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Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944 Paperback – May 18, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Balkoski (Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Division in Normandy) makes officer and enlisted-men's first-person testimony the center of this account, with light contextualization in between, along with 34 b&w photos and 27 maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Balkoski is sometimes referred to as the finest living D-Day historian. For my money, the title fits. Anyone who wants to know anything about Omaha Beach, where the fighting was heaviest and bloodiest, must begin with this foundational book by a true maestro of original history. "History can provide at least a little solace that there was some meaning to it all," he writes movingly. "D-Day was the decisive chapter of a twentieth century Iliad." Indeed it was--and Balkoski is its Homer. -- John McManus, Wall Street Journal
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My only minor complaint about the book is the lack of info from the German side. Yes, this is true about most books on D-Day. That being said, for a book this detailed it would have been nice for more accounts from German soldiers defending Omaha Beach. But I did appreciate the chapter dealing with Rommel's defence of the Atlantic Wall.
This book should be bought by everyone who has an interest in Normandy or World War II. I would love to visit the battlefield with this book in hand.
This account of the invasion at Omaha Beach has all the virtues that excellent history offers: impeccable writing, first-hand reports (both personal and organizational), continuity and clear organization, comprehensive research scope and methods, maps and photos that supplement the narrative, and analysis of events that appears to offer objective assessments of the successes and failures of the day. The author provides definitions of many of the unfamiliar (to civilians) military terminology that he necessarily employs. The book makes clear the terror, chaos, and personal costs of the invasion, and is a tribute to those involved. Like many historical accounts, the emotional tenor is subdued by the huge amount of factual material and the vast scope of even this focused study. Nonetheless, only a little imagination is needed to see the human costs and pain.
A word about the Kindle version: this edition is very well done. Obvious and extreme care have been taken to transfer the work to the Kindle medium. The text is rendered accurately-- probably as a result of using scanned pages (which I infer from a few scanning-distortions that appear). Photos and maps are interspersed at exactly the right points. The only limitation of the Kindle format is that the rendering of maps is relatively low resolution. In order to read the maps, it was necessary to do screen captures and print the results. Even then, map details are somewhat small and fuzzy. I hope that the Kindle platform will be improved in graphical capabilities in the future.
If you are a casual student of WWII history, the Kindle edition is well worth its price, and will suffice. For scholars and serious history buffs, I suspect the printed version would be a better choice, if it is up to state-of-the-art printing quality (I haven't seen it).
The book, in exacting detail, tells of minute by minute actions from the first tragic landings until the final bullet is fired. The book uses select communiques and interviews from both German and Allied sources to fill in details about the operation. These authentic documents are used to move the story along or add depth to the gut-wrenching narrative. They come from all over the spectrum of the battle from the lowest PFC who waded ashore to murderous machine gun fire to Generals Rommel, Bradley, and Gerow, even Hitler and Eisenhower themselves. There are discussions and memos between officers of equipment used and strategic planning. I thought these sections, which are numerous, are the real heart and strength of the book and the author uses great wisdom in knowing when to step back and let the fighting men speak for themselves. Brilliant, but not overplayed.
One note for Kindle users: There are a significant number of very helpful charts, photos and maps which follow the course of the battle with helpful detail. On a standard e-ink display, they can be seen but are not very clear. In fact, I may end up buying the print version of this book just to see the maps and photos better.
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