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.