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Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy (Stackpole Military History) Paperback – 15 Aug 2005

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Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy (Stackpole Military History) + Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books; New edition edition (15 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811732371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811732376
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 784,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Magnificent.' - Stephen Ambrose 'If you want to know what it was like, from Private to General, from rifle to tank, from beginning to end, this is the book for you.' - Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts

About the Author

Joseph Balkoski is a historian specializing in D-Day and the Normandy campaign. He is currently the Command Historian of the Maryland National Guard and is the author of Omaha Beach and the forthcoming Utah Beach.

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The veterans of the 1st Infantry Division could hardly believe it. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Gordon J. Shaw on 26 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
I bought this book after visiting the corresponding area in Normandy, keen to read more about the campaign rather than just D Day, as there is less about what happened afterwards. I was initially wary as some American authors over estimate American capabilities in WW2 and underplay both the British and the Germans (I'm an unbiased Brit), leaving it difficult to form a balanced view. This book is a breath of fresh air from this perspective, as the author concisely and fairly discusses the performance of the 29th division and in particular it's commanders in Normandy, comparing these fairly with their opposition. The author obviously believes in the saying "There are no bad troops, only bad officers" It did leave me rather surprised at times in what it said. No flag waving, rather an accurate depiction of events.
The scope is tight and limited and therefore allows a level of detail in describing actions that other books about the Normandy campaign can only gloss over. It does leave quite a grim picture of what the fighting was like and what the average life expectancy of the infantryman was. This was an infantry slogging match. Some unit histories are a chore to read but this wasn't. The only criticism is that more and better photographs would have been good.
I won't say "it's a must read" as everybody says that but if you want to appreciate what it was like to be a soldier in that battle, have an interest in Omaha Beach and the aftermath, it's well worth it. Read it and you'll want to go there, and if you've been, you'll want to go back. Highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 April 1999
Format: Paperback
I am an officer of the Maryland Army National Guard--a 29er--who has had the privilege of knowing Joe Balkoski and of walking the staging areas of Britain and the beaches of Normandy with him. Joe's book tells a story which is detailed, accurate and engaging. For me and for those who serve alongside me today in the Blue and Gray Division, it is a story with particular relevance. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand soldiers; for anyone who wants to understand the National Guard; and especially for those members of the 29th Division who want to know where we've been and what we're made of.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
In the bitter cold of the Ardennes Forest in 1944, the Third Reich was conducting Operation Autunm Mist, one of Hitler's last offensives. On one fateful day back in Nov 1944, my grandfather and his comrades were ambushed by an SS Panzer Division. With many of his buddies killed and severly wounded himself, he played dead in the snow while the germans kept shooting at him -- knowing that he was still alive. His only hope was to cut the phone line going back to the base camp -- that way, his base would know that he and his pals were in peril. He was one of many to make it home, but not without paying for freedom with the dearest blood of all.
Thank you for honoring their memories through your tireless effort to make sure that stories like tis one are never forgotten.
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By Mulders Freddy on 28 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In good shape and verry easy to read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 57 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Balanced research and reading that flows well 9 Jan. 2006
By Sci-fi and history reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
A well researched book that flows extremely well. The author describes the division's formation, training, and preparations for the invasion of Normandy. The author also describes the German 352nd Infantry Division (primary opponent of the 29th Infantry Division in Normandy) it's background and formation. The author then compares the commanders, each nation's tactics, and overall battle strategy for the Normandy invasion.

The description of the initial assaults into Omaha landing zone is sobering, whole companies annihilated. As the author describes the follow-on landings and the eventual US breakthrough, the author goes into a "what if" analysis. What if the German high command and Division commander followed Rommel's strategy to place more troops on the beach zones. What if one extra German infantry battalion or regiment had been defending the landing zones, would the US troops been able to move inland? What if one panzer regiment was in proximity to counterattack the first day?

The author then writes of the deadly fighting in the hedgerows in trying to capture St. Lo. This becomes a very sobering point. The author notes that the 29th Infantry Division spent 8 weeks in Normandy, and took in 15,000 replacements to maintain the fighting strength of the 14,000 soldier Division.

The 82nd Airborne Division (approx. 8500 troops) spent 4 weeks in Normandy and took approx, 45% casualties (according to official records). Quite the comparison in roles and casualties suffered when not being able to pulled from the front line to receive and integrate replacements. The similar is described in The Battle for the Hurtgen Forest (Charles MacDonald) where the US took 28,000 casualties in series of deadly infantry attacks in a deep forest that reduced whole US Infantry Divisions, including the 1st and 28th.

