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The Americans on D-Day and in Normandy – a review

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Title: The Americans on D-Day and in Normandy. Author: Brooke S. Blades. Publisher: Pen and Sword. ISBN: 978-1-52674-396-1

Another new Images of War book from Pen & Sword, this one looks at the American forces on D-Day and beyond, dealing with Utah and Omaha beaches in particular. It is one of the larger books in the series, stretching to 252 pages. It is also slightly different in the approach it takes to the subject. The archive photos do tell us the various stories of the US landings, the airborne troops on the Cotentin Peninsula, the seaborne landings at Utah and Omaha Beaches. The experiences of those who took part varied enormously. The airborne forces needed to recover from scattered landings, while the troops who landed on Utah Beach had less casualties than they did during the earlier exercise at Slapton Sands. Meanwhile, the casualties at Omaha Beach were high, almost leading to a withdrawal and giving rise to the name of ‘Bloody Omaha’.

The book uses a wide range of archive photos, making use of those images captured by US military photographers and a few from the Bundesarchiv as well. Added to these are plenty of modern day location comparisons, maps and aerial photos from the time compared to modern day Google Earth imagery, which create some interesting comparisons. It also makes a point of considering how the casualties were handled, the treatment and evacuation of the wounded as well as how they handled the deaths, and establishment of the various War Cemeteries. Added to this is a look at how the troops interacted with the civilian population. Cultures were very different and the fighting had meant so many Normandy villages had been badly damaged/destroyed. Photos include some showing how they shaved the heads of women considered to have been collaborators, something which created a level of sympathy for them among American troopers. As for the veterans who took part, the author also considers how they reacted to their experiences, some went back on a regular basis, some did so only later in life while others simply wanted to forget.

The 11 chapters that follow the Introduction deal with Preparations in England: Airborne Landings on the Cotentin Peninsula: Landings on Easy Red and Fox Green Beaches (of Omaha Beach):The Photographs of Sergeant Richard Taylor: Beach Landings and Views: Utah Beach and Coastal Defences: Soldiers, Prisoners and Civilians: Advance to Cherbourg and Interior to St. Lo: The Wounded: The Dead and their Cemeteries: Then, Now and Then. A knowledgeable text which does focus on elements which as so often ignored/overlooked.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin

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