James Holland’s new book tells the story of Operation Overlord, and the fighting over the ensuing two months that led to the liberation of France, the prelude to the defeat of Germany.
Coming in at around 540 pages, it’s very approachable while remaining comprehensive. You see it from both the Allied and German sides. You see it at both the strategic level of the Generals, and also on the coalface with the soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Weaving all the strands of the campaign together to create a unifying narrative is a challenge and one that Holland is well and truly up to.
We’ve had some great books on this subject in the past, but this is a truly refreshing view. For example, while he reveals Montgomery’s flaws, he places them in context and doesn’t diminish his abililty and his success. The size and complexity of the landing and the subsequent campaign is mind-boggling. Holland has all the facts and figures that astound: just the amount of fuel used by a tank is shocking – an armoured division might use 60,000 gallons of fuel in a day. And this had to be pumped from tankers off-shore. Holland attributes the real key to the success of the campaign to the behind-the-scenese logistical efforts.
The casualties are almost unimaginable – of 500,000 Germans who served in Normandy, 300,000 are estimate to have been killed, wounded, lost or captured. The allies brought 2 million men over the channel, and suffered 209,000 casualties. The daily casualty rates were worse than in the bloodiest battles of the first world war. This is a sobering book indeed.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook