March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
There are few dates in history that resonate as deeply as the 6th of June 1944. Operation Overlord, perhaps more commonly remembered as the Invasion of Normandy, was one of the largest military operations in the history of human conflict; staggering in its complexity and sheer magnitude. And for these reasons it has passed on into legend. Yet stories that become legends have a tendency, over time, to stray from the truth.
Renowned military historian, Max Hastings, set out to separate fact from fiction: his assertion,for example, that the Germans were a superior fighting force was met with criticism upon the book’s publication in 1984. Yet since then this has become a widely accepted truth. Inferior in numbers, supplies, and lacking any substantial air cover, the German forces mounted stiff and stubborn resistances against the Allies. Other lesser known facts include: the small percentage of rifles actually discharged during infantry engagements, and Montgomery’s arrogant and complacent attitude towards his superiors (Eisenhower, Churchill, and Brooke).
Perhaps the strongest feature of Hastings’ retelling is the inclusion of accounts from all groups involved in the conflict: American, German,Canadian, British soldiers sharing their experiences and memories; French civilians recounting the horrors of the war. His narrative flows seamlessly between the large-scale drama unfolding in France and the tales of individuals: the story of a lone French girl saving drowning soldiers; a British orderly suffering from combat exhaustion. The author offers both praise, to Allied and German forces, and scathing criticism where deserved.
Readers may feel bogged down by the great detail with which Hastings embellishes his narrative, but it is this attention to detail that allows for a precise and clear understanding of the events. And without such particulars the book would have felt incomplete.
For anyone seeking to understand this pivotal moment in modern history, Overlord by Hastings comes highly recommended and earns several points for simplicity, precision, clarity, and insight.