Omaha Beach and No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son’s Journey to Normandy
Omaha Beach, Joseph Balkoski, (Stackpole Books, 2004);
No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son’s Journey to Normandy, Walter Ford Carter (Smithsonian Books, 2004, Feb. 2004)
The 60th anniversary of D-Day is an appropriate time to look again at how this critical confrontation with the German military on its home continent was planned and carried out. Joseph Balkoski’s Omaha Beach: June 6 1944 (Stackpole Books, March 2004) is the best place to turn for such a re-examination.
After setting the invasion in its diplomatic and strategic context, Balkoski meticulously reconstructs the action. He draws upon his conversations and correspondence with many 29th Division veterans who were there, and his reading of just about every document available from the 29th Division’s WW II history. His detailed maps allow the reader unparalleled insight into the combat on Omaha Beach, bringing the modern reader a sense of first-hand experience of the Normandy landings. The research updates Balkoski’s Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Division in Normandy (stackpole Books, 1999), itself a classic in the literature of military history.
While Balkoski’s books address the overall big picture, a second new book focuses on a single soldier and his family swept up in that episode: No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son’s Journey to Normandy (Smithsonian Books, April 2004).
I grew up knowing little about my father except that, as a battalion surgeon with the 29th Division, he died in France eleven days after his D day landing on Omaha Beach while trying to rescue another soldier.
For half a century, my mother rarely spoke of my father—her sweetheart since childhood—or of the depth of her grief. On her death in 1995, my life was transformed on discovering a journal and some 150 letters my father had written to my mother, my brother and me in the months, weeks, and days before his death. The letters, excerpted in No Greater Sacrifice…, are filled with candid, innocent, and at times wrenching expressions of love for family, the anguish and agony of war, and unshakeable faith in a country’s noble cause—something quite different from our time.
This book also tells the story of my midlife discovery as I learned of the extraordinary love my parents shared, and finally began to know the father I never had. My journey led me to the man my father reached out to help so many years ago, and together we traveled to Normandy to find the place where my father gave his life to help that man.
The book review above was originally published in a feature titled “Book Notes”, published in the February, 2004 edition of Amitié, the newsletter of Normandy Allies, Inc. This note was written by Walter Ford Carter, member of the Normandy Allies Board and the team that leads its history-study experience each summer. Walter, the son of Captain Elmer Norval Carter, a US Army battalion surgeon in the 29th Division who was killed in action on June 17 1944, is the author of No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son’s Journey to Normandy.