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This latest installment completes this four-part series, just in time for the 60th anniversary of one of history’s pivotal battles. The author’s previous book, (Campaign 100) details Omaha Beach and the role of the US Army’s Rangers, while the other two titles (Campaign 105 and 112) by Ken Ford, together take a similar look at Gold, Sword and Juno Beaches, as well as British airborne operations. Combined, this entire series provides a detailed, lavishly illustrated and easy to comprehend look at this battle, presented in many cases in an hour-by-hour fashion.
The author begins by bringing the reader up to speed on the strategic and tactical situation preceding the invasion. The opposing commanders, their plans and the troops involved are then detailed. The well documented disunity in the German command structure is touched upon, as is the relative unreliability of the German troops in the area. These were static, non-motorized units made up of either Soviet defectors, older men, or convalescing veterans and were considered less than reliable. On the other hand, Von Der Heydte’s elite 6th Fallschirmjaeger Regiment, lived up to what was expected of it and fought stubbornly against US airborne units. The initial Panzer units available on the invasion front were made up of mostly captured French types and were to prove to be no match for US forces.
The US units, particularly the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division were involved in very heavy fighting, and this, as well as the relatively easy time (compared to the other US beach, “Bloody Omaha”) the US 4th Infantry Division had at Utah Beach are all detailed. Operations of the US 70th Tank Battalion, during and after the landings are also detailed.
More than passing attention is given to the actions of the various USAAF air transport units. Indeed, I found mention of the use of C-54 transports, which I’d never heard of in regards to this campaign, to be most tantalizing. I wish the author could have been able to elaborate upon their specific role, but when I asked him recently, he said that the primary source materials that he’d consulted, gave no specific details.
The author does not stop with the battles of June 6, however. He takes the reader through the tough battles for Carentan, Cherbourg and the Cotentin peninsula, which featured armored clashes involving US paratroops and infantry, the German 17. SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division and elements of the US 2nd Armored Division. The story ends with the US Army’s July 1st report, which stated that organized German resistance in the Cotentin peninsula had ended.
Another of Mr. Zaloga’s earlier books in this series, number 88, “Operation Cobra” takes up the story from that point, through the liberation of Paris, should the reader wish to inquire further.The photographs used to tell this story range from the familiar, to the new and intriguing and feature more than the usual amount of excellent diorama and vignette ideas, especially when it comes to modeling US figures. AFVs, such as M4s and StuG. IVs feature, as do re-cycled French tanks. Aerial and naval operations are also covered, with several interesting photos of US gliders included. As one would expect, various types of German fortifications are pictured, and despite the attention paid to them, more can easily be said. Perhaps there will soon be a book in Osprey’s Fortress series on the Atlantic Wall?
The color spread art details the units and AFVs involved in the actual amphibious assault, the battle for the Merderet River Bridge, as well as the initial US airborne drops. The 3-D CAD maps also cover the Merderet River Bridge battle, as well as the amphibious assault and the battles around “Fortress Cherbourg”. Conventional color maps also detail various aspects of the campaign, showing pre-invasion positions of German units, the scattered aspect of the US airborne drops, the Utah beach area on D+1, the actions around Carentan, and the final sealing off of the Cotentin peninsula.Tabulated data shows US and German orders-of-battle, plus IX Troop Carrier Command’s operations during the initial US airborne drops and the later glider-borne reinforcement landings, as well as US casualties from the D-Day landings until the end of June. All of this combines to give the astute reader a fine and easily digested piece of the larger picture of this seminal event of World War Two.
Frank De Sisto