D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People’s History

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in Book Notes

D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People’s History

D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People’s History
By Dan van der Vat

Bloomsbury, 2003; 176 pages.
ISBN # 1-58234-314-4

D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People's History by Dan van der Vat

Dan van der Vat’s D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People’s History examines Operation OVERLORD, from the planning stages until the completion of the Normandy campaign in August, 1944. The book provides a general overview of the operation and also offers a look at some of the personal stories of those caught up in the largest amphibious operation in world history. This work is a timely addition for the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy and van der Vat refreshes readers with the significance of the operation.

D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People’s History is not intended to be a complete military overview of the Normandy Campaign, but it provides those with minimal knowledge of OVERLORD an interesting and absorbing survey of this pivotal operation. One of the strong points of the book is its look at the stories of the participants. Sidebars embedded within each chapter introduce personalities who relate to that chapter’s topic. For instance, British paratrooper Eric Sykes’ account of his landing adds a colorful dimension to an often-told tale about airborne troopers’ identification problems. Sykes repeatedly used his cricket, a small toy used to make a clicking sound, once on the ground to determine if anyone near was a friend or foe. His sergeant, in a very annoyed manner, ordered Sykes to cease operations with the cricket. The sidebar allows readers to explore a small, but important aspect of things the paratroops had to contend with. The author effectively intersperses these sidebars throughout the book and they help readers understand problems/issues participants faced.

Another plus of this book is the inclusion of many photographs, drawings and diagrams that give readers a visual image of the topics van der Vat addresses. Many of the photographs are paired as “then-and-now” shots. Whether it be a scene of the main street in Ste. Mere Eglise, a glimpse of a section of one of the beaches or close-ups of German bunkers, these clear and detailed images allow persons to journey in their mind to key locations in Normandy. In fact, some may see this work as a stunning photo book, but it is much more! The text keeps attention on the topics at hand; the photos complement the text throughout the book. The author uses these graphics to help visual persons capture the essence of the discussions, and they are very effective.

One other type of graphic that is very effectively used in the book is a collection of maps and diagrams. Persons with either extensive or minimal knowledge of the geography of Normandy will appreciate these graphics. Every beach is included, as well as landing diagrams and overall invasion routes. After reading about important locations in the text, readers will be able to use these graphics to find correlating positions. For those who want to know “where things are,” these are invaluable!

The forward of this book is written by John Eisenhower, son of Operation OVERLORD’s supreme commander, Dwight Eisenhower. It puts the author’s mission into perspective-that is, giving recognition to the everyday soldiers and their efforts that bring success. Van der Vat covers the bases in his look at the Allies, the Germans and the French civilians, all with a balanced eye. Dozens of witness/participant stories are utilized as the author addresses the key elements of the Normandy story. In a time when so many of the people who survived the most pivotal day of the 20th century are disappearing, it is extremely important to honor their efforts and examine their actions. This work accomplishes that mission. For those who want a general look at the Normandy campaign-the what, the why and the how, plus insight into how the operation affected participants, D-Day: The Greatest Invasion — A People’s History is highly recommended.

Book review by Allen Williams

For more information, click on the link to visit the book’s official website at http://www.ddaythebook.com

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