Our Finest Day: D-Day, June 6, 1944

Our Finest Day: D-Day, June 6, 1944

by Mark Bowden
     
 

D-Day is one of the significant turning points in wartime history and was the largest single military operation ever launched. In Our Finest Day, best-selling author Mark Bowden reveals the human faces behind this brutal battle, using reproductions of original documents. Included in these pages are personal letters and poignant journal entries from soldiers, secret

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Overview

D-Day is one of the significant turning points in wartime history and was the largest single military operation ever launched. In Our Finest Day, best-selling author Mark Bowden reveals the human faces behind this brutal battle, using reproductions of original documents. Included in these pages are personal letters and poignant journal entries from soldiers, secret dispatches and pages from code books, and strategic battle plans and maps. These removable artifacts-from the collection of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans-allow readers to hold a piece of history in their hands. Imagine holding a replica of the last letter written home by a soldier as he waited nervously for the attack to begin, or the message sent to Allied headquarters in England informing them that the beaches had been taken. From the commanders of Operation Overlord to the airborne troopers and resistance fighters, Our Finest Day introduces readers to the brave men who risked their lives and triumphed over Hitlers Germany.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Ever since Stephen Ambrose's D-Day stormed the best-seller lists in 1994, a wave of books on the subject has followed.
One of the latest, Our Finest Day: D-Day, June 6, 1944, offers something new: "removable artifacts," copies from the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, that aim to put the battle right in readers' hands.
One page holds part of a pocket guide to France that was issued to all the troops - with reminders such as "You are a guest of France." A folder marked "top secret" holds the battle plan for an infantry division. A small piece of paper contains Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's famous "Orders of the Day" that told participants, "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months."
The 30 pages are filled with photos. Author Mark Bowden, who also wrote Black Hawk Down, here gives a complete if cursory overview of the day that turned the tide of World War II.
Even with an introduction by Mr. Ambrose, the book would run the risk of adding up to a gimmick - were it not for its inclusion of blood-saturated first-person accounts from combatants, such as this one from Pvt. William Marshall:
"I could not avoid stepping over bodies as I ran down the beach...Bodies, strewn from the water's edge to the dune line, rested in every imaginable position and every condition of integrity. Some were isolated, others in groups. They represented every rank and grade from private to colonel, impressing the youthful mind that in death all were brought to the same level of earthly value."
More than any "removable artifact," such descriptions bring to life, the horrors of the battle - and remind readers why the nation honors those people who willingly endured it. -The Dallas Morning News
Publishers Weekly
Both Ambrose and Bowden have been in the news lately, Ambrose for allegations of plagiarism and Bowden as the author of the now screen-adapted Black Hawk Down. Ambrose's contribution is minimal, a brief foreword that sets the stage for Operation Overlord, as the D-Day invasion was called. Bowden's text for this vivid, thick-paged picture book is peppered with first-person accounts of the event by journalist A.J. Liebling and other enlisted men, but is sometimes hard to read among the photos and illustrations. Produced in conjunction with the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, the book is chock-full of D-Day mementos tucked into Griffin & Sabine-style compartments from Eisenhower's handwritten notes to the troops to a replica of the tag on a grenade pin. Highlights among the texts included in pockets and fake manila envelopes are a disarmingly quaint "Pocket Guide to France," with line drawings and common French phrases on the back; a reproduction of the front page of the New York Times from June 6 with news of the "Great Invasion" in bold letters; and the Operational Orders for the 29th infantry division, stamped "top secret" in red across the top. The overall tone is appropriately patriotic and solemn, evocative of a time when men were men and invasions were invasions. (On sale June 6) Forecast: Some of the photographs and first-person testimony are probably too gory for younger children, but the artifacts and relatively short explanatory text should hook teenagers and adults. The absence of a big anniversary (it's 57 years this time around) means less of a push, though grandfathers should expect this one on June 16. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In what could be described as an adult picture book of the D-Day invasion, the best-selling author of Black Hawk Down gives readers a brief overview of Operation Overlord. The book, which was produced in cooperation with the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, uses a multicolored text, illustrations, and photographs to create what Bowden calls "an interactive history with removable artifacts." Bowden effectively uses "pullouts" of personal diaries and letters of Allied soldiers along with other facsimile documents, which include reconnaissance maps and Eisenhower's inspirational letter to the troops just before the 1944 invasion. The text outlines the preparations, execution, and outcome of the landing from both the Allied and the German perspectives. The personal side of war is also revealed in diaries and letters. Students will find many facts and much analysis crammed into this small work about a monumental event in world history. Although the book's unusual format (with its removable facsimile documents) may be problematic for some libraries, both school and public libraries should consider it for purchase. David Alperstein, Queens Borough P.L., Jamaica, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811830508
Publisher:
Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
04/18/2002
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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Potential Pitfalls

Eisenhower had agonized over this airborne assault more than over any other part of the plan. Paratroopers were excellent for launching small surprise attacks, but they were always in danger of being surrounded and outgunned once they were on the ground. With only the weapons and ammunition they could carry, the airborne troops could not fight for long. They might seize roads and towns, but if they were not reinforced quickly by the divisions landing on the beaches, they would be routed. Dropping soldiers from airplanes was still an inexact science, and this drop would take place at night. It was likely that large portions of the 82nd and 101st, no matter how well trained and highly motivated, would end up dangerously scattered across the countryside. The coastlines over which gliders and transport planes would have to pass were thick with antiaircraft batteries. And the landscape of the peninsula was uniquely unsuitable for airborne assault. Many of the Norman fields had been flooded by the Germans to stymie an Allied airborne attack. Each small plot of land was framed by virtually impenetrable hedgerows, man-made earthen barriers six or more feet high, thick with vegetation. Few of the fields were large enough to support a glider landing, and just weeks before the invasion, Rommel had begun studding them with posts, nicknamed "Rommel's asparagus," that would tear landing gliders apart. Mobile units of German troops were in the area, so airborne troops who did manage to land safely and regroup would likely come under immediate attack.

But seizing the northernmost peninsula port town of Cherbourg was, in Eisenhower's opinion, a "prerequisite to real success in the whole campaign." Utah was the only available beach on the upper flank of the peninsula, and it was especially unsuited for an invasion. Just beyond the treacherous dunes was a vast lagoon interlaced by a network of causeways. Unless the causeways and towns of the upper peninsula were secured before the amphibious landing, German forces could pin down the entire western half of the invasion on the beach.

Thus the airborne drop was seen as vital to the success of Overlord. But one of Eisenhower's top commanders, British Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, was dead set against it. Hammering home all the hazards and uncertainties, he protested that dropping the 82nd and 101st would result in "the futile slaughter" of two fine divisions. Leigh-Mallory felt that the topography and conditions were much more favorable for the British airborne units on the invasion's eastern flank, but that the obstacles on the Cotentin Peninsula were simply too great to be overcome. Eisenhower would later call the decision "soul-wracking":

Over and over I reviewed each step….I realized, of course, that if I deliberately disregarded the advice of my technical expert on the subject, and his predictions should prove accurate, then I would carry to my grave the unbearable burdens of conscience justly accusing me of the stupid, blind sacrifice of thousands of the flower of our youth. Outweighing any personal burden, however, was the possibility that if he were right the effect of the disaster would be far more than local: it would be likely to spread to the entire force.

Concluding that to cancel the airborne assault would mean canceling the Utah Beach landing, which Eisenhower regarded as essential for the entire operation's success, he ordered the drop included in the assault plan. He could only pray that it would succeed. It was just one of a number of gambles on which the whole operation would depend.

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