Share via Email In the early hours of 6 June , the allies launched the greatest amphibious assault of the second world war. Assisted by bombers and airborne troops, Operation Neptune, the first phase of Overlord, was the precursor to a campaign intended to drive the Germans out of France and the Low Countries. The attack took place during a brief break in unseasonally bad weather. Antony Beevor begins his account of this now almost mythic narrative five days earlier, by describing the head of the allied weather forecasting team, James Stagg, receiving a broadside from General Harold Bull, assistant chief of staff to the supreme commander, Dwight D Eisenhower. General Eisenhower is a very worried man. But although many other characters are equally well portrayed, from Churchill himself to US generals Bradley - with his specs and "hayseed expression" - and Patton, famous for his profanity, to Montgomery with his terseness and conceit, and De Gaulle with his arrogance and his long arms, it is the personal narratives of ordinary servicemen that drive this book.
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The Normandy Landings that took place on D-Day involved by far the largest invasion fleet ever known. The scale of the undertaking was simply awesome. What followed them was some of the most cunning and ferocious fighting of the war, at times as savage as anything seen on the Eastern Front. As casualties mounted, so too did the tensions between the principal commanders on both sides.
Meanwhile, French civilians caught in the middle of these battlefields or under Allied bombing endured terrible suffering. Even the joys of Liberation had their darker side. As near as possible to experiencing what it was like to be there. His books have sold nearly four million copies.
Beevor never allows the deadly truth of war to be obscured by the foggy language of academia: this is history that is felt, war as it was experienced by real people, by our fathers and grandfathers.
It is clear from the outset that he succeeds, to a quite remarkable degree, in catching that sense of scale that marked out one of the decisive campaigns of history. Beevor deftly handles the brushes on the great Overlord canvas.. His account of the battle for Normandy combines clarity and density.
The narrative has a characteristic texture. It is not so much the face of battle as the very pores. The texture comes from the testimony he noses out, truffle-like, from the archives. When it comes to truffle-hunting, Beevor is well-nigh unbeatable. The text abounds in memorable observations, with democratic disregard for rank and station. This first-hand testimony offers something more than morsels. It bears witness to the nature of war.
Beevor is finely attuned to the military cultures and sub-cultures he describes. He is particularly good on combat effectiveness, battle weariness, collaboration sentimentale, psychological breakdown, coping mechanisms, concepts of honour and military civility: the grandeur and servitude of arms. D-Day can sit proudly alongside his other masterworks on Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin.
It provides a view of the battlefield from all sides: the soldiers killing each other in the hedgerows, the commanders directing them, the terrified French civilians watching their progress, and the political leaders in London, Berlin and Washington wrestling with gigantic decisions. The result is an engrossing narrative that illuminates and appals in equal measure.
This is the same approach Beevor took in his justly acclaimed Stalingrad, Berlin: The Downfall and other books. Once again gripping narrative is the result.
The pleasure of this book lies in the vividness of an episodic narrative, backed up by judicious use of quotations. It is almost impossible for a reader not to get caught up in the excitement.
He has overleaped the barrier of hindsight, getting us as near as possible to experiencing what it was like to be there, that fateful summer 65 years ago. D-Day is a triumph of research and dense with human detail: like one of those fractal patterns, it is as intricate at any level of magnification.
This is a terrific, inspiring, heart-breaking book. Beevor describes this campaign brilliantly. He has assembled a mass of new sources, fresh voices, untold anecdotes to create a saga as vivid as his earlier narratives of Stalingrad and the Battle for Berlin. No one knows better than Beevor how to translate the dry stuff of military history into human drama of the most vivid and moving kind.
His book offers a thousand vignettes of drama, terror, cruelty, compassion, courage and cowardice.. This is as powerful and authoritative account of the battle for Normandy as we are likely to get in a generation.
What emerges from this thoroughly researched and gripping narrative is the appalling human suffering of the struggle.
He pictures the cruel disruption of the rural scene. D-Day is vintage Beevor. There is not a finer account. The result is everything one might expect from one of the finest military historians of our time: a dramatic and insightful re-evaluation of an apparently familiar story, combining an intimate understanding of the grim realities of war with the narrative technique of a novelist.
He works this technique better than anyone else. Like Joseph Conrad, Beevor wanted to make the reader hear and feel and see. D-Day is Beevor again doing what he does best, making military history readable, not by writing military history but by writing well. Beevor has again succeeded splendidly. D-Day adds much to our understanding of Normandy and the aftermath, including the Liberation of Paris.
He conveys Operation Overlord in all its complexities, from debates at the top to battles in the foxholes on the front line. He is a compelling historian at the summit of his craft. His prose is fluid and spare, with a lightness of touch that belies his prodigious research. It was a great victory the Allies won in Normandy, and to this day all of us should be grateful to those who won it.
But the cost, as Antony Beevor is at pains to emphasize in this fine book, was awful beyond comprehemsion. The author contrives to bring the reader into the presence of not only those who were at the very top of the planning and responsibility for Overlord but also into the lives, often very short, of the soldiers and sailors who actually hit the beaches, the airmen who supported them and even the German defenders. They are stories that never seem to pale in the retelling, especially when delivered in the style and with the thoroughness of Antony Beevor.
Beevor gets better with each book. It details the shattering reality of D-Day and the months of savage fighting that followed instead of offering empty mythologizing. This is that reare hardcover worth your valuable attention and money. It stands as the best one-volume history of this decisive military engagement.
Fair stood the wind for France
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.