D-Day: The Battle for Normandy

Written by Antony Beevor
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

Although D-Day has already been written about many times, notably by Max Hastings, Antony Beevor has used new and overlooked letters and diaries from archives around the world, and German ones in particular, to produce a vivid narrative. This is not just a book about D-Day but also includes the breakout from Normandy, the bomb plot against Hitler and leads the reader through to the liberation of Paris.

Narrative is what Beevor excels at. He uses the personal stories of thousands of ordinary servicemen as well as generals to expertly blend the strategic view with the telling anecdote. He tells of the British officers eating breakfast on deck before the landing on June 6, with a steward asking: “Porridge or cereal this morning, sir?” and the German soldiers cutting themselves silk scarves from discarded American parachutes.

Beevor highlights the high death toll of French civilians and the strength of German resistance and thoroughly debunks the idea that success on D-Day was a foregone conclusion. He also controversially points out the high moral toll on Allied servicemen during the battle for Normandy. Everything he highlights he backs up with extensive and convincing research.

This is highly recommended.