Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings

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Overview

Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and especially Omaha, the scene of almost unimaginable human tragedy. The sea of crosses in the cemetery sitting today atop a bluff overlooking the ...

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Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings

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Overview

Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and especially Omaha, the scene of almost unimaginable human tragedy. The sea of crosses in the cemetery sitting today atop a bluff overlooking the beaches recalls to us its cost.

Most accounts of this epic story begin with the landings on the morning of June 6, 1944. In fact, however, D-Day was the culmination of months and years of planning and intense debate. In the dark days after the evacuation of Dunkirk in the summer of 1940, British officials and, soon enough, their American counterparts, began to consider how, and, where, and especially when, they could re-enter the European Continent in force. The Americans, led by U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, wanted to invade as soon as possible; the British, personified by their redoubtable prime minister, Winston Churchill, were convinced that a premature landing would be disastrous. The often-sharp negotiations between the English-speaking allies led them first to North Africa, then into Sicily, then Italy. Only in the spring of 1943, did the Combined Chiefs of Staff commit themselves to an invasion of northern France. The code name for this invasion was Overlord, but everything that came before, including the landings themselves and the supply system that made it possible for the invaders to stay there, was code-named Neptune.

Craig L. Symonds now offers the complete story of this Olympian effort, involving transports, escorts, gunfire support ships, and landing craft of every possible size and function. The obstacles to success were many. In addition to divergent strategic views and cultural frictions, the Anglo-Americans had to overcome German U-boats, Russian impatience, fierce competition for insufficient shipping, training disasters, and a thousand other impediments, including logistical bottlenecks and disinformation schemes. Symonds includes vivid portraits of the key decision-makers, from Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, to Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the naval element of the invasion. Indeed, the critical role of the naval forces—British and American, Coast Guard and Navy—is central throughout.

In the end, as Symonds shows in this gripping account of D-Day, success depended mostly on the men themselves: the junior officers and enlisted men who drove the landing craft, cleared the mines, seized the beaches and assailed the bluffs behind them, securing the foothold for the eventual campaign to Berlin, and the end of the most terrible war in human history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/03/2014
Naval historian Symonds (The Battle of Midway) makes an important contribution to the historiography of the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy with his newest, which focuses on two areas not fully explored in similar works: the strategy that led to the landings and the naval operation that landed the troops on the beach, Operation Neptune. The first half of the book concentrates on high-level planning. The second and more interesting half looks at the massive and little-known naval operation that transported the force onto the beaches of Normandy. This portion describes with great clarity the myriad specialized amphibious landing craft, equipment, skills, and training necessary to make the largest invasion in history feasible. The prose is distinguished by the author’s ability to simultaneously present an academic history supported by excellent research while captivating the reader with the individual narratives of soldiers and sailors who participated in the operation. Symonds has crafted an enjoyable and informative read for anyone interested in the history of WWII. (May)
From the Publisher
"[A]n impressive account... Most accounts of the D-Day invasion start with landing craft opening their gates as courageous men rush out into German gun fire, Symond's brilliant narrative starts years earlier with American entry into WWII. The reader gains an incredible appreciation for the logistical masterpiece completed by Allied leaders and the careful, all-important buildup of the 'special relationship' between the United States and Great Britain... a must read for this year's important 70th Anniversary of D-Day." —Breitbart.com

"[A] fascinating, multi-layered story... Symonds has an excellent eye for telling details and arresting quotes from the ordinary participants." —Daily Beast

"This superb volume is the first comprehensive account in a half century of the vital naval operations that lifted the liberating legions to France, landed them on D-Day, and supported them. Craig Symonds ranges with easy command from often fractious strategic planning sessions to the searing experiences of young sailors in the crucible of fire-drenched beaches. Neptune is at once an important scholarly contribution and a great read." —Richard B. Frank, author of Guadalcanal and Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

"Craig L. Symonds, one of America's greatest military historians, scores a triumph with Neptune. In this masterpiece of historical scholarship Symonds sheds new light on how FDR mobilized the U.S. Navy for the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. His archival work is dazzling. Highly recommended!" —Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University, CBS News Historian, and author of The Boys of Point du Hoc

"Craig Symonds brings to vivid life the Allied assault from the sea on Normandy. He has written a clear, comprehensive, and often thrilling account of the massive and complex invasion—a tale of heroism and folly, genius and muddle. Neptune is an invaluable contribution to the history and literature of D-Day." —Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder and Ike's Bluff

"The prose is distinguished by the author's ability to simultaneously present an academic history supported by excellent research while captivating the reader with the individual narratives of soldiers and sailors who participated in the operation. Symonds has crafted an enjoyable and informative read for anyone interested in the history of WWII." —Publishers Weekly

"Acclaimed naval historian Symonds has the teacher's patient touch and big-picture knowledge to accessibly present the truly incredible scope of this largely naval endeavor." —Kirkus Reviews

"Symonds employs his extensive knowledge and skill at synthesis to turn an oft-told story into vibrant on-the-scene history . . . Symonds touches all the bases . . . The landing is especially well narrated. Solid writing has the reader feeling the suspense, where the outcome is already known." —Sea History

