Book: D-Day: The Battle for Normandy by Antony Beevor

Fascinating book of military history

Antony Beevor
D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
Viking, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-670-02119-2
526 pages (main text)

Antony Beevor's book D-Day: The Battle for Normandy is a brilliant book. It will be of interest to anyone who has an interest in the conduct of the second world war in the western European theater.

The period that the book covers is short: from June 1, 1944, five days before the landings began, to August 26, when the liberation of Paris was complete. (Of course there are a few flashbacks and anticipations of what's to come.) You can imagine that with more than 500 pages devoted to a period of less than three months there's a lot of detail. When I began the book I expected to like it but I expected to like it on account of my geeky fondness for for a wealth of intricate detail. Rather to my surprise, I don't think that it's necessary to be a geek to enjoy the book. Mr Beevor sustains a dramatic, interesting, lively and (at times) horrifying narrative though the whole book. You will need to refer to the maps from time to time to keep the battle's progress clear.

I haven't nearly enough knowledge of the second world war to have anything to say about the book's accuracy. But the 47 pages of notes and bibliography (and Mr Beevor's reputation in general) suggests that he took some pains to get it right. And there are any number of fascinating things to be found in the book. For example, in preparation for the landings, the initial diversions worked rather better than had been expected. But the advance air and naval attacks on German positions accomplished much less than had been hoped. The book also indicates that the Ultra radio intercepts were often very useful.

For a flavor take, for example:

    Some people became too carried away by the air
    of excitement at the apparently unstoppable advance.
    An American war correspondent, determined to beat
    his rivals, turned up in Chartres so as to witness the
    capture of the city. Unfortunately, he was two days
    early. The German 6th Security Regiment promptly
    took him prisoner. (p. 443)

Or, regarding a German tank on the Champs-Elysées:

    A Panther on the Place de la Concorde at the far end
    of the Champs-Elysées had spotted some of
    Langlade's tank destroyers move into position on
    either side of the Arc de Triomphe. Their commanders
    yelled their fire orders. One gave the range as 1,500
    metres, but his gunner, a Parisian, suddenly
    remembered from his schooldays that the
    Champs-Elysées was 1,800 metres long. He made an
    adjustment and scored a first-round hit. The crowd
    surged forward and sang the 'Marseillaise'.
    (p. 508)

Those quotes are a fair indication of the level of detail Mr Beevor goes into and also a fair indication of how readable he makes it.

Posted: Sun - January 24, 2010 at 07:52 PM   Main   Category: