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For anyone who has relied on Hollywood to tell this story, take a breath and read this book. It is an accurate, emotional, educational and surprising compilation of bare naked fact that shows just how fragile living in peace can be.
Ambrose continually lauds America's contribution to this massive event and minimizes and even insults other countries' contributions. That makes it just another chest-thumping bit of U.S. flag-waving that is only marginally believable - unless you're American, then you'll believe every word. I couldn't finish it.
As readers of my Amazon reviews are aware, I have read and reviewed many books about World War II (for a list seem my Listmania: World War II). This is one of the best. Starting with an analysis of the defenders and the attackers, Author Stephen Ambrose lays out the scene, introduces the characters and tells the story. Ambrose's particular strength is to blend the "big story" of the strategists and generals with the "GI's story" of the individual soldier. This book is obviously drawn from numerous interviews of veterans, their families and civilians who remember the events of D-Day. Those familiar with other of Ambrose's works will recognize stories from those books woven throughout this one.
The reader of "D-Day June 6, 1944" will gain a deeper understanding of how D-Day came about, what it accomplished, what failed and why. There were many things that I had heard of, but this book fits the facts into the overall story. Many of the "German" Army troops defending Fortress Europe were, in fact, Russians, Poles and other "Ost" troops from conquered nations, most of whom were willing to fight only so long as German officers and NCOs were ready to enforce discipline at the point of a gun. Ambrose explains that this amphibious invasion was unprecedented in scope. Many of the technologies on which it relied were being seriously tested for the first time. He proposes that the most decisive Allied bombardment was the Transportation Plan carried out by the Air Forces, which effectively isolated the battle area from German reinforcements by destroying bridges, rail track and rolling stock. He finds this to have been much more effective than the air and naval bombardment which left the bunkers which survive to this day. Many have heard of the involvement of the paratroopers, gliders and those in the amphibious assaults. This book clarifies the role each played in the invasion.
Consistent with the theory that, before the battle is joined, planning is everything and, once it starts, planning means nothing, the early parts of this book concentrate on the plans and preparations for D-Day. Here we read of procurement, training, choice of targets and many other things that go into the planning of an enterprise such as this. Once the troops hit the ground, he focuses on the officers and enlisted men who brought about the success of that and following days though their own initiative and decisions. In this latter part of the book we read of men who rushed bunkers, the dazed, fighting and dead "Germans" they found there, the officers, including the oldest D-Day participant, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who started the war where they were landed, not where they were scheduled to land, and even the civilians who helped one side or the other. In completing the story, Ambrose does not forget the home folks in American and Britain.
Ambrose makes a strong case for the superiority of Allied Men of Arms. I think that many of us have the idea that Germans were the greatest soldiers in the war but that they were overwhelmed by American and Soviet numbers. Ambrose argues against this theory. He makes the case that the average American, Canadian and British enlisted man was a superior fighter to the "Ost" soldiers whom he faced. He points out that the democracies produced armies in which the officers and men could make decisions and adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities. German officers, terrorized by Nazi tyranny, were content to sit until superiors told them what to do. Even when the superiors did make decisions, they often miscalculated. The highly respected Rommel made what was, in Ambrose's mind, a fatal mistake. By putting so much of German effort into the Atlantic War, the Wehrmacht was unable to effectively respond once the Wall was breached, as it was in a day or less. Finally Hitler's own mistakes, primarily based on the belief that the real invasion would come at Pas de Calais, set Germany on the road to defeat and made D-Day, truly, the Climatic Battle of World War II.
Besides his extensive research, Ambrose graces his books with a writing style on a par with a top notch novelist. Through this book the reader will never become bogged down in details nor find his mind drifting. It holds the reader with riveting storytelling and an endless stream of facts which educate, surprise and, on occasion, amuse. For anyone with an interest in World War II, this book is a must.
