- Hardcover: 380 pages
- Publisher: Stackpole Books (15 Sept. 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0811701441
- ISBN-13: 978-0811701440
- Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.1 x 3.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,060,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airbourne Operations on D-Day Hardcover – 15 Sep 2005
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"[Balkoski] provides a convincing, thoughtfully crafted narrative buttressed by facts and statistics that unequivocally recasts how one views both Utah Beach and the associated airborne operations."--Col. James R. Oman, Chairman, Department of Command, Leadership, and Management, U.S. Army War Colle"Parameters, Summer 2006" (06/01/2006) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Balkoski starts this history by discussing the inception of the Utah Beach component to the Operation Overlord plans and how the logistics were worked out. Utah Beach was not included in the original invasion plans. It is interesting to see the various politics at work within the Allied military command and Montgomery at work. It is difficult to discern truth from fiction when Montgomery is the subject; however, the information presented here could explain Eisenhower's patience in dealing with Montgomery. In The Last Battle you can see where Eisenhower's patience has worn thin by the later stages of the war.
Utah Beach's focus expands from the more narrow focus of Omaha Beach to discuss the airborne landings of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions as they were planned to ensure the success of the beach landing.Read more ›
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Some of the information is rehashed from his previous books on the subject and they would be better served if written as a volume series so he does not have to repeat himself, but all of his books are worth reading.
Utah Beach consists of 11 chapters, four of which cover the development of the plan up to the movement to Normandy. Nine appendices cover US casualties, order of battle and post-battle awards. In chapter five, about one-third of the way through the book, the US troops begin arriving in Normandy. Balkoski weaves together first-person accounts and bits and pieces from various unit histories to provide a rich narrative on the US airborne landings and subsequent amphibious landings on Utah Beach. To be fair, many of these accounts appear in other books as well, but Balkoski also adds coherence to a very complex operation that other accounts lack. The narrative is also enhanced by two dozen maps that greatly clarify the tactical situation on an almost hour-by-hour basis.
Unfortunately, Balkoski's narrative provides very little from the German perspective, which substantially reduces the value of this book. The omission of German sources is particularly glaring given that a number of other D-Day books written in the past few years have added a great deal to the understanding of German actions on 6 June 1944. Indeed, Balkoski never even takes the time to discuss the actual German resistance nests on Utah Beach, even though forty years ago books by Paul Carrel and Cornelius Ryan both included accounts from the German W-5 nest. Although one of Balkoski's objectives in this book is to expose the inaccuracy of Bradley's statement that the landing on Utah Beach was "a piece of cake," his glossing over of the actual reduction of the German resistance nests on the beach does not support this goal. Nor is it only German sources that are missing from this book. In discussing the airborne drop around Ste. Mere Eglise, Balkoski fails to mention the inadvertent drop of a couple of paratrooper sticks in the town square, their subsequent massacre by the German garrison and Private John Steele's famous hang-up on the church steeple. Indeed, Balkoski never really mentions what happened to the German garrison in the town and merely notes that six paratrooper corpses were hanging in trees when US forces occupied the town.
Reading Balkoski, one gets the impression that the Germans had the means to crush the Utah landings were it not for the efforts of the airborne troops, but this is highly debatable. The Germans were unable to mount any significant counterattacks on D-Day until toward the end of the day and none of these were more than regimental-size. Although Balkoski mentions the German 6th Paratrooper Regiments counterattack against the 101st Airborne, he does not note that this attack cost the Germans the bulk of one battalion. Balkoski is also incorrect in assessing that the US forces were able to breach Hitler's Atlantic Wall on Utah Beach in less than two hours. The Atlantic Wall did not merely consist of the various bunkers and obstacles on the beach itself, but included all the pre-invasion defensive measures in the area, such as the flooded areas that bedeviled US operations in Normandy for days after D-Day. Furthermore, although V Corps punctured a one-mile wide hole in the German defenses at Utah, the march on the eventual goal of Cherbourg would have to push through several belts of coastal defenses around that city. Lately, it has become de rigueur for US historians to condemn the Atlantic Wall as worthless, but the fact is that weakness of German forces in France necessitated such measures and by and large, these measures did cost the Allies time and casualties (these critics ignore the fact that had the Germans possessed more air and tank reserves, the obstacle belts would not have been so easy to breach).
One of the best aspects of this book is that Balkoski includes virtually everyone who participated in the invasion in this sector, including troop carrier crews, the Special Engineer brigade, various corps attachments, the US Navy and even the usually-ignored 90th Infantry Division (which landed a few battalions late on D-Day). As Balkoski notes, the usual claim in the official history that US losses on Utah on D-Day were "fewer than 200" is incorrect since that only included data from the 4th Infantry Division, not the myriad of supporting units. Throughout D-Day, German mines and artillery fire inflicted serious casualties on the packed US units on Utah Beach and surrounding areas. Furthermore, Balkoski notes that when airborne casualties and naval casualties are factored in, the landing on Utah cost a similar number of casualties to Omaha. Overall, Balkoski's latest book is well worth reading for the valuable perspectives that he provides, but the inherent limitations in a book that focuses primarily on the US viewpoint on one day of a 90-day campaign put this book in the "do not use without consulting other sources" category.
Balkoski's formal prose is given to the first 329 pp. of the book, with very informative Appendix (nine total, over 20 pp) and Notes/Bibliography (21 pp.) sections following. Balkoski covers both the airborne and seaborne portions of the Utah Beach assault fairly equally and thoroughly, and provides ample compelling evidence that contrary to conventional historical wisdom (often perpetuated by writings of the major players themselves, such as Gen. Bradley) Utah Beach was not a simple `walk-over' in comparison to the heralded bloody Omaha. As Balkoski points out the numbers of troops engaged at Utah (when seaborne, airborne and Naval forces in harms way are combined) was only slightly smaller than that engaged at Omaha, and quite contrary to popular belief, the casualties across these troops were on par with those suffered at Omaha, which was largely a seaborne invasion force. Certainly there are differences between the two beach invasions in terms of enemy troops and positions, but as Balkoski argues, in large part the solid invasion preparation, done by VII Corps commander Maj Gen Joseph (`Lightning Joe') Lawton Collins and 4th Inf Div commander Maj Gen Raymond (`Tubby') Barton, lead the `bloodless' (of course a misnomer) victory on Utah Beach as much as anything. Balkoski's research is tremendous and other historian/writers should take note: This is the way to produce a historical piece that will stand the test of time and be among the required `texts' of history students for a long time to come.
In terms of pure enjoyment (aside from the solid scholarly contribution), Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-day, June 6, 1944 is a real page-turner. Balkoski is able to weave a largely well-known story into one that is still gripping. He also, by virtue of his probing research, is able to provide enough new material and insight to make this gripping story compelling even to the most versed students of WWII history. This is a book all interested in the American experience in WWII will enjoy reading. The late Prof. Stephen Ambrose is often given great (and deserved) accolade for his abilities to convey the horrors and sacrifice of war to the masses, but Joseph Balkoski deserves similar praise and will hopefully achieve a similar level of `celebrity' for his prowess for historical research/writing.
In the end I can't recommend Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-day, June 6, 1944 highly enough. This book, with it's `companion' Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944, represent a pair of books on the Americans at D-Day that should be read by armchair and professional historians alike. 5 Stars!!!