Three Monkeys Online

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Looking back at D-Day. A review of The D-Day Companion.

The reader familiar with military history, on hearing of the publication of the 'D-Day Companion' to coincide with the 60th. Anniversary of that event, might conclude that it would be a day-by-day tactical account full of anecdotal reports. And D-Day must certainly be the most written-about event in military history and one might wonder what more there was to be said. Therefore, as one familiar with military history myself, I am happy to acknowledge that not only did I enjoy this book, but learned much that is new from it. Published by Osprey Publishing, this remarkable and well-illustrated and mapped book consists of thirteen chapters written by twelve of the most distinguished military historians on both sides of the Atlantic. It is also distinguished by its unique perspective on this day that changed modern history. For let it be acknowledged that if the Normandy invasion had failed, and the Allies had been forced to conduct a Dunkirk-like retreat back to Britain, it is probable that the Russians would have been the side to break the back of the Nazi regime and the Iron Curtain might have reached the shores of the Atlantic.

This is the kind of insight that this book provides in a series of examinations on each aspect of the D-Day operation. The OVERLORD plan itself was a combination of deception, tactical surprise and an overwhelming concentration of superior force in an area that the Germans least expected to be attacked. Eisenhower's mission was to land an Allied army in France and eliminate the German Army defending Normandy. In less than three months from the D-Day landings, the German Army had been totally defeated with a loss of 200,000 killed or wounded and a further 200,000 prisoners, including the loss of all its armour and artillery.

The book's specialist historians consider the Normandy invasion from a series of perspectives, strategic and tactical, Allied and German. A chapter deals with the role of intelligence and deception, the value of &ldquodouble agents”, and the contribution of the French Resistance (Eisenhower – not given to exaggeration – said they were worth fifteen divisions). There is much new material here and a proper appreciation of the role this activity played in the success of D-Day.

In further chapters consideration is given to Anglo/American staff structures and an appreciation of the tensions inherent in such structures across the three services of two major powers. Personality issues, and the contrast between Eisenhower's diplomacy and Montgomery's egotism are also dealt with. The Allies were not the only ones to be affected by personality issues, and the significance of the differences between the German commanders in France, Rommel, Von Rundstedt and Geyr von Schweppenburg, to German preparations to resist an invasion is dealt with, as are Hitler's interference in planning, the success of Anglo/American deception and false intelligence.

The role of air power and the significance of the strategic bombing of Germany in advance of D-Day and the effect this had on the German aircraft industry and the attrition of Luftwaffe pilots is covered. This is a new view on the significance that airpower employed in theatres far removed from Normandy made to D-Day's success.

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