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D-Day June 6 1944: the Climatic Battle of World War II (1994)

by Stephen E. Ambrose

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3,001333,403 (4.13)23
On the basis of 1,400 oral histories from the men who were there, Eisenhower biographer and World War II historian Stephen E. Ambrose reveals for the first time anywhere that the intricate plan for the invasion of France in June 1944, had to be abandoned before the first shot was fired. The true story of D-Day, as Ambrose relates it, is about the citizen soldiers - junior officers and enlisted men - taking the initiative to act on their own to break through Hitler's Atlantic Wall when they realized that nothing was as they had been told it would be. This is a brilliant telling of the battles of Omaha and Utah beaches, based on information only now available, from American, British, Canadian, French, and German veterans, from government and private archives, from never before utilized sources on the home front, gathered and analyzed by the author, who has made D-Day his life work. Ambrose's first interview was with General Eisenhower in 1964, his last with paratroopers from the 101st Airborne in 1993. Called the premier American narrative and military historian, Ambrose explains the most important day of the twentieth century. The action begins at midnight, June 5/6, when the first British and American airborne troops jumped into France to launch the invasion. It ends at midnight, June 6/7. Focusing on those pivotal twenty-four hours, this is the story of individuals rather than units. It moves from the level of Supreme Commander to that of a French child, from General Omar Bradley to an American paratrooper, from Field Marshal Montgomery to a British private, from Field Marshal Rommel to a German sergeant. Ambrose covers the politics of D-Day, from Churchill's resistance to the operation to Stalin's impatience and Roosevelt's concern. On the other side were Hitler's command structure, German policy, and the plot against the Fuhrer. This is the epic victory of democracy in winner-take-all combat. When Hitler declared war on the United States, he bet that the young men brought up in the Hitler Youth would outfight the Boy Scouts. Ambrose shows how wrong he was.… (more)
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English (28)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
nonfiction/history. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
A well crafted and copious detailed account that unlike many 'modern' tomes on the topic thankfully tries in part not to lend overdue weight to the contribution of the USA Armed Forces - superb & essential as they were to the planning, implementation & success - it's often overlooked the largest number of ships & men that fought on D-Day were British-Canadian; so this book is all the better for offering on the whole a balanced account of the forces, events & main characters on all sides during the so-called 'Longest Day'. ( )
  tommi180744 | Jan 4, 2018 |
I listened to this book (read by the author and WWII historian Stephen Ambrose) before our trip to Normandy to see the D Day sites. The book dramatically tells the true story of the how the Allies (US, Canada and Great Britain) broke through Hitler's Atlantic wall, focusing on D Day, June 6, 1944. ( )
  KatherineGregg | Aug 17, 2017 |
Though I enjoyed reading about many of the individual accounts of D-Day in this book, I didn't like the way Ambrose pieced them together. It just kept going and going.... ( )
  sbluerock | Nov 5, 2016 |
Really comprehensive, gripping history of June 6, 1944 in Normandy. Ambrose is a great popular history writer, and in this book he really gives the reader a sense of the enormity of the endeavor on D-Day. The book focuses most of its time on Omaha Beach, which was the messiest of the invasion beaches due to the failure of the allies to properly bombard the emplacements first thing in the morning. But all the beaches get their due, and a sober assessment of the mistakes and brilliant decisions made by planners, generals, and lesser officers is offered.

The Greatest Generation indeed!

