This is the first volume of a most impressive tribute and comprehensive five part work that includes a multitude of personal military and civilian accounts of every aspect of air, land, paratroop and seaborne operations on D-Day, 6th June. At fifteen minutes after midnight on 6 June 1944 'Operation Overlord', the Allied invasion of Hitler's Festung Europe, became reality. Almost exactly four years earlier the British Expeditionary Force had been forced to retreat to Dunkirk in the face of the German Blitzkrieg. D-Day was the climax of almost two years' planning. Had it not been for stormy weather in the Channel area, June 5 would have gone down in history as D-Day, the day that Britain and the Allies returned to France in force with the aim of liberating not only France but the rest of Europe from Nazi domination.
The logistics of landing almost 250,000 men by amphibious craft and several thousand vehicles including tanks, hundreds of artillery pieces and about 4,000 tons of supplies on five beaches along a 65-mile stretch of heavily fortified coastline are almost unimaginable yet close to 7,000 ships from battleships to landing craft, almost a quarter of a million sailors and fighting men and a massive aerial umbrella of 3,000 RAF and USAAF fighters, fighter-bombers and heavy bombers, headed for France and more than 1,000 transport aircraft dropped more than 17.000 paratroopers to secure the flanks and beach exits of the assault area. Air superiority in the invasion areas was total. By the end of D-Day, the Allies had landed as many as 155,000 troops; in the eastern sector the British and Canadians landed on Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches while the Americans landed on two beaches in the west, at Utah and Omaha. It was a day that changed the whole course of the war and it resulted in the first steps to final victory in Europe.
Yet Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel who took command Army Group B in northern France in January 1944 had said: 'We'll have only one chance to stop the enemy and that's while he's in the water. Everything we have must be on the coast...the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.'The author's use of direct reporting is this series' main thrust and gives the view from the beach, as well as from the English towns and ports from where the invaders departed. He has gone to great lengths to bring D-Day back to life by using copious quotes from American and British and Dominion forces and fighting men, sailors and airmen from the occupied countries and their German opponents and French civilians. They tell of incredible, illuminating and often under-stated actions of extraordinary courage, companionship and a common fear of death or serious injury which offer a more personalised view of D-Day in actions that were at times very confused.
A narrative of events contained in well-placed timelines cuts through the fog of battle to explain the overall situation from well-placed planning to the successful conclusion to give an overall picture of each phase of the battle and supporting air and airborne operations. Well illustrated with well chosen historical photographs gathered from the archives, 'D-Day: The First Steps To Victory' provides a fascinating insight into the myriad operations on 6th June 1944.