The book "D-day" by Antony Beevor is available in the library.
The eminent historian Antony Beevor has written graphic descriptions of the siege of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin, but this most recent documentation of the Battle for Normandy in 1944 and the relief of Paris, is, for me, his most successful work. It lacks nothing of the narrative power of “Berlin”, of strategic vision and folly, of acts of heroism and of cowardice, of conflict amongst allied Generals, of the singleminded professionalism of the German army, and of the insanity of their interfering leader, Adolf Hitler, but this is more than a pacy read; it is a detailed analysis of the strategies of the allied government, of the responses of the occupying forces and of the impossibility of fighting a war on two fronts as Napoleon had also found. The success of the allied offensive was largely due to superiority in the air since the Luftwaffe were otherwise engaged on the eastern front and, initially, to astonishing naval barrages which could bring about enormous destruction at a distance of twenty miles. In the end, sheer force and weight of numbers demoralised the German army, but one is struck in reading the book, by the enormous waste of life caused by poor decision making or by the petty egos of Commanders and Generals. The role of the French in 1944 is presented with some ambivalence. The French resistance, fanatical and effective, take much credit for breaking the German supply lines; French civilians (150,000 lost their lives in six months) were surprisingly understanding of loss of their loved ones and of the places in which they lived that were razed to the ground. Yet their numbers were sown with collaborators, traitors and cowards, who were treated, once towns and villages were relieved by the allies, with singular brutality and a form of anarchic law which often goes with war. The French leaders, De Gaulle and LeClerc, are presented as shrewd operators, desperate to take Paris in advance of the communist wing of the Resistance, but they are also seen to be egocentric, dismissive of the allies, the peacocks of wounded pride, as much as visionary or responsible leaders. At times the enmity between Montgomery, who is shown to be scarcely competent, and the American General Bradley, equally cautious, makes the reader wonder if the allies were as much at war with themselves as they were with Germany. General Patton is seen as the leader of the American Forces whose dynamic approach and trenchant directness of purpose ensured victory.
Overall the book reflects the tragedy of war, the displacement of citizens, the indiscriminate death of men, women and children and the ugliness as well as the nobility of human nature. It provides a piercing insight into the human condition and brings glib statements about an era, not much beyond our own lifetimes, into sharp focus through its grasp of the big picture as well as of its tiniest detail.
For anyone who has an interest in history, politics or people, this is a work which must be read.