"Neptune is unquestionably a work that makes major contributions to the field . . . a finely written piece of history . . . It is very readable and hard to put down." —Proceedings

Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-06
A fine D-Day study both technical and humanitarian. Before Operation Overlord, involving the vast amphibious landing of 1 million Allied troops across the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, there was the 13-month intricate planning and execution that made it possible: Operation Neptune. Acclaimed naval historian Symonds (Emeritus, History/U.S. Naval Academy; The Battle of Midway, 2011, etc.) has the teacher's patient touch and big-picture knowledge to accessibly present the truly incredible scope of this largely naval endeavor. He begins with an important memorandum drafted by Gen. Harold Stark at the height of the German Blitz on London laying out "a major naval and military effort in the Atlantic" to forestall British collapse. This "Germany First" thrust was subsequently taken up at the so-called ABC conference in Washington in March 1941, delineating American and British goals. The strategy involved a huge buildup of American materiel and manpower, which was not available for another year. In the meantime, Churchill and Roosevelt cooked up the joint intervention in North Africa, which would act as a kind of colossal rehearsal of the combined logistical and operational nightmare that would be needed in a cross-Channel thrust. Symonds portrays the American generals as childishly overeager for a European invasion, while the Britons remained prudent and restrained; indeed, American inexperience emerged in the first trying months of the Tunisian campaign. As the plans for a cross-Channel combined operation were assembled, Symonds reviews the staggering requirements in shipping alone—e.g., the building of key landing craft, cargo ships and Higgins boats to transport the materiel and men. He also examines the troop preparation of 1 million Americans spread across bucolic southern England in his suspenseful buildup to D-Day—a graspable, moving spectacle of men and machinery. A work that manages to be both succinct and comprehensive in scope.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199986118
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/8/2014
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 66,164
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig L. Symonds is Professor of History Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of many books on American naval history, including The Battle of Midway and Lincoln and His Admirals, co-winner of the Lincoln Prize in 2009.

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Table of Contents

PROLOGUE
1. Germany First
2. ARCADIA
3. "We've Got to Go to Europe and Fight"
4. The Mediterranean Tar Baby
5. Casablanca to COSSAC
6. Brits and Yanks
7. "Some Damn Things Called LST's"
8. SHAEF and ANCXF
9. Duck, Fox, Beaver, Tiger
10. "O.K. We'll Go"
11. D-Day: The Invasion
12. D-Day: The Beaches
13. D-Day: The Crisis
14. "The Shoreline Was Just a Shambles"
15. "A Field of Ruins"
EPILOGUE

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings is

    Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings is an outstanding contribution to the popular history of World War II, and specifically the Normandy invasion and the opening of western front in 1944. What sets this work apart from the many, many other examinations of the Normandy invasion, nearing its 70th anniversary, is the focus on the logistical and resource challenges that the military and political leadership that the United States and the British Empire faced leading up to the invasion.




    Prof. Craig Symonds, a retired history professor at the US Naval Academy and sometime instructor to British naval cadets, has shown how the challenges of logistical and resource management drove the decision making processes of the Allies, perhaps more than any other consideration. The level of involvement in senior political and military leadership over the details of rate of construction and design of the smallest landing craft (Higgins boats) is shown to be a major determinate in timing, training and allocation of major strategic decisions.




    It is remarkable the degree, all things considered, that US and British Imperial assists worked together so seamlessly, over the 2.5 year planning for this invasion. This can largely be connected to the way that senior military leaders not only needed to work with one another, but genuinely liked one another as well. All things considered, the degree that many commanders put aside personal desires for advancement for the common goals is well told. Being a naval historian, there is a degree that the naval commanders and the naval supplies, again down to the landing craft, dominate the text. And Army commanders, especial Gen. Montgomery, do not come off well in this text, but Symonds does back up his assertions with well placed citations, that still do not detract from the readability of the text.




    Finally, after the years of planning, logistical wrangling and endless meetings, this work turns over to the junior officers and enlisted men who actually had to step off the landing craft, shell the Normandy shore, and drop behind the lines to defeat German occupied France.




    As a readable account of the massive, mind boggling challenges faced by the Allies, from senior political, to manufacturing, to logistics to the enlisted man trying to get the war over with as soon as possible, this is a fine work and well recommended. The book ends shortly after the invasion begins, with only a summary of the next ten months of the Allied advance towards Germany and defeat of the NAZI state.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2014

    Good read

    Very interesting look into the origin of Operation Neptune. I would most certainly recommend reading it. However, the scope of this book is limited to the Allies' inter-politics between the U.S. and England in deciding whether to invade continental Europe. It usually gives a cursory politically reason for why a certain decision without explaining the actual planning or strategy behind the decision. Also, there is hardly any mention of Germany's defenses, expectations, planning, etc. regarding their defenses along the invaded area. Nevertheless, what it misses in these important details it makes up for in an intriguing and well-written overview of Operation Neptune.

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