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.
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.
Phil Nordyke’s “Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) in World War II” is excellent. It is a must-read for any student of World War II.
Mr. Nordyke does a great job as he takes us with the 505th PIR from its beginnings and training in the United States, through its deployment to North Africa, and through its campaigns in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Holland, the Bulge, and Germany before returning home.
Record Four Combat Jumps
The book takes its title from the 505 PIR’s record four combat jumps in Sicily, Salerno/Naples, Ste Mere Eglise/Normandy, and Nijmegen/Holland. Stars representing participation in combat jumps had been worn unofficially on parachute wings during and after World War II. FYI – this practice did not gain official sanction until after the 1983 invasion of Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury.
Sicily and The Secrets of Ultra
I found it a book that that demanded I read every word on every page. Be prepared for some very graphic descriptions of the training and combat. You’ll feel the heat of North Africa. I was disappointed as I read the Hermann Goring Fallschrim Panzer and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were on Sicily, that General Bradley knew it, and because of secrecy of Ultra they did not pass this information on to the attacking forces! “This was a cruel deception of our own forces, but necessary in order to protect the secrets of Ultra.”
Excellent Job of Using Primary Sources
Mr. Nordyke does an excellent job of using primary sources. At first, I was a little confused when I encountered an incident that was described from multiple people’s points of view, but quickly saw the value in seeing the way more than one person viewed/remembered an incident. It helped paint a more complete picture. Pages 300 – 301 and the actions of Private Camille E. Gagne’s response to the killing of First Lieutenant John Dodd is one example. The coverage giving to the 505th’s role in Nijmegen Holland is very detailed and had me feeling I was there.
The Battle of the Bulge
The 505th PIR’s involvement didn’t stop after its fourth jump into Nijmegen/Holland. They played a key role being deployed by truck into Belgium’s Ardennes Forest as the 82 Airborne Divisions helped stop Hitler’s in The Battle of the Bulge in freezing December 1944 and January 1945.
The book has exception maps and an amazing index. This book should be required reading for active duty members wearing jump wings. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library and would be an excellent addition to all university and community libraries.
Over 1400 Interviews
The late Stephen E. Ambrose used over 1400 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
The story is told from the individual and small unit level often failing to describe larger unit actions or explaining how the individual actions fit into the total picture. Let is shared of what happened on the Canadian and British beachheads. Historical controversies are often given minimal coverage. These are simply good stories of many individual 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.
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.