Omaha Beach in 24 Hours and 349 Pages

Review by Joseph B. Rosenberg

Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944
By Joseph Balkoski
Stackpole Books, 2004

Roosevelt and Churchill put everything on the line that awful, glorious day.
The June 6, 1944 Allied attack against Germany on the beaches of Normandy was the definitive engagement of our Armed Forces in World War II. As Joseph Balkoski shows in his detailed text, D-Day was the culmination of extensive military training and planning, but when H-Hour arrived on the morning of June 6, little went as planned. It took the resourcefulness, courage, and sheer will of US field commanders and our troops to turn defeat into victory.

In 349 pages of rapid-reading text and interviews, Balkoski plots the progress of that single day, which led to the Nazis' defeat 11 months later. From Pearl Harbor onward, Roosevelt, Churchill and their military staffs planned the recapture of continental Europe. Slowly getting the equipment and training their forces needed while resisting the attempt of Joseph Stalin to invade France earlier, the two leaders put everything on the line that awful, glorious day. The casualties on that D-day were enormous but in the end Generals like Leonard Gerow, Clarence Huebner and Charles Gearhardt motivated their troops to push past the beaches and hedgerows of Normandy. It was as if Brian Billick of the Baltimore Ravens had drilled his men for three years before a crucial game against a mortal enemy.

On September 11, 2001, US soil was attacked as it had been at Pearl Harbor. Although we have some strong military leaders there are no Harold Stimsons or George Catlett Marshalls to keep civilians from interfering with military planning.

I imagine if D-Day had been on cable, Ike would have been relieved after the disastrous morning of June 6. The Battle of the Bulge would have emptied out the Pentagon. Thanks to wartime censorship, however, few knew until after the war the horrors of combat. This book celebrates our troops' bravery, courage and focus.

Balkoski notes that over 5,000 American troops were killed or maimed on D-Day. More would have been sacrificed if US soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines had not trained and fought so hard against tyranny on D-Day. We need to honor them now more than ever, and although we may disagree on how we ended up in places like Iraq, we need to honor the American ladies and gentleman who are policing our terrorist-infected world.

I hope military historians like Joe Balkoski never have to write about another D-Day.

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This story was published on July 26, 2004.