The Steel Wave
This second novel in Shaara’s World War II trilogy starts in January 1944 (after a fast-paced introduction covering the war to that date), with a recon team collecting rock samples from the beaches of Normandy. Constructing the defenses of those beaches is the best of the German generals, Erwin Rommel. Rommel is once again frustrated with the lack of support and the apparent indifference of the German High Command to his repeated warnings about the vulnerability to invasion he perceives. Meanwhile, Eisenhower and the Allied command are busy planning every detail of the forthcoming invasion and, as the planned date approaches, trying to deal with the worst early summer weather in memory. The invasion succeeds on June 6th, although not without some horrifying losses. In addition to an inside view of the planning and machinations in both sets of headquarters, the story follows an airborne infantry unit that has parachuted into the infamous hedgerow country behind the beaches in order to secure bridges and crossroads. It wraps up in July 1944 as the Allied forces break out of the hedgerows and head for Berlin.
Once again, Shaara is at his best when writing from the point of view of the fly on the wall. The reader never feels that anything is contrived or less than authentic. It’s history from a front row seat. Very compelling.