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“D-Day June 6, 1944: The climactic Battle of World War II” by Stephen E. Ambrose Stephen Ambrose has done an immense job for the new volume of readers who have been drawn into the sixtieth anniversary celebrations of World War II. His book “D-Day June 6, 1944: The climactic Battle of World War II” is a masterful piece of work, filled with first-hand accounts that give a true sense for the viciousness of combat at Normandy. As a scholarly work, the book falls short on some of the towering claims of the author, but as a popular piece it is a good tribute to the courage of the soldiers heroic fighting. Ambrose said “young men made many discoveries in the first few days of combat, about war, about themselves and others” (Ambrose 45). The U.S. learned something major everyday and unfortunately in time of war you learn with the most ultimate price of human life. Since Ambrose’s book starts with expanding the beach head of Normandy, you learn of the German way of war from defensive tactics and not so much of offensive tactics. It is at this period June 1944 that Germany has failed to stop a beach invasion and is being attacked from at four fronts, the Eastern, Western, Southern, and home. However, with opposition from his Generals, Hitler insisted that they would counter the offensive movements with the Luftwaffe and the development of the V-2.
The German tactics from Normandy were to dig in and to survive massive ground and air attacks from the allies. Ideally German ground forces prayed of tactical weather of “low clouds, drizzle, and fog…to move reinforcements to the front or to reposition units” (Ambrose 49). One major tactic that worked against Germany was the importance of reinforcements. It is important to also note that it was not only do to modern equipment that gave Americans such new radical tactics compared to traditional ones that might have been used in World War I, it was that we were on the offensive and this time the offensive had a much better chance to defeat the defiance than in World War I. Sure the United States had been in War’s before with rough and unpredictable terrain, but this time they had new equipment therefore resulting into new tactics. Being that Germany was on the defensive side of the Western Front, reinforcements became ever more important. 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. 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. The battleships were actually being used to draw large enemy shellfire from the invasion force. This tactic proved successful. The invasion force felt little of the German heavy artillery. With all of the ships in place and poised for action Captain Anthony Duke reflected on the moment, “By, God, I’ll never forget the feeling of power - power about to be unleashed that welled up inside me as I viewed the endless columns of ships headed toward Normandy”. (Ambrose 258) The book explains that the Germans heard nothing nor saw anything. Although there had been a steady flow of ships coming from England from since well before midnight lined up so close in their columns as to practically form a bridge from the Isle of Wright to Normandy.
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Although the first transport ships reached the transport areas around 0200 the German search radar failed to pick up anything. This was partly due to German inefficiency, more to the effectiveness of pre-invasion air bombardment. The bombing raids prior to the invasion set their primary targets on radar sites along the coast. The raids were quite successful, they had taken out most of German radar sites that would have warned German high command up to 7 hours earlier of the Allies invasion. Further aircraft were throwing down “windows” of foil strips that caused hundreds of echoes on German radar. This in turn caused the Germans radar to malfunction eliminating any chance of being spotted on radar. (Ambrose 259) What the airborne troops had begun the sea born armada was about to continue. Hitler had sown he was now to reap. The free peoples of the world were sending their best young men and the products of their industry to liberate the Western Europe, and crush him and his Nazi Party. (Ambrose 262) At 0309 the United States luck ran out. German radar spotted the invasion force. The news of an Allied attack reached German high commander Admiral Krancke.
He then scrambled a fleet of U-boats to attack the huge force that crept up underneath their noses. He also sent word to his shore batteries to prepare to repel an invasion. (Ambrose 259) After 0520 bombers commenced bombing the shoreline to clear the coast of German defenses. One GI that was to “hit the beach” made the following statement about the sever pummeling the air force was giving the German defenses “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 262) Clearly the strength of Ambrose’s book is its great use of oral histories. Partially it is explained by the fact that the author is the director of the Eisenhower Center and president of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. As such, he has unparalleled access to the 1200 oral histories and written memoirs of the Eisenhower Center. These personal accounts give the reader an true feeling of the actions and emotions of the soldiers and sailors on D-Day. Ambrose does not simply rehash the more popular monograph from Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day” but puts together so many accounts so skillfully that they become part of the texture of the book.
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