Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing And Airborne Operations On D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Joseph Balkoski

Joseph Balkoski chronicles the events of the day almost minute by minute. “Utah Beach” reads like a great documentary. It is not a memoir. Readers who love first person hubris may find it lacking action.

Balkoski relies mainly on primary sources such as after-action reports, unit journals, and citations to create his blow by blow narrative. Sprinkled throughout the battle account are the accounts of those in the battle. It is a must addition for any D-day library or World War II library.

A valuable resource in the book are the appendices. They include “Allied causalities on Utah Beach and in Cotentin Peninsula, June 6, 1944”, “Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross Awards for Valor on Utah Beach and in Cotentin Peninsula, June 6, 1944”, “First-Wave Units on Utah Beach”,”Initial Parachute and Glider Assault, Cotentin Peninsula, 12:20 – 4:15 A.M., June 6, 1944″,”Ninth Air Force, IX Troop Carrier Command, June 6, 1944″, “Ninth Air Force, IX Bomber Command, Utah Beach Bombing Mission, 6:09 – 6:27 A.M., June 6, 1944”, “U.S. Navy Force U Bombardment Group”, “Captain Frank Lillyman’s Pathfinder Stick, June 6, 1944”, and “Uniform and Equipment of U.S. Army Paratroopers, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, June 6, 1944”. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Joseph Balkoski

Joseph Balkoski’s book on Omaha Beach is a great historical resource like his book Utah Beach. Omaha Beach tells the story of when largely untested American troops assaulted the German army’s Atlantic wall. This is a great read covering the events of the day almost minute by minute.

It reads like a great documentary. This is not written in the format of a memoir. Balkoski relies mainly on primary sources such as after-action reports, unit journals, and citations to create his blow-by-blow narrative. He includes the invasion’s diplomatic and strategic context. Omaha Beach is the closest the modern reader can get to experiencing the Normandy landings firsthand.

Sprinkled throughout the battle account are the accounts of those in the battle. It is a classic. It is a must for any D-day library. It also included comprehensive lists of all Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross winners at Omaha Beach.

It has the Order of Battle, unit casualty list for the first twenty-four hours, a unit organization of a 30-man assault boat unit weapons, and equipment carried in the assault by a typical soldier, and a series of detailed maps allowing the reader unparalleled insight into the minute-by-minute combat on Omaha Beach.

D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose

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Over 1,400 Interviews

The late Stephen E. Ambrose used over 1,400 interviews for his history of the D-Day invasion.

This “oral history” approach brings the reader into the heart of the battle through eye-witness testimony. The tales of the front line infantryman sweeps the reader up into their personal histories.

Individual and Small Unit Stories

Told from the point of view of the soldier and small unit level, Ambrose often failed to describe larger unit actions or explained how the individual actions fit into the total picture. Canadian and British beachheads receive little coverage. Historical controversies are often given minimal coverage. These are simply good stories of many personal experiences

The book is not a textbook for lessons on strategic decision-making or to answer big-picture questions. Ambrose touches on these larger issues in a general focus, but that is not his focus.

The courage of Small Unit Leaders

This is a book about the American achievement in Normandy. The individual courage and independence of the American small unit leaders is the big story of this book.

Ambrose is right on target as he tells the story of their braveness and toughness. I originally read and reviewed the book in 1999.

D-Day With The Screaming Eagles By George Koskimaki

Written by General Maxwell Taylor’s Radio Operator

George Koskimaki the noted historian of the 101st Airborne Division wrote “D-Day with the Screaming Eagles”.  Mr. Koskimaki was 101st Airborne Division Commanding General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. Written in 1970, Interviews with hundreds of paratroopers contributed to the book. Their stories are attention-grabbing and captivating. They cover the first hours of Normandy. The book covers only the first couple of days of the D-Day invasion allows fascinating detail coverage.

A “You Are There” Book

The book gives you the feel that you are there during the frenzied first hours of the invasion. Detailed accounts of the activities of the pathfinders were enthralling. You encounter stories where paratroopers are sleepily drugged by the motion sickness medication they took preflight. You are under antiaircraft fire with them as they make their final approaches to the drop zones. In some cases, you are on the plane as it is going down in flames. You feel the fear of being captured by the Germans. You experience the myriad of broken legs, sprained ankles and other injuries from jumping at too fast of airspeeds and too low of altitudes while being shot at. You land with them in the trees and nearly drown in the flooded areas during your parachute landing. You feel the downright confusion of the event.

Glider Unit Coverage Included

The coverage of the glider units landing later during D-day is information rarely covered in other books. The sharing of familiar stories like Lieutenant Dick Winters leading troops taking out the guns on Normandy has a  freshness that predates “Band of Brothers” by nearly twenty-five years.

I strongly recommend the book. It is necessary for any military history library, college library or community library.  Books like “Band of Brother’s”, “D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II”, “Citizen Soldiers” and “The Greatest Generation” follow the historical method used by Mr.  Koskimaki.

