The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day - The Big Red One at Omaha Beach
New American Library, 2014 (2014)
Reviewed by Bob Walch
llied planners referred to it as
but today that four-and-a-half-mile stretch of French coastline in Normandy is known as Omaha Beach. In June of 1944 it was the site of one of the most important and bloody battles of World War II.
n the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe, John McManus, a leading authority on the Normandy invasion, revisits what has been dubbed
The Longest Day
The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach
, the military historian focuses upon the exploits of the 1st Infantry Division, nicknamed the
Big Red One
. This seasoned and determined combat unit had fought from North Africa to Sicily. McManus states that '
the Big Red One was arguably the most combat experienced, and certainly the most cocksure, division in the Army. Only the equally accomplished 3rd Infantry Division could match – or exceed, in the view of that division's self-proclaimed dogface soldiers – the combat record of the 1st Infantry Division.
et in looking back, the 1st Division's role on D-Day has tended to be overshadowed by the exploits of the 29th Infantry Division and the U.S. Rangers elsewhere on Omaha.
nly Flint Whitlock in his book
The Fighting First
focused on the Big Red One. McManus' plan for this book was to build upon what Whitlock wrote to '
improve upon our knowledge and understanding of the battle for Omaha Beach
o accomplish this goal the author drew on a wide array of sources from interviews, diaries, historical studies and after-action reports to oral histories and unpublished memoirs.
oting that there is no shortage of good source material, he comments that the trick is to sift through it in such a manner as to '
produce a fair and compelling portrait of the stark and mortal drama that unfolded along that beach all those years ago
est assured that is what this volume does. The Big Red One's nineteen hours of hell and the ultimate triumph that was finally achieved on that bloody day has been captured on these pages.
upplementing McManus' gripping and informative narrative are maps and black and white photos that will help the reader envision the site of the struggle and some of the personalities involved.
his story also addresses that fact that the preparatory firepower failed to achieve its goal of '
softening up the enemy
' and destroying their defensive positions while some of the top-secret inventions that were supposed to assist the troops were also a bust.
n the final analysis, the day was won by individuals carrying out unbelievable acts of courage, often at the cost of their own lives. The accounts of some of these valiant men also find their way into this book.
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