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The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day - The Big Red One at Omaha Beach    by John McManus Amazon.com order for
Dead and Those About to Die
by John McManus
Order:  USA  Can
New American Library, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Allied planners referred to it as Beach 46 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.

On 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.

In 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.'

Yet 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.

Only 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'.

To 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on a wide array of sources from interviews, diaries, historical studies and after-action reports to oral histories and unpublished memoirs.

Noting 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'.

Rest 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.

Supplementing 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.

This 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.

In 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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