A Logic Named Joe

A Logic Named Joe

I love reading and writing short stories. A few years ago I came up with the idea of writing a nonfiction article on the five most influential pre-1950 computers in science fiction. In researching that list of potential computers, I read a number of books and short stories.

E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” topped off the list. It left me speechless and amazed. I wrote a review of that story. You can find it HERE. A second short story on the list was Misfit by Robert A. Heinlein. You can find my review of it HERE. The third computer I found was “The Engine.” The Engine is a fictional device described in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1726. You can find it HERE. The fourth is The World of Null-A, sometimes written The World of Ā, is a 1948 science fiction novel by A. E. van Vogt.  You can find it HERE.

“A Logic Named Joe” is a science fiction short story by Murray Leinster that was first published in the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story actually appeared under Leinster’s real name, Will F. Jenkins, since that issue of Astounding also included a story under the Leinster pseudonym called “Adapter”.

The story is particularly noteworthy as a prediction of massively networked personal computers and their drawbacks, written at a time when computing was in its infancy.

The story’s narrator is a “logic” (much like a computer) repairman nicknamed Ducky. In the story, a logic that he names Joe develops some degree of sapience and ambition. Joe proceeds to switch around a few relays in “the tank” (one of a distributed set of central information repositories), and cross-correlate all information ever assembled – yielding highly unexpected results. It then proceeds to freely give all of those results to everyone on demand (and simultaneously disabling all the content-filtering protocols). Logics begin offering up unexpected help to everyone that includes designing custom chemicals that reduce inebriation, giving sex advice to small children, and plotting the perfect murder. Eventually Ducky “saves the civilization” by locating and turning off the only logic capable of doing this.

“A Logic Named Joe” has appeared in the collections Sidewise in Time (Shasta, 1950), The Best of Murray Leinster (Del Rey, 1978), First Contacts (NESFA, 1998), and A Logic Named Joe (Baen, 2005), and was also included in the Machines That Think compilation, with notes by Isaac Asimov, published 1984 Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

A Logic Named Joe was also published in The Great Science Fiction Stories, Volume 8, 1946 Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenburg, DAW Books, November 1982 ISBN 0-87997-780-9.

The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara

Summary:

The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara is the second novel in his Second World War historical fiction trilogy of the European and Mediterranean Theater. He has a fourth book dealing with the Pacific Thater of World War II.

The Steel Wave’s theme is the planning and execution of Operation Overlord. Operation Overlord is the name of the Allied invasion of Northern France.

Character-based Story:

Jeff Shaara uses his familiar character-based story technique of examining the time period from the perspective of the historical figures and adding some composite fictional characters. His method works splendidly.

The Steel Wave is an appealing read. The novel’s pacing is energetic.  I never lost interest.

The author did his research. His insights into the difficulties faced by General Eisenhower, the different leaders, and the soldiers are spot on. He gives the reader an appreciation of the hazards and difficulties that faced the planners and soldiers of Operation Overlord.

We are taken into the discord, hesitations, and ultimate perils with which the Allied generals had to contend. He spends about the first half of the book with these issues.

The Ordinary Soldier’s POV Shown:

A very good job of showing the invasion from the perspective of the ordinary soldiers is made.  He shows how courage along with the ability to improvise when plans broke down lead to success.

This is excellent historical fiction about a well-known subject. The story is well told through the characters. I strongly recommend the book.

The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara

Summary of Book:

The Rising Tide is military historical fiction and the first novel of a continuing series by Jeff Shaara based on certain theaters of World War II. It covers the North African Campaign from its position in late May to Rommel’s defeat. It also covers Operation Husky in Italy.
The main characters are two men from history, Erwin Rommel and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and two fictional young soldiers, Jack Logan and Sergeant Jesse Adams. Jack Logan was a tank gunner who was eventually taken as a prisoner of war by the Axis but then freed by Allied forces. Sergeant Jesse Adams was a paratrooper with the 505 PIR of the 82nd Airborne. He is selected by Colonel Jim Gavin when Gavin is promoted to Brigadier General to go with Gavin to go to England/Scotland to lead in the preparations for Operation Overlord (the D-day invasion).
 
This excellent book tells a well-known story in a new way. Jeff Shaara composes a very interest account of the battles in Sicily, Italy, and France forward from both an infantryman’s view and that of the leaders. 
 
My edition of the book is 576 pages long book. The book started slow. It went through the war planning and diplomatic issues showing the interactions of the military personnel from the many countries who make up the allies.

North Africa and Sicily

The action in North Africa showed the difficulties of the soldiers dealing with the weather, inexperienced leadership, and tanks that fired shells that simply bounced off the German tanks. 
 
As the reader, you get to jump into Sicily with the paratroopers. Jeff Shaara brings the reader into the battle. You experience many tense moments when things go wrong. The resourcefulness of the men in the field and how they learn to work together shines through in this part of the book. 

Italy

Operation Husky with the battle for Italy receives minimal coverage. This section felt rushed through and is adjunct to the rest of the book. 
 
I found the book an interesting read. It brought the events of the North African, and Mediterranean Campaign to life in a good and different way.