Most helpful positive review
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An outstanding book
on 11 June 2004
I first read this many years ago (it's an old book (1959)), but prodded by the 60th anniversary celebrations, I bought another copy and re-read it. It retains its hold even over 40 years after it was written. Ryan presents the story simply and well, often letting the participants tell their own story (and back then the invasion had "only" been 25 years before and many more of the participants were still alive and their memories were fresh).
One of the most amazing things for me was how ordinary guys, placed in extraordinary situations, can do extraordinary things. Like the young, inexperienced Americans, caught in the bloody shambles of Omaha Beach, who nevertheless fought their way off that beach and gained a beachhead. Or the British paratroopers, dropped to take a heavily-defended German artillery strongpoint of over 250 men, and having lost all but 150 of their 700 men and all their heavy equipment, nevertheless did it. Or the US Army Rangers who scaled the nine-story cliffs of Pointe du Hoc in the face of intense small arms and grenade bombardment to take out big German guns (which turned out not to be there yet!).
To emphasise this, Ryan presents in the end a list of his interviewees and what they were doing then (when the book was published). "Bricklayer", "shop assistant", "chemical worker", "male nurse". These extraordinary heroes of the greatest amphibious operation ever undertaken against the foulest tyranny ever seen had simply disappeared back into ordinary life.
Ryan also tells the story from the German side, dispassionately and with sensitivity, reflecting the fact that these other ordinary guys were also only doing their job.
In the end, what shines through is the human qualities of all the participants, on both sides. If only our various governments would use these properly, and not misuse them, as Adolf Hitler did, we could have a much better world