A ground-breaking account of the first 24 hours of the D-Day invasion told by a symphony of incredible accounts of unknown and unheralded members of the Allied – and Axis – forces.
An epic battle that involved 156,000 men, 7,000 ships and 20,000 armoured vehicles, D-Day was, above all, a tale of individual heroics – of men who were driven to keep fighting until the German defences were smashed and the precarious beachheads secured. This authentic human story – Allied, German, French – has never fully been told.
Giles Milton’s bold new history narrates the events of June 6th, 1944 through the tales of survivors from all sides: the teenage Allied conscript, the crack German defender, the French resistance fighter. From the military architects at Supreme Headquarters to the young schoolboy in the Wehrmacht’s bunkers, Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy, Airman, Gangster, Kill or Die lays bare the absolute terror of those trapped in the front line of Operation Overlord. It also gives voice to those who have hitherto remained unheard – the French butcher’s daughter, the Panzer Commander’s wife, the chauffeur to the General Staff.
This vast canvas of human bravado reveals “the longest day” as never before – less as a masterpiece of strategic planning than a day on which thousands of scared young men found themselves staring death in the face. It is drawn in its entirety from the raw, unvarnished experiences of those who were there.
This extensively researched collection of individual accounts of D-Day from historian Milton (The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare) is a labor of love and respect with some shortcomings. American, British, Canadian, French, and German voices are woven together to convey the scale of an attack that involved hundreds of thousands of troops, 7,000 ships, staggering numbers of aircraft, and a dizzying array of strategic objectives required to dislodge the Nazis from northwest France and begin the liberation of occupied Europe. British commandos on bicycles rush to the front lines in Benouville; American Col. Charles Canham has his rifle shot out of his hand and keeps advancing on Omaha Beach with only a pistol; American bombardier Al Corry's life is miraculously saved as a pocket notebook blocks shrapnel from entering his chest. Though Milton's writing is often vivid, it can be susceptible to clich (he describes several different people as "adventurers" in Boys' Own adventure style), and the decision to frequently omit military ranks obscures the important role played by junior officers, noncommissioned officers, and enlisted men in the victory. But readers will still be thrilled and moved by this sweeping mosaic.