The D-Day Companion, by edited by Jane Penrose
Botley, Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2004. Pp. 288. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN:1841767794.
Over 60 years have passed since
D-Day—that most momentous operation of World War II—and yet it remains as
vibrant and inspiring today as it was then, in 1944. The unity, focus, and
overall coordination of the assault remain unsurpassed and its lessons a worthy
topic for study and admiration.
In The D-Day Companion, a
compilation of essays edited by Jane Penrose, 12 leading historians look at 13
different facets of the invasion, from Hitler’s buildup of the Atlantic Wall to
the Allies’ incredible efforts at deception and counterintelligence. The essays
range from the tactical to the human and convey lessons in ways that are often
In Chapter 6, for example, by Professor Williamson Murray, the basic
advantage accrued by Allied air superiority is laid out in simple detail.
Readers learn how the destruction of transportation networks in France denied
Germany critical re-supply routes on D-Day; and how the ongoing bombing of
Germany tied down countless German soldiers that could have been better
employed on the front lines.
In Chapter 7, Dr. Andrew Gordon
discusses the massive sea component of D-Day, known as Operation Neptune, and
reveals the important Allied advantage in using mobile seaports, or mulberries.
By not tying their destination to a pre-established port, the Allies were able
to be more selective in their landing point—and thus maintain the element of
surprise, one of the most critical factors in the success of the invasion.
Not everything went the way of
the Allies, however, on D-Day, as Professor Allan R. Millett reveals in Chapter
9. Airborne troops of the 82nd and 101st Divisions landed
in flooded river valleys, often miles from their landing zones, with
unfortunately high losses in gear and life. The drops were dominated by
confusion, and as Millett says, “Only the fighting heart of younger officers
and sturdy troops saved the operation.”
Each of the essays in The D-Day Companion is
detailed and distinct, but read together, they give the reader a sense of the
big picture: the difficulty and enormity of the endeavor, as well as the
tremendous possibilities inherent in combined operations. And, as a bonus,
there’s a Foreword by Maj. Richard Winters (Ret.), of Easy Company, 506th PIR,
101st Airborne. For anyone interested
in studying D-Day, or simply gaining a refresher, this book would make an
excellent primer—one of history’s great lessons taught by 12 capable teachers.
Reviewer: John P. Brackin
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