“Brinkley knows there is sometimes a theater to war and always to its remembrance.”
“In this jewel of a book, Douglas Brinkley proves his skills as a master storyteller.”
“A gripping account of the Rangers who scaled Pointe du Hoc; and a bold, even brilliant treatment of Reaganesque stagecraft.”
“In this fascinating new study, Douglas Brinkley... sheds fresh light on the making of a crucial presidential moment.”
“A powerful tale that celebrates, and explores, the patriotism and pride inspired by America’s brave soldiers.”
“Both the novice and D-Day historian will want to read The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.”
“The Boys of Pointe du Hoc are needed today.... An important and entertaining book.”
"Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes that helped end a war." For many observers, the words spoken on D-Day, 1984, by Ronald Reagan are among the memorable commemorations of our wartime heroes. Douglas Brinkley's The Boys of Point Du Hoc is the first in-depth account of the brave U.S. Army 2d Rangers whom Reagan helped immortalize. Once again, the author of Tour of Duty and Voices of Valor has come up with a tour de force.
This short, charming, insightful book effectively interweaves the story of D-Day in the 1940s with the story of Reagan's presidency in the 1980s -- as well as Reagan's legacy. Brinkley chose his subject wisely and argues his case convincingly. If the D-Day anniversary was not quite the Reagan revolution's turning point, it surely was a useful intersection that epitomized what Brinkley calls Reagan's "penchant for historical symbolism" and embodied many of Reaganism's key themes. With chapters describing the invasion, "Reagan's Hollywood War," Peggy Noonan's speechwriting, "Reagan's Normandy Day" and the speech's aftermath, Brinkley offers enough perspectives on one moment to make a postmodernist swoon. Nevertheless, Brinkley remains focused, resonant and rooted in reality.
The Washington Post
On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Reagan chose the subtitle's battalion as a rhetorical peg on which to hang a commemoration of the entire U.S. war effort, a conceit that worked beautifully. Brinkley (Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War) begins with the story of the assault Reagan referred to, in which a single company of these elite troops scaled a hundred-foot Omaha Beach cliff to attack what was believed to be a German artillery battery capable of wrecking the landing. The guns were not there; German resistance was; more than half the Rangers were casualties. The narrative then leaps forward to Reagan's search for an appropriate 40th anniversary topic-the topic he chose rose out of his reverence for WWII combat veterans (his eyesight kept him in the U.S.)-and the speechwriting talents of Peggy Noonan. Finally, there is Reagan's fan mail, including a letter from the daughter of a Sergeant Zanetta, who was killed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. All of this is known, but Brinkley clearly and movingly tells the story of how a simple tribute became a milestone in the historiography of WWII and another feather in the great communicator's cap. Agent, Lisa Bankoff at ICM. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
If Ronald Reagan hadn't been president, no one would remember WWII. That is, writes prolific historian Brinkley (Rosa Parks, 2000, etc.), if it had not been for two speeches Reagan gave in Normandy on June 6, 1984, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Allied landings, "there may never have been Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers, Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, or numerous memorials-like the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans-built to exalt the citizen soldiers who liberated Europe." The counterfactual tragedy that a whole publishing and filmmaking niche might never have been filled did not come to pass, thanks largely to the efforts of speechwriter Peggy Noonan (and, secondarily, Anthony Dolan), who gave Reagan his words on that historic day. (To his credit, writes Brinkley, Reagan worried that the French government's awarding him the Legion d'Honneur would give him military credentials that he did not have. To his discredit, Bitburg was just around the corner.) Brinkley tells two sometimes uneasily interlocking stories. The first is that of the Ranger unit that scaled a cliff and destroyed a Nazi artillery battery, then warded off a series of counterattacks; of the 225 members of the unit, Brinkley notes, "only 99 survived the amphibious assault." The second concerns Noonan's campaign to interview surviving members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and craft memorable words for the president to commemorate the event, which she did with great care and to great effect. Tracing the lineage of the speech, Brinkley gives a special nod to Time columnist Lance Morrow, from whom Noonan borrowed heavily; it was he who evoked Shakespeare's"band of brothers" speech in Henry V, a notion that bore fruit in Steven Ambrose's book of that title published eight years later-and set off a fresh wave of interest in WWII and its aging veterans. Thus, concludes Brinkley, "The story of D-Day as the pervasive metaphor for American bravery and goodness . . . endures for the ages to ponder." He makes a solid case.