As is common knowledge to everybody except those who were actually there, it was the glorious United States of America - and ONLY the United States of America - that won the Second World War II. That's not gung-ho fairy tales, kids. That's rootin'-tootin' FACT. If you think I'm full of it, then I recommend you take a look at this bloated offering by eminent (and also dead) Yankee historian Stephen Ambrose. Approximately 90% of the book is dedicated to repetitive and unenlightening (though, it must be said, utterly enthralling and devastating) GI recollections of the landings on Utah and Omaha, with very little attention paid to the other Allied operations on Gold, Juno or Sword, or in Normandy as a whole. Countless hundreds of thousands of British, Canadians, and yes, even Australian and New Zealand (though you would have been hard pressed to find more than a dozen of those fellows floating about) all did their part and, in many cases, paid the ultimate sacrafice on 6 June, 1944, but these courageous men and women hardly merit a mention in the eyes of Mr. Ambrose. This will not come as any surprise to those familiar with his other work, notably 'Band Of Brothers' and 'Citizen Soldiers'. After all, Stephen Ambrose was an American historian, and therefore, the bulk of his primary material would have been gleaned from American sources which, as we have seen recently, are very rarely critical of themselves. But some of his offhand comments are downright insulting, as when he postulates that the British essentially milled about drinking tea at their beaches. None of this is meant to be dismissive of the massive (though slightly delayed) contribution that America and American soldiers, sailors and airforcemen made to the invasion of Europe and eventual collapse of the Nazi Party. There is no question that they were a brave, hard-fighting lot, who paid with their lives so that the world could be free. Australia will forever be thankful to America for its help out here in the Pacific, in such engagements as Battle of the Coral Sea, in stemming and then turning back the Japanese marauders. Make no mistake, the USA and its men and women did their fair share in keeping the world safe. But they weren't the only ones, and it's a shame Ambrose seems to think that way. In the end, though, for Yank readers and assorted governing bodies, who seem a pretty self-congratulatory lot, this will no doubt be held high as first-class history for a long long time to come. But for everybody else, Stephen Ambrose's 'D-Day', as a history, is uneven at best and completely infuriating at worst. However, as a rollicking blockbuster airport novel that can be chewed down and then immediately tossed aside, you could certainly do a lot worse.
The chapter on naval operations sums up this book. The actions of each American warship is described almost shell by shell. This is followed by the statement - there was also a heavy bombardment of the British beaches. The vast majority of warships on D Day were RN.
5.0 out of 5 starsFactual account and Testaments of the Fighting Men themselves
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 21, 2019
Really good read. It was a starter point for me to source other books that documented the action of British Forces (in particular 9th Battalion Parachute Regiment) on D-Day and The Battle for The Roer Triangle during the Ardennes Offensive.
3.0 out of 5 starsExcellently written, but very centred on the USA
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 4, 2013
Cannot fault the writing and presentation. Only criticism is that it focuses on the American role in the landings. The other nations are quite well covered, but understandably there are far more references to the part played by the USA.
4.0 out of 5 starsA book that shows is was more than just the longest day.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 4, 2002
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Stephen Ambrose has put together a book that leaves the reader spellbound by the sheer enormity of what took place on 6th June 1944. Even though it is now approaching 60 years ago, the stories of supreme heroism and sacrifice, told by the men who were there leaves the reader in various emotional states: from shock to pride and from respect to incredulity. He shows that there was a helluva lot more to D-Day than just the day itself. The planning, and more importantly the deception by the Allies which completely fooled the Germans as to where the invasion would take place. The huge logistical effort, such as over 5,000 ships in the invasion fleet. The inventions that lead to success on the British beaches. The attitudes of both the allies and Germans. Analysis of the reasons behind the failures on both sides. But most importantly of all telling the story through the words of many of the individuals who saw things on that day, that they will never forget and through us reading this book should never be permitted to be forgotten. Nearly 600 pages of truly thought provoking accounts from the most famous day in history. Could not put it down.
Soaring like a mighty eagle on the wings of democracy, liberty and freedom for all, the brave American soldier, despite being hampered by the accompaniment of the pussy Limey and Canadian cowards defeated Adolf Hitler and conquered Germania through great courage and superhuman powers which the British and Canadians could only dream about.
They you go, Ambrose's D-Day in one paragraph so you don't have to bother buying this book. It is not a comprehensive D-Day history, it covers one third of the operation (the US sector) as if that is all that happened on D-Day and leaves two thirds of the operation almost out in the cold completely.
4.0 out of 5 starsEin guter Überblick, nicht der ganz große Wurf
Reviewed in Germany on March 19, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Ich war bei der Lektüre des Buches teilweise begeistert und teilweise etwas enttäuscht, fiel der Autor doch auf einige "Mythen und Legenden" herein. Deren Ausräumung (z.B. das "Massaker" von Ste. Meré Eglise, bekannt vom "Längsten Tag") hätte deutlicher Erfolgen können. Trotzdem ist es ein sehr lesenswertes Buch, das nicht nur von den ersten beiden Wellen berichtet, sondern auch das Chaos bis zum Ende des Tages, das Fühlen und die Gedanken der einfachen Soldaten. Deutsche Leser sollen sich nicht von der englischen Sprache fürchten, das Buch ist auch für weniger geübte leicht lesbar.