The difficult part of reading the book is that it would really be better as a documentary film, with diagrams and lots of maps. Not knowing the details of the geography of the French coast, I kept referring to maps from other places to get my bearings. There should have been more maps in the book. I would imagine, too, that a person with a military background would have an easier time than I did, as it's hard to picture this stuff if you haven't got a base of understanding. ( )
  DanTarlin | Nov 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
The most difficult and complicated operation ever to take place.
WINSTON CHURCHILL
The destruction of the enemy's landing is the sole decisive factor in the whole conduct of the war and hence in its final results.
ADOLF HITLER
The history of war does not know of an undertaking comparable to it for breadth of conception, grandeur of scale, and mastery of execution.
JOSEPH STALIN
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER,
Order of the Day, June 4, 1944
In this column I want to tell you what the opening of the second front entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.
ERNIE PYLE, June 12, 1944
Dedication
For
Forrest Pogue,
the first historian of D-Day
First words
At 0016 hours, June 6, 1944, the Horsa glider crash landed alongside the Caen Canal, some fifty meters from the swing bridge crossing the canal.
Quotations
Summers then went to work, charging the first farmhouse, hoping his hodgepodge squad would follow. It did not, but he kicked in the door and sprayed the interior with his tommy gun. Four Germans fell dead, others ran out a back door to the next house. Summers, still alone, charged that house; again the Germans fled. His example inspired Pvt. William Burt to come out of the roadside ditch where the group was hiding, set up his light machine gun, and begin laying down a suppressing fire against the third barracks building. Once more Summers dashed forward. The Germans were ready this time; they shot at him from loopholes but, what with Burt's machine-gun fire and Summers's zigzag running, failed to hit him. Summers kicked in the door and sprayed the interior, killing six Germans and driving the remainder out of the building. Summers dropped to the ground, exhausted and in emotional shock. He rested for half an hour. His squad came up and replenished his ammunition supply. As he rose to go on, an unknown captain from the 101st, misdropped by miles, appeared at his side. "I'll go with you," said the captain. At that instant he was shot through the heart and Summers was again alone. He charged another building, killing six more Germans. The rest threw up their hands. Summers's squad was close behind; he tuned the prisoners over to his men. One of them, Pvt. John Camien from New York City, call out to Summers; "Why are you doing it?" "I can't tell you," Summers replied. "What about the others?" "They don't seem to want to fight," said Summers, "and I can't make them. So I've got to finish it." "OK," said Camien. "I'm with you." Together, Summers and Camien moved from building to building, taking turns charging and giving covering fire. Burt meanwhile moved up with his machine gun. Between the three of them, they killed more Germans. There were two building to go. Summers charged the first and kicked the door open, to see the most improbable sight. Fifteen German artillerymen were seated at mess tables eating breakfast. Summers never paused; he shot them down at the tables. The last building was the largest. Beside it was a shed and a haystack. Burt used tracer bullets to set them ablaze. The shed was used by the Germans for ammunition storage; it quickly exploded, driving thirty Germans out into the open, where Summers, Camien, and Burt shot some of them down as the others fled. Another member of Summers's makeshift squad came up. He had a bazooka, which he used to set the roof of the last building on fire. The Germans on the ground floor were firing a steady fusillade from loopholes in the walls, but as the flames began to build they dashed out. Many died in the open. Thirty-one others emerged with raised hands to offer their surrender. Summers collapsed, exhausted by his nearly five hours of combat. He lit a cigarette. One of the men asked him, "How do you feel?" "Not very good," Summers answered. "It was all kind of crazy. I'm sure I'll never do anything like that again." Summers got a battlefield commission and a Distinguished Service Cross. He was put in for the Medal of Honor, but the paperwork got lost. In the late 1980's, after Summers's death from cancer, Pvt. Baker and others made an effort to get the medal awarded posthumously, without success. Summers is a legend with American paratroopers nonetheless, the Sergeant York of World War II. His story has too much John Wayne/Hollywood in it to be believed, except that more than ten men saw and reported his exploits.
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On the basis of 1,400 oral histories from the men who were there, Eisenhower biographer and World War II historian Stephen E. Ambrose reveals for the first time anywhere that the intricate plan for the invasion of France in June 1944, had to be abandoned before the first shot was fired. The true story of D-Day, as Ambrose relates it, is about the citizen soldiers - junior officers and enlisted men - taking the initiative to act on their own to break through Hitler's Atlantic Wall when they realized that nothing was as they had been told it would be. This is a brilliant telling of the battles of Omaha and Utah beaches, based on information only now available, from American, British, Canadian, French, and German veterans, from government and private archives, from never before utilized sources on the home front, gathered and analyzed by the author, who has made D-Day his life work. Ambrose's first interview was with General Eisenhower in 1964, his last with paratroopers from the 101st Airborne in 1993. Called the premier American narrative and military historian, Ambrose explains the most important day of the twentieth century. The action begins at midnight, June 5/6, when the first British and American airborne troops jumped into France to launch the invasion. It ends at midnight, June 6/7. Focusing on those pivotal twenty-four hours, this is the story of individuals rather than units. It moves from the level of Supreme Commander to that of a French child, from General Omar Bradley to an American paratrooper, from Field Marshal Montgomery to a British private, from Field Marshal Rommel to a German sergeant. Ambrose covers the politics of D-Day, from Churchill's resistance to the operation to Stalin's impatience and Roosevelt's concern. On the other side were Hitler's command structure, German policy, and the plot against the Fuhrer. This is the epic victory of democracy in winner-take-all combat. When Hitler declared war on the United States, he bet that the young men brought up in the Hitler Youth would outfight the Boy Scouts. Ambrose shows how wrong he was.

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Book description
Stephen E Ambrose draws from more than 1,400 interviews with American, British, Canadian, French, and German veterans to create the preeminent chronicle  of the most important day in the twentieth century. Ambrose reveals how the original plans for the invasion were abandoned, and how ordinary soldiers and officers acted on their own initiative.

D-Day is above all the epic story of men at the most demanding moment of their existence, when the horrors, complexities, and triumphs of life are laid bare. Ambrose portrays the faces of courage and heroism, fear and determination  - what Eisenhower called "the fury of an aroused democracy" - that shaped the victory of the citizen soldiers whom Hitler had disparaged.
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