combat expertise. Likewise, the Division's commander, MGEN Clarence Huebner, had trained them to top efficiency. The Big Red One would need to call upon all of that as the Omaha Beach landings turned into a disaster. As the first units landed - and many were landed in the wrong locations - they found the Allied bombing and naval bombardment had been totally ineffective. German defenses were intact and took a fearful toll. Loaded down with too much equipment, the men struggled just to survive. The issue was in doubt until individual soldiers with names like Strecyzk, Pinder, Monteith and Stronjy and commanders like COL George Taylor and BGEN Willard Wyman bested the German defenses, rallied the men and began moving off the beach. Victory came at a high price, D-Day being the Big Red One's bloodiest day of the war. The Division had some 1,346 casualties. Some 971 of those casualties came from the 16th Infantry Regiment which landed on Easy Red Beach and saw the worst fighting.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read most of the books out there on Normandy, and seen some of the TV Productions, plus several movies. They all tell the story of the 29th Infantry Division and the Rangers of Pointe du Hoc. If anything is mentioned about the 1st Division, it's the quote that gives this book its title. I think most writers and historians just assumed that the combat-experienced "Big Red One" would do the job, so they pay attention to the inexperienced 29th and Rangers. Well it wasn't that simple. The 1st Infantry Division had a terrible battle, but they weren't as confused as the 29th. Even so, they won five Congressional Medals of Honor and so many Distinguished Service Crosses that the total isn't given.

As a book - this is an excellent read. I read it in a single sitting - skipped dinner to finish it. Further, unlike most military history book - this one has useful maps stuck at useful places throughout. They are tactical level maps, but include names and numbers to point out where the person quoted actually was. Yes, this includes many quotes from the German survivors. It provides good background - beginning with the relief of General Allen, and what General Huebner did to get the division ready for the invasion. It also discusses the German defenses in detail, and explores some of the myths about those defenses. For example, in reality there were only two 88's covering Omaha Beach - one of which was knocked out early in the battle. But to the dazed Americans, every German cannon was an "88."

As military history - this is a very useful book - since it fills in a large gap in the knowledge about Omaha Beach. I don't often recommend books without reservation - but I can this time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow! Could not put it down. Amazing 1st count interviews of what it was like to be at bloody Omaha. John paints the words into the minds eye so the reader can envision the sights and sounds of what it must have been like. Many individual heroics are depicted - individuals turn into groups/squads/platoons and so on. The training kicks in and the soldiers begin to dthings for the good of the cause. To use a well touted phrase - uncommon valor was common on Omaha.

The author uses the KISS principle in breaking down the invasion of the Big Red One. He uses easily understood maps to let the reader follow the process of an absolutely chaotic day. A great book to add to one's library.

The author touches on all facets of the invasion plan - training, D-day, reinforcements, support and weaves them into a cohesive read that lets the reader know all the things that went into the invasion plus all the things that went wrong - but more importantly how a few men brought order to a precarious situation.
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