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Chapter 19 - Operation Overlord

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord also known as D-Day in World War II. As you know, Nazi Germany was firmly entrenched in Normandy and most of France. A coalition of allied (British, American, Canadian and free French) fighters invaded the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944 and started an advance against the German army which would not be held back. The advance went on to liberate Paris, most of France, and to hasten the end of the war.

There was no guarantee that this operation would succeed. Although the planning for Operation Overlord was about a year in the making, German command was pretty astute and had double agents feeding information just as the allies did. Added to this was that it was such a large scale invasion of over 129,000 allied troops and you can imagine how hard to might have been to keep this quiet. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and, the disinformation fed to the Germans had them believing any invasion would come at Calais, an easier port than Normandy beaches.

So as we celebrate Memorial Day and remember those men and women from all wars who have died for the freedoms we often take for granted, you might want to remember D-Day and read some of the wonderful books written about it.

The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day by Cornelius Ryan - While the movie, The Longest Day, was a long one , the book is actually pretty short. This book was originally published in 1959 and consequently relied heavily on logs, journals, and information from those who were actually there. The book tells both the Allied and German perspectives of the invasion.

The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II by Alex Kershaw - This is a more recent account (2020) of the D-Day invasion. I read this right before we first visited the Normandy beaches last year. The book not only tells the story of the invasion but also gets close the some of the men who made it all happen. Alex Kershaw interviewed many for the book and also dug into journals, logs, and diaries. This is one of the most readable nonfiction books I have come across.

D-Day by Stephen Ambrose - Ambrose is another trusted historian and his book focuses on the citizen soldiers who made important and immediate decisions as the D-Day invasion did not quite come together as planned. The book is based on over 1,400 interviews as well as documentation of the plan itself and the aftermath analysis of what actually happened.

D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose - When we think about D-Day we think primarily about the men who were involved in the planning and execution of the operations. Rose's book tells about three women, Andrée Borrel, Odette Sansom, and Lise de Baissac who were instrumental in destroying train lines, sabotaging the Nazis, and gathering crucial intelligence which significantly helped the allied invasion.

The D-Day Visitor's Handbook, 80th Anniversary Edition: Your Guide to the Normandy Battlefields and WWII Paris, Revised and Updated Paperback – Special Edition by Kevin Dennehy and Stephen T. Powers - If you plan on going to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches and museums honoring this historical event, this guide will help you plan and understand the operation. Published in October, 2023, the book provides up to date information on the museums as well as detailed battle maps of the area. It is a go-to book for anyone making the trip.

Do you have any suggestions for D-Day books? Please share!


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