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A very comprehensive, well written and probably as clear as humanly possible account of this incredible D-Day fight
on 12 May 2014
I liked this book and I consider it as a very precious thing, because it was a pleasure to read it and I learned from it A LOT!
This book describes comprehensively the installation of a German powerful coastal battery on Pointe-du-Hoc, a point from which it was possible to engage allied transport schips approaching both Utah and Omaha beaches. It then describes allied planning of operations necessary to destroy this target, continues with allied air raids and shelling of the site by warships, before we finally go to the landing by US Rangers itself. Author described also the landing on Omaha Beach at Vierville of those Rangers who couldn't arrive to the main target. They were then used by general Cota as shock troops in the breakthrough from the beach. The order given by him at that occasion, "Rangers, lead the way!", became from then on the motto of this whole elite formation.
The description of events goes well beyond the capture of the gun positions and guns themselves, as we can also follow the more and more desperate fight against German counter-attacks until finally the relief force arrival on D+2.
I learned a lot from this book but probably the most important thing was the importance of RAF air raid in the morning of 6 June which saw the use of 108 (one hundred eight) Lancasters against just this one coastal battery - as it turned out later, during the post-battle analysis of events, this attack in itself more or less put the whole battery of business. But NOT definitely, as it was proved when Rangers discovered the guns abandoned, but still very much operational and with plenty of ammo, just waiting for their crews to come back... The fire support provided by old battleship USS "Texas" was also extremely precious for Rangers as by partly breaching the cliffs and allowing the use of ladders it certainly saved dozens of lives.
I rather disagree with the conclusion by author that with the benefit of hindsight the raid seems to not have been necessary - those powerful guns WERE operational and without Rangers attack, with just a minimum effort German defenders could (and almost certainly would) have use them against allied landings, if not in the first hours of D-Day then without a doubt somewhere in the afternoon. Their destruction was therefore certainly worthy the casualties suffered, because on this "longest day in the history" every and each precaution had to be taken to make the landings a success. And a success they were - in part because Rangers indeed "led the way"...
Maps are EXCELLENT, illustrations are good and the lone colour table is honest (better than the cover illustration). The description of the battle may not always seem entirely clear, but this is because as most modern infantry engagements this fight simply was very complex and unavoidably even occasionally confused (hence the heart-breaking cases of friendly fire) - but as far as my personal taste is concerned, Steven Zaloga described this battle as clearly as it was humanly possible. In some places repeated readings are needed to follow the events, but it is nevertheless possible to understand them - and analysing and understanding clearly this incredible exploit is certainly worth every effort.
Bottom line, this is a very good book. To buy, read and keep. Enjoy!