Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France, by James Holland, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2019, $35
This account of the Normandy campaign by seasoned military historian James Holland provides an insightful and anecdote-filled chronicle of a popular chapter of World War II history.
In describing the elaborate preparations leading up to the Allied invasion of Normandy, Holland reminds readers the D-Day operation was vastly more complex than all previous amphibious operations. However, he refuses to approach June 6 as a cliff-hanger, pointing out the Allies had a tolerably easy time at three of the five beaches. The Canadians at Juno Beach ran into difficulties. While historians emphasize the bloody stalemate on Omaha Beach, it took the Americans less than a day to overcome the beachhead’s defenses. Despite being outnumbered and hampered by Adolf Hitler’s interference in command structures, the Wehrmacht put up a strong resistance and made use of Normandy’s dense hedgerows for seven weeks of stubborn defense before collapsing to the massive influx of Allied men and material.
Holland isn’t shy about expressing his opinions, evaluating Allied generals more favorably and German generals less so. He argues the Germans’ contemptuous dismissals of American and British troops as unimaginative and cumbersome in battle was not wrong but irrelevant, as firepower and superior resources proved key to success in the Normandy campaign and the broader war.