From critically acclaimed world historian, Antony Beevor, this is the first major account in more than twenty years to cover the whole invasion from June 6, 1944, right up to the liberation of Paris on August 25. It is the first book to describe not only the experiences of the American, British, Canadian, and German soldiers, but also the terrible suffering of the French caught up in the fighting.
I have enjoyed his previous books and while this has all the hallmarks of his writing I cannot feel that perhaps the history of D-Day has been retrodden once too often.
Beevor makes sure the German side of events is represented and clarifies the suffering of the French population during the campaign. He does not gloss over the atrocities and friendly fire incidents on both sides. He is clear-eyed on the numerous conflicts within the allied forces. It is a good, balanced piece of history that refuses to make simple judgements in the absence of evidence and tries to provide the reader with the means to draw their own conclusions.
And yet, what more is there that can be said really? Beevor decides against Montgomery in one of the key controversies of the period. He also indicates that he thinks air power was less decisive as a weapon that generally judged while still allowing for its important interdictive effect on supplies and German movement.
It is a great introduction but those familiar with the outline of events will find a few interesting bits and pieces (for me I felt the politics and mindsets of both sides were revealing, neither side grasped the psychology of the other instead assuming that their opponents shared their own view of the world) and a well-written narrative history. Stalingrad or Berlin would probably be better choices if you haven't read them already.
This story of the D-Day landings and the campaign for Normandy takes us right up to the liberation of Paris. It appears to be well-balanced; its criticism of Montgomery is probably pretty mainstream these days.
My usual complaint about this type of book is the maps. For about two thirds of this particular book, I found the maps to be very clear and comprehensive. Only towards the end of the book did I find the text mentioning places that were not marked on the maps. While the detailed maps of the battles were good (apart from that proviso), it would have benefited from a couple of general maps to show where everything fitted together, again especially towards the end when the stage suddenly expanded.
This is brilliant descriptive history, and provides flashes of analysis. For the more serious historian or military thinker, this book will be a good starting point, but is aimed more for the general reader.
Beevor doesn’t pull any punches either; atrocities were committed by both sides. It is also clear that D Day was part war of attrition, part war of annihilation. In this sense, it was a consistent with most of the rest of the Second World War, rather than an aberration.
One of the reasons I added it to my to-read list was that I read a great book earlier this year about Operation Fortitude, the great deception about the site and timing of the invasion. This book tells us how successful that deception was, even after D-Day itself. Just to extend the links I was led to the aforesaid book by the Connie Willis epic double volumes of "Blackout" and "All Clear"