Book Review: Sand and Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France


by Peter Caddick-Adams

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pp. xlii, 1030. Illus., maps, gloss., order of battle, notes, index. $34.95. ISBN: 0190601892

D-Day, From Getting to the Beach to Getting Off It

A former British officer with combat service in Afghanistan and Iraq, Caddick-Adams is author of well-received histories of Monte Cassino and the Bulge, as well as a dual biography of Erwin Rommel and Bernard Law Montgomery. With Sand & Steel, he has produced an account of the D-Day operation that is impressive, insightful, and very readable

Caddick-Adams has researched these events deeply. In addition to a massive amount of documentary evidence, he seems to have had conversations with or read the letters and diaries of thousands of people who took part in the events. His approach is to use the experiences of many men and women, some of whom he comes back to several times, as a lever to help explain everything from life aboard a transport to the operation of a landing craft to combat training to disputes among the senior officers, logistics, soldier’s kit, medical training, and more.

Caddick-Adams actually takes a while to get to the actual landings, roughly half of the book, in fact. As he puts it, in order to understand the events of D-Day, one must understand the “vitally important hinterland” of the operation (p. xxxviii). So he gives us deep looks into long term planning, political and strategic issues, the research needed to develop those plans, the concentration of forces, the many technical and logistical issues that had to be resolved, the preliminary operations related to the invasion, and much more, even security and deception measures – a subject so complex he treats it in a postscript. And he manages to set this within the framework of a global war of unprecedented dimensions.

The second half of the book covers about three days around June 6th. Caddick-Adams follows the events in roughly chronological order, though naturally he has to juggle between the several beaches, as well as the events at sea and in the air. He does this rather well, and at times literally cuts back and forth between a GI under fire on Omaha, the German landser who’s firing at him, and the destroyer off shore firing at the landser.

In the process of telling the tale, Caddick-Adams touches upon some myths perpetrated by earlier writers, most notably S.L.A. Marshal and Cornelius Ryan, who, although also drawing on interviews, seem to have failed to verify some tales, or embroidered on them. For example, Caddick-Adams was unable to confirm any instance of the oft repeated claim that the coxswain of a landing craft had to be forced “at gun point” to close on the beach.

There are a number of surprises in Sand & Steel. Perhaps the most shocking is that more troops may have died in accidents while training in England, than were killed on D-Day. And even during the final concentration of troops, as they moved to transports and aircraft, men died by accident or misadventure.

Sand and Steel will likely be the standard work on D-Day for some time to come.


Note: Sand and Steel is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close