“D-Day June 6, 1944: The climactic Battle of World War II” by Stephen E. Ambrose. A magnificent, touching, and authoritative account of the most decisive day of WW II by Stephen Ambrose, whose immense biographies of Eisenhower and Nixon have won prevalent praise. Based on the most extensive first-person, I-was-there collection of memoirs of a single battle in existence, Ambrose moves easily between the strategy of each side and the specific reminiscences of the combat. He conveys not only the extent of the enterprise but its development. He also suggests some important changes to the conventional version of the war, most notably in the view hitherto taken about the respective character of leadership and soldiers on each side. He contradicts the notion in the superiority of the German soldiers and says that the higher losses they inflicted against the Anglo-American armies derived from the need for the latter to take the offensive.
The Tales of Distinct Heroism
The German army was, he writes, “inferior in all respects (except for weaponry, especially the 88’s and the machine guns) to its allied enemy.” (Ambrose 1994) He call Rommel’s plan to halt the Allied invasion on the beach “one of the greatest blunders in military history,” and he compares the tactics to that of the French Maginot line. On the other hand, he states that Eisenhower’s judgment was generally right and that he not only inspired his subordinates but also showed courage in rejecting suggestions for an option strategy from Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. But most memorable in the account are the tales of distinct heroism, from the 16-year-old French girl who, with a crew of companions, paralyzed the German Second Panzer Division by removing the axle grease from its transporters and substituting an abrasive, to the Canadian soldier who threw himself down on barbed wire to enable his companions to use his body as a ladder.
A brilliant account that blends perfectly the human and the strategic extent of this great engagement. Yet as Ambrose explains the Germans could just not tactically keep the Allies in check with reinforcements. Resulting into withdraw after withdraw, which lead into another German tactic. The German way of withdraw was that of being slow and costly. The left little to the Allies and destroyed everything in their withdraw wake.
They also used nasty tactics that of S-mines and other contraptions leaving thousands of Allied troops without limbs. To prevent infantry and tank invasions they used Dragon Teeth to prevent and slow down Allied forces into Germany. “The blasts were coming so fast that they turned into one continuous roar and the shore line looked like a broken necklace of flame”. (Ambrose 1994) By portraying several German surrenders, Ambrose paints the picture that Germany had lost its compassion and need for traditional warfare. In since they had had enough and as Ambrose tells they were quick in many circumstances even humorous to some extent, to surrender, which would ultimately be Germany’s last war tactic. Drawing on hundreds of oral testimonies as well as never-before-available data from around the globe, Ambrose tells the true story of how the Allies broke through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, revealing that the complex plan for the aggression had to be abandoned before the first shot was fired.
Focusing on the 24 hours of June 6, 1944, D-Day brings to life the stories of the men and women who made the chronicles - from top Allied and Axis strategic commanders to the soldiers whose courageous initiative saved the day. From high-level politics to hand-to-hand battle, from winner-take-all strategy to staying alive under fire, here is history more gripping than any thriller-the epic story of democracy’s victory over totalitarianism.