Rare Vivid Accounts of D – Day, the Greatest Invasion in World History
Three important new WWII books reviewed and recommended by Don DeNevi
”COSSAC – – Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan and the Genesis of Operation Overlord” by Stephen C. Kepher. Naval Institute Press, Studies in Naval History and Sea Power; 301 pp.
“Normandy 1944 – – German Military Organization, Combat Power, and Organizational Effectiveness” by Niklas Zetterling. Casemate Publishers; $34.95, 402 pp.
“The U.S. Navy at Normandy – – Fleet Organization in the D – Day Invasion” by Greg H Williams. McFarland; 438 pp.
Based upon newly released excessively detailed primary sources, as well as fully revised reference research, readers, whether buffs or scholars, are once again eyewitnesses to war history. This time, it’s in the inner sanctum of the command center when “Ike”, Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969), the top General of the Army and Supreme Commander and General of Allied Forces in Europe, makes the hard decision when to begin the invasion of France with more than 5,000 ships and, in the initial landings, some 200,000 heavily armed troops. At 4:30am, June 5th, Ike, in a meeting with his senior commanders after receiving yet another weather report in the endless stream of them since mid-May, announces there will be a three day lull in the weeks-long rain and wind, a brief period of clearer weather, beginning in the early morning hours of the next morning, June 6th. “I don’t like it, but it’s what it is. O.K., let’s go.”
“COSSAC” is a thrilling account of British Lt. General Frederick Morgan who in early 1944 was appointed Chief of Staff to the Supreme Commander, Ike, to organize, plan and execute the preliminary invasion plan, then ensure its final development, to be named “Overlord”, for final acceptance and launch in early or mid-summer less than five months away. To support and assist him, 1,103 of the most trusted Allied officers were to be selected, 489 of them being British.
A man of iron with absolute certain of his creative abilities, and unquestionably competence. he faces strains and stresses, overcomes criticisms, and gathers manpower, schemes for coveted equipment, while handling endless strategic challenges, calculations, refinements, and changing proposals, additions and deletions, in mass assault designs. Then, finally, when “Overlord” is voted upon, preparing for its D – Day launch, noting its execution, and watching overs its later administration. Morgan is confident he has created the best, most complicated formula for successful invasion of an entire continent the world had yet known – in short, placing hundreds of thousands of men and their millions of pieces of equipment on a few miles of blocked beach WITHIN HOURS so as to completely surprise Herr Hitler who sleeps to noon each day in Berlin.
Thanks to that most skillful historian, Stephen O. Kepher, who uses his research with extraordinary knowledge of each topic presented, the reader is enjoined to personally “know” Morgan, the man, husband, and father, on an intimate level, then admire him as one of the three greatest mobilization, battlefield combat, and long-distance strategic planners modern warfare had yet produced. And, fortunately for us, he positions us to observe from over COSSA’s shoulder every day he fights for victory.
As for author Niklas Zetterling, his “Normandy 1944” is essential for the library of every serious reader of World War II in Europe books. “44” is an incredible meticulously surveyed and analyzed study of all the recently released or discovered primary data on German forces just across the Channel awaiting COSSAC’s brilliant-planned invasion. In addition to providing entirely new assessments of entrenched German soldiers, Panzer Division movements, etc., Niklas recalculates enemy casualties, combat efficiency, and dares to confront and challenge Allied battle myths. The effort is a superb collection of just about all there’s left to know about that gigantean onslaught on June 6 and the months that followed. Hardly known in this country, the Swedish World War II historian’s scholarship reflected in this volume has caused the reviewer to order all at once his “Blitzkrieg”, “Bismarck”, “The Drive on Moscow, 1941”, and “The Korsun Pocket”. How can on stand knowing they exist and not want to read each one?
Author Greg H. Williams, in his “The U.S. Navy at Normandy – Fleet Organization and Operations In the D-Day Invasion”, points out what WWII historians and American military book reviewers have realized for almost 80 years – the heavy involvement of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine who transported troops and equipment to the Normandy beaches has been given scant attention throughout the decades. Williams changes much of that with this initial study, or introduction, of their involvement.
Similar to “Normandy 1944” and Zetterling’s masterful achievement, Greg describes in fascinating detail the Allied Command structure for Operation Neptune and presents in easy to digest the integrated offshore operations, how they were organized, who the sailors were, and what they experienced as they, too, joined in the battles.
In short, readers have three additional commendable books to give as Christmas presents to oneself, and/or family or friend armchair or earnestly serious enthusiast establishing a personal, private library of quality war literature.