on 18 May 2014
I've just read this book by Mr Zaloga, completing it in a single session. I ordered it because I wanted to have more details about the landings at Omaha, to bring my sessions playing GMT's The Battle for Normandy to life. And boy did it do so.
Reading this title, it actually turned out to be different from what I expected it to be based on the title. I more or less expected a detailed description of the action at Omaha, much along the lines of most of Mr Zaloga's other books. But it turned out this is a book with a mission. The author is investigating why the casualty rate at Omaha was so much higher than on the other beaches, and it is centered around his theory. That makes it more scientific than literary, and it turned out that this made it bring out all the details I was looking for. So, what do you get in this book?
The author starts off by explaining the issue, namely that the casualty rate at Omaha was so much higher than on the other beaches. He then lists a number of explanations that have come up in the past. He shows each of them to be unsatisfactory and proceeds to investigate them in detail by investigating the facts.
This leads to a chapter on beach defenses as they were before the arrival of Rommel, and one that describes what Rommel did to improve the situation. It was interesting to read about the material and political limitations he faced, and how he dealt with them. The next chapter is about the opposing forces (which means Germans only this time), This deals with the 716th and 352nd Infantry Divisions in fairly great detail, including weapons tables and maps showing their dispositions.
These chapters are followed by one that describes the firepower available at Omaha, especially the artillery. Here the center of the author's theses becomes clear when he records the artillery units of 352nd Division, and the fact that Allied intelligence missed them. The next chapter deals with the beach obstacles and the one following that with the geography of the beach area. The last chapter before Mr Zaloga describes the actual landings deals with the espionage effort and clearly shows why it was so difficult to get it right.
The book concludes with a chapter dealing with the actual landings, that goes through them by strongpoint. This chapter clearly showed what all assumptions made by the planners led to in reality. In the final chapter the author challenges all previous theories about the heavy casualties and finally poses his own explanation. I thought this was a very acceptable one, certainly better and more believable than the earlier ones.
Along the text there are many photo's and illustrations of weapons, fortifications and strongpoints and tables with data about them. I got the feeling that the entire Omaha beach area was covered on a bunker by bunker basis, also listing what weapons were to be found in these fortifications and what units defended them. This was precisely the level of detail I was looking for. The scientific approach to explain the high casualty rate at Omaha was to me an added bonus. All this means I can really recommend this book to anyone interested in D-Day or Omaha Beach in particular.
on 13 January 2016
Excellent book, I like Zaloga's style and find his analysis insightful. Covers the specifics of the beach and defences in detail without repeating the stock background padding one finds in many D-Day related books. Well and usefully illustrated with good captions; took it with me to Normandy last year and found it invaluable. As a modeller and wargamer things like the listing of the locations of heavy weapons and their types, and several other interesting comparison tables relating to defences, weapons, strength at various point etc are fascinating. It is particularly good to seen useful and well presented maps.