In the Band of Brother (Ambrose) Easy Company spent years training, as did the 29th Infantry Div, jumped into Normandy, and was pulled off the fighting line to refit while the Infantry Divisions fought straight on. Ambrose considers that Easy Company was the best in Europe in late 1944. But when one compares Easy Company (part of the 101st Airborne Division) to those in the 29th Infantry as described in this book, the 29th had it much harder trying to maintain its proficiency and effectiveness due to the time spent in the front lines. Easy company was also more fortunate not to have been a landing boat in the 1st wave into Omaha where entire companies were lost or reduced to a handful of soldiers.

One note the author makes is the different leadership styles of the commanders along with the differences and initial bias against the Reserve and National Guard officers by the active duty, West Point graduate, Division Commander. Once the campaign wore on, several ineffective active duty officers were replaced, sometimes by National Guard officers. The point of the matter, where a person gains their commission is not important as to how a person performs their role and successfully accomplishes the mission while caring for their troops. Note: Colin Powell is an ROTC graduate and achieved success based on his performance, not on where he received his commission.

Good book and different perspective that is balanced and offers good comparisons on the combatants involved.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
One of my Favorites! 13 Jun. 2000
By Mitch Reed - Published on
Format: Paperback
I could not put this book down. I can never read enough about the Normandy Invasion. Out of all the titles, I liked this one the best (sorry Mr Ambrose), it tells the story of the "Blue and Gray" division, as well as the bloody assault on Omaha Beach. It breaks down the formation of a US infantry division in great detail. Detail, is also the best word to describe the way Balkoski re creates one of the most heroic days in US Military history. If you have a tatse for Normandy books, read this last, all the rest will not measure up after.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Dedicated to the 29th 29 Jan. 2000
By Chef Scott - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At the onset of World War II, men and machines were ill prepared to fight in an overseas campaign against the Axis powers. Yet, the 29th, rose up from a National Guard unit, to a unit representing states all across our great land. Officers were replaced and men were shuffled in and out of duty until the proper man was found for the job.
Men such as General Cota, took it upon themselves to lead charges off the beach and into a hail of bullets. As he leaped and dashed across the road, he yelled for others to follow his example. In doing so his bravery trickled down to the lowest private in line and moved them off the beach! Cota's story and many others truly complete this book.
"Beyond the Beachhead" was hard to put down. In describing the maintaining of spotless jeeps to the specifcs and rigors of training to 20 July 1944, when the 35th Division took over for the 29th for a well deserved eight-day rest; Mr. Balkoski's attention to detail takes you to the point of actually smelling spent powder from the bangalore torpedos as they exploded under the wire.
This book is a must for anyone interested in World War II history, and goes far towards revealing what happened, not only on the beach, but beyond! Thank you Mr. Balkoski for all your time and effort, it's been wonderful reading!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
IN THE TOP 3! 15 Oct. 2001
By Chad R. Reihm - Published on
Format: Paperback
Of the scores of WWII histories I have read, this book has got to be in the top 3 (with Burgetts '7 roads' and Macdonalds 'Company Commander'). It traces the history of the 29th Division (including the Stonewallers of Civil War fame) from training, across the bullet infested beaches of Omaha, to the horrors of the Norman Bocage. It gives a day by day account of the drive for St.Lo that shows WWII combat at its worst. For once I have even found a book that has good maps!
But there is much more than combat recorded here. Like 'The Deadly Brotherhood', this book takes time to describe some of the elementary parts of warfare such as equipment comparisons with the Germans, communication techniques, and infantry tactics unique to Normandy. And it describes these in an extremely interesting manner. So interesting that, despite being very busy I finished it in under a week.
Overall, for a great history of the Normandy campaign and a grisly picture of WWII combat, this book can't be beat!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Contains detailed analysis into opposing unit training/equip 15 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I had read many books on D-Day as my hometown of Bedford, VA suffered the most KIA's that day (per capita) of any location in the U.S. A/116th Infantry. I am an Officer in the Maryland National Guard and the 29th and its history are still studied today. This book takes you into the 29th just prior to W.W. II, explains how the national guard officers were replaced with West Pointers, how nearly half the troops were "recycled" and how the remainder was filled from all over the country. It strips the myth of the 29th being a national guard unit per say. It details the years of training prior to the invasion, how the 29th's troops trained like they were already in the fight all the while they were in England. It details the equipment they used such as the M-1 which ultimately proved vastly inferior in fire suppression when faced with similar sized German units with two MG-42's light machine guns. It provides the foot-soldier details that so many books fail to touch upon!
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