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Battle Zone Normandy

by Lloyd Clark, Ken Ford, Stephan Badsey and Tim Bean

Battle Zone Normandy 1: Orne Bridgehead. By: Lloyd Clark. Hard covers, 9.5 x 6.25-inches, 192 pages, 61 B&W photos, 67 color photos, 13 maps, three charts, index and bibliography. MBI order number 137546AE. Price: $19.95 USD.

Battle Zone Normandy 2: Sword Beach. By: Ken Ford. Hard covers, 9.5 x 6.25-inches, 192 pages, 58 B&W photos, 54 color photos, 15 maps, four charts, index and bibliography. MBI order number 137545AE. Price: $19.95 USD.

Battle Zone Normandy 5: Omaha Beach. By: Stephan Badsey and Tim Bean. Hard covers, 9.5 x 6.25-inches, 192 pages, 71 B&W photos, 46 color photos, 12 maps, seven charts, index and bibliography. MBI order number 137554AE. Price: $19.95 USD.

Since these books are identical on layout and presentation, it will save much repetition if I treat them in a single review. It may also mean that I would appear not to give them their due as individual works, but that is not my intention.

The entire Normandy campaign is covered in this well-balanced series, with a total of 14 titles. This covers the battle from the D-Day landings (six books), through the Falaise battle and on to Operation Cobra, the eventual beginning of the end in Normandy. In between, such events as the legendary encounter at Villers Bocage, Operation Epsom and the Battles for Caen and Cherbourg are also detailed.

The unique approach of this series makes them especially valuable for those who plan to tour the battlefields, since the first part of each title covers the battles in question, while the second section of each book gives detailed information relevant to touring the areas in question.

The text supports this approach by first giving a general, albeit well-detailed account of a particular battle, in the section of the book under the heading “History”. Then, within the section of the book entitled “Battlefield Tours”, many of the individual incidents are described in greater detail, along with hints and tips related to touring the actual areas where these took place. The books also provide information related to the locations of local museums and their operating hours. The final segment of each book, entitled “On Your Return”, presents a select bibliography, which suggests books that either deal with the entire Normandy campaign in a general fashion, or in a more specific fashion.

Tailored to a reader based in the UK, the authors also list museums and the pertinent records sections in government archives, along with select US resource sites.

All of this is supported by a very fine selection of contemporary photographs, as well as color photos of the areas as they appear today. The contemporary photographs depict men and equipment, including various AFVs, aircraft, troops, locales and fortifications and, overall should prove of use to modelers. There are also quite a few maps within the covers, although the authors of each book generally recommend that the reader procure various other maps, if they wish to tour the areas. There are a few sidebars as well. Some concern themselves with the orders-of-battle of the opposing armies, while others detail such things as command structures and casualties. Some sidebars also highlight certain items of equipment.

Book One, Orne Bridgehead, covers the operations of the British 6th Airborne Division and its fabled conquest of the various Caen Canal and Orne River bridges, which secured the invasion’s left flank. But it does not stop there. The division served through the end of August, and on the way fought many a hard-won action, including the D-Day capture of the Merville Battery, the battle for the town of Breville and the Dives River crossing. As the unit is most famously associated with “Pegasus Bridge”, it is refreshing to learn more about these other actions. One is also struck by the fact that, time and time again, the British “Paras” were improperly scattered about the areas of their objectives. Nonetheless, superbly trained, motivated and led, they continued on with greatly depleted forces in an attempt to accomplish their missions, almost always to a successful conclusion. Charts within this book present orders-of-battle for the 6th Airborne Division, the German 21st Panzer Division and the German 346th, 711th and 716th Infantry Divisions. Other charts list technical details of transport aircraft and glider tug aircraft, Radar Homing Devices used for the landings, the Horsa and Hamilcar gliders and the German-manned Merville battery. A final chart details casualties suffered by the 6th Airborne Division.

This book certainly does a worthy job of recounting those efforts, and in great detail. And, there are certainly enough clear photographs of men and machines, which should give modelers quite a few ideas for a D-Day-related project.

Highly Recommended.

Book Two, Sword Beach, details the British 3rd Infantry Division’s assault, which was accompanied by elements of the 79th Armoured Division, the 27th Armoured Brigade, the 1st and 4th Special Service Brigades and the Royal Marines, plus various other support formations. This force was detailed to secure the West flank of the invasion by linking up with the previously dropped 6th Airborne Division and then capturing the city of Caen. Although the main goal of securing the invasion’s flank was accomplished, the overly optimistic notion of seizing Caen on D-Day, would have to wait some weeks, casting a cloud of controversy upon Montgomery’s so-called “Master Plan”.

The text first details the overall objectives of the opposing forces, as well as their command structure and unit compositions. The text then goes on to describe the beach assault and the various related actions such as the battles for Ouistreham, and the “Hillman” fortifications, as well as the failed attempts to drive towards Caen in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. The various side-bars detail such things as the order-of-battle for the 3rd Infantry Division and its attached support units, as well as a separate OOB for the 27th Armoured Brigade. Other side-bars provide the names of the ships tasked with the bombardment of specific points during the invasion, as well as a casualty list for the 3rd Infantry Division.

Again, the contemporary photos and maps are well chosen and informatively captioned. There are photos of men and AFVs, (including specialist types such as Sherman Flails and DDs, as well as Churchill AVREs) plus various landing craft, many of which will prove useful to modelers. There is even the occasional aircraft. The full-color photos of the territory as it appears today will put things into perspective, as well as aid the potential tourist.

Highly recommended.

Book Five, Omaha Beach, recounts the costly and near-disastrous US assault against “Bloody Omaha”, as well as the US Ranger’s attack on the potentially dangerous guns that were thought to occupy the Pointe du Hoc. Again, the text in the first section of the book gives a well-balanced general account of these actions, while the final section of the book details the actions as they relate to the areas the potential tourist may visit.

The charts give OOB information for the German LXXXIV Corps, the US V Corps to include the Provisional Ranger Brigade Group, the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions, and the Engineer and Anti-Aircraft units. The German and American command structure is also listed as are the ships of the various allied naval task groups, including the landing and bombardment forces.

The contemporary photographs are well balanced between the familiar and the new, and are quite competently captioned. The photographs of the battlefield as it appears today are a bit more interesting, especially those that depict the still apparent damage that took place on the Pointe du Hoc, due to allied air and sea bombardment.

I hate to repeat myself, but it cannot be helped; what ever will I be able to say about the other books in this series that will be new? Simply stated, this book is full of good stuff, especially for diorama modelers.

Highly recommended.

Frank De Sisto

Sutton books are available at retail and mail order outlets. Motorbooks is the North American distributor of Sutton books. Visit their web site at: www.motorbooks.com. Elsewhere, Sutton books can be acquired direct through their web site at: www.suttonpublishing.co.uk.