Normandy: The Landings to the Liberation of Paris

Normandy: The Landings to the Liberation of Paris

by Olivier Wieviorka, M. B. DeBevoise
     
 

The Allied landings on the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944, have assumed legendary status in the annals of World War II. But in overly romanticizing D-day, Olivier Wieviorka argues, we have lost sight of the full picture. Normandy offers a balanced, complete account that reveals the successes and weaknesses of the titanic enterprise.

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Overview

The Allied landings on the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944, have assumed legendary status in the annals of World War II. But in overly romanticizing D-day, Olivier Wieviorka argues, we have lost sight of the full picture. Normandy offers a balanced, complete account that reveals the successes and weaknesses of the titanic enterprise.

In addition to describing the landings with precision and drama, Wieviorka covers the planning and diplomatic background, Allied relationships, German defensive preparations, morale of the armies, economics and logistics, political and military leaders, and civilians’ and soldiers’ experience of the fighting. Surprisingly, the landing itself was not the slaughter the general staff expected. The greater battle for Normandy—waged on farmland whose infamous hedgerows, the bocage, created formidable obstacles—took a severe toll not only in lives lost, but on the survivors who experienced this grueling ordeal.

D-day, Wieviorka notes, was a striking accomplishment, but it was war, violent and cruel. Errors, desertions, rivalries, psychological trauma, self-serving motives, thefts, and rapes were all part of the story. Rather than diminishing the Allied achievement, this candid book underscores the price of victory and acknowledges the British, American, and Canadian soldiers who dashed onto the Normandy beaches not as demigods, but as young men.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Accounts of the Normandy campaign are not in short supply, but this one from a French military historian delivers an energetic, mildly revisionist overview. Historians tend to write that lack of resources postponed a 1943 cross-channel attack, but Wieviorka instead pins the delay on the diversion of men from Europe to other theaters. Only at the November 1943 Tehran conference did FDR commit to a 1944 invasion despite Churchill's objections. Wieviorka vividly paints the frantic six-month scramble to organize the landing despite critical shortages, tensions between commanders and Churchill's persistent reluctance. The author excels in describing the complex campaign to conceal details of the invasion, assisted by Germany's incompetent intelligence service. The June 6 landing proved much easier than predicted, but the advance inland, largely ignored by planners, was slow and costly. Wieviorka's final chapters describing de Gaulle's maneuvers to wrest control of France from both the Allies and his French rivals may deliver more than American readers want to know. But aided by a fluent translation, this is an engrossing history of the Normandy campaign. 10 maps, 3 charts. (June)

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Financial Times

This is a useful and provocative book, drawing our attention to the complex relationship between servicemen, civilians, and national authorities in the newly liberated state.
— Richard Holmes

Chicago Sun-Times

Possibly the best summary of the Normandy campaign I have yet read...[Wieviorka] brings the contradictory, harsh realities out from the margins into the center of the page.
— Roger K. Miller

Choice

Engaging and well written, French historian Wieviorka's analysis of the Normandy campaign superbly illustrates the political and military complexities of coalition warfare. Perhaps more striking, this cogent narrative of the 1944 Anglo-American amphibious operation and subsequent ground campaign in northwest France powerfully demonstrates the importance of logistics in modern mechanized warfare, the critical role of intelligence and deception in Allied success, and the limitations of airpower in ground operations...Wieviorka's fresh perspective is thoroughly thought-provoking and a welcome addition to the historiography.
— D. R. Snyder

Stanley Hoffmann
This remarkable work rests on a series of sharp and convincing analyses worthy of a latter-day Thucydides. There isn't any aspect of the colossal and risky enterprise that Wieviorka has neglected. He is as impressive in interpreting the political calculations and motivations of the leaders as in describing the battles and evaluating the gaps between military plans and achievements. His discussion of the psychological trauma of the Allied soldiers is both moving and essential. On a topic on which so much has been written, Wieviorka has come as close to a definitive treatment as one can expect.
Financial Times - Richard Holmes
This is a useful and provocative book, drawing our attention to the complex relationship between servicemen, civilians, and national authorities in the newly liberated state.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger K. Miller
Possibly the best summary of the Normandy campaign I have yet read...[Wieviorka] brings the contradictory, harsh realities out from the margins into the center of the page.
Choice - D. R. Snyder
Engaging and well written, French historian Wieviorka's analysis of the Normandy campaign superbly illustrates the political and military complexities of coalition warfare. Perhaps more striking, this cogent narrative of the 1944 Anglo-American amphibious operation and subsequent ground campaign in northwest France powerfully demonstrates the importance of logistics in modern mechanized warfare, the critical role of intelligence and deception in Allied success, and the limitations of airpower in ground operations...Wieviorka's fresh perspective is thoroughly thought-provoking and a welcome addition to the historiography.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674028388
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
06/15/2008
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

What People are saying about this

This remarkable work rests on a series of sharp and convincing analyses worthy of a latter-day Thucydides. There isn't any aspect of the colossal and risky enterprise that Wieviorka has neglected. He is as impressive in interpreting the political calculations and motivations of the leaders as in describing the battles and evaluating the gaps between military plans and achievements. His discussion of the psychological trauma of the Allied soldiers is both moving and essential. On a topic on which so much has been written, Wieviorka has come as close to a definitive treatment as one can expect.
Stanley Hoffmann
This remarkable work rests on a series of sharp and convincing analyses worthy of a latter-day Thucydides. There isn't any aspect of the colossal and risky enterprise that Wieviorka has neglected. He is as impressive in interpreting the political calculations and motivations of the leaders as in describing the battles and evaluating the gaps between military plans and achievements. His discussion of the psychological trauma of the Allied soldiers is both moving and essential. On a topic on which so much has been written, Wieviorka has come as close to a definitive treatment as one can expect. --(Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University)

Meet the Author

Olivier Wieviorka is Professor of History at the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan.

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