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.

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

dday

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.

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.

Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II

505th PIR

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.

“Behind the Lines: A Critical Survey of Special Operations in World War II” by Michael F. Dilley

If you enjoy reading about airborne troops, special operations, andelite troops in World War IIthen author Michael F. Dilley’s book “Behind the Lines: A Critical Survey of Special Operations in World War II” is for you.Divided into two parts, part one of the book is titled, “Behind Enemy Lines”. It tells twenty stories of special operations behind enemy lines. The excellent story telling of the author has shines in all twenty of the stories. Each story stands on its own.

Starting with the Tragino Aqueduct Mission in southern Italy where we see the foolishness of the first mission that requires a fifty mile escape and evasion trek just to get to the pickup point without radio communication to stories on the raid to kill General Rommel and eighteen others that cover every theater of operation we see a common structure. The author tells at times a very spellbinding story followed by the strength of the book – a mission critique. The mission critique show Michael F. Dilley’s strong military intelligence analysis skills.

The second part of the book, “Behind Friendly Lines” lifted back the curtain on an often missed use of special operations soldiers. We look at three amazing missions where they are dropped just behind or into friendly lines.

The pictures included in the book are not a reprinting of stock photos you have seen many times, but rather photographs of uniforms, insignias, and special troops in their special equipment.

The book’s appendixes give us the criteria for evaluation of the units and the operations deserving special recognition. The bibliography included is by itself a resource worth the purchase price of the book.

Michael F. Dailey gets my highest praise for this much needed work on a subject dear to every world war history buff.

D-Day With The Screaming Eagles By George Koskimaki

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. The book was 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 fact that the book covers only the first couple of days of the D-Day invasion allows fascinating details to be covered.

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 within the aircraft 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 air speeds 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.

The coverage of the glider units landing later during the D-day is information rarely covered in other books. Familiar stories like Lieutenant Dick Winters leading troops taking out the guns on Normandy are shared with 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.