D-Day by Giles Milton
D-Day is an extraordinary book about an extraordinary day in history.
The greatest invasion in history, D-Day was an epic battle that involved 156,000 men, 7,000 ships and 20,000 armoured vehicles on the beaches of Normandy and inland France. Giles Milton tells the story of ‘the longest day’ through first-hand accounts of the Allied soldiers who were part of this desperate struggle to smash the German defences on 6 June 1944, but also tells the story of German soldiers, and the local French people. Giles takes us through the meticulous planning, to the first paratroopers landing inland, to the soldiers storming the beach and the events until the beachheads are secured.
By telling this epic story through many individual peoples’ story, D-Day reads almost like a novel; such is its emotional intensity. And there is a sense of all sides to this day, all the good, the bad and the ugly. Certainly, there is absolute terror for many, that is palpable. But there is also inspiring tales of bravery and true heroism, and if it weren’t for the actions of some very driven people, the results might have been very different. D-Day is very insightful. It details an audacious plan by the Allied forces, that was ultimately successful, but the reality of the first 24 hours was nowhere as successful as the Allies had planned. Allied landings were always going to be costly regarding human life, but on that first day, it is estimated approximately 11,200 Allied soldiers perished. Then there is the mistakes on the German side which had a huge impact on this battle, as well as German villains and heroes featured in the book. The number of German dead remains unknown, but estimates range from 4,000 to 9,000. There are also the local people caught up in the bombardment – an estimated 3,000 men, women and children died in the 48 hours following the Allied landings.
The research in this book is apparent, but it is Giles Milton’s storytelling skills that make D-Day such an engaging and fascinating read. Some scenes are truly horrific, but there is also black humour and bravery, and the book feels sympathetic to all sides – many of the soldiers involved only teenagers, which only adds to the tragedy of this momentous day. Insightful, unforgettable and compassionate, D-Day is an outstanding history of a single day that ultimately changed the course of the war.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Hachette, RRP $37.99