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Air War D-Day: The Build Up (Hardback)

WWII Aviation D-Day & Normandy World War Two Aviation

By Martin Bowman
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Series: Air War D-Day
Pages: 186
ISBN: 9781781591192
Published: 23rd November 2012

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This is the first volume of a most impressive tribute and comprehensive five part work that includes a multitude of personal military and civilian accounts of every aspect of air, land, paratroop and seaborne operations on D-Day, 6th June. At fifteen minutes after midnight on 6 June 1944 'Operation Overlord', the Allied invasion of Hitler's Festung Europe, became reality. Almost exactly four years earlier the British Expeditionary Force had been forced to retreat to Dunkirk in the face of the German Blitzkrieg. D-Day was the climax of almost two years' planning. Had it not been for stormy weather in the Channel area, June 5 would have gone down in history as D-Day, the day that Britain and the Allies returned to France in force with the aim of liberating not only France but the rest of Europe from Nazi domination. The logistics of landing almost 250,000 men by amphibious craft and several thousand vehicles including tanks, hundreds of artillery pieces and about 4,000 tons of supplies on five beaches along a 65-mile stretch of heavily fortified coastline are almost unimaginable yet close to 7,000 ships from battleships to landing craft, almost a quarter of a million sailors and fighting men and a massive aerial umbrella of 3,000 RAF and USAAF fighters, fighter-bombers and heavy bombers, headed for France and more than 1,000 transport aircraft dropped more than 17.000 paratroopers to secure the flanks and beach exits of the assault area. Air superiority in the invasion areas was total. By the end of D-Day, the Allies had landed as many as 155,000 troops; in the eastern sector the British and Canadians landed on Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches while the Americans landed on two beaches in the west, at Utah and Omaha. It was a day that changed the whole course of the war and it resulted in the first steps to final victory in Europe. Yet Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel who took command Army Group B in northern France in January 1944 had said: 'We'll have only one chance to stop the enemy and that's while he's in the water. Everything we have must be on the coast... the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.'

The author's use of direct reporting is this series' main thrust and gives the view from the beach, as well as from the English towns and ports from where the invaders departed. He has gone to great lengths to bring D-Day back to life by using copious quotes from American and British and Dominion forces and fighting men, sailors and airmen from the occupied countries and their German opponents and French civilians. They tell of incredible, illuminating and often under-stated actions of extraordinary courage, companionship and a common fear of death or serious injury which offer a more personalised view of D-Day in actions that were at times very confused. A narrative of events contained in well-placed timelines cuts through the fog of battle to explain the overall situation from well-placed planning to the successful conclusion to give an overall picture of each phase of the battle and supporting air and airborne operations. Well illustrated with well chosen historical photographs gathered from the archives, 'D-Day: The First Steps To Victory' provides a fascinating insight into the myriad operations on 6th June 1944.

This is a very good account of the preparations for the invasion of France in 1944, and of the very first encounters with the enemy on that historic day. It offers on the one hand autobiographical accounts by names participants, and on the other hand very well researched background facts separated from the general text for ease of reference. This approach works very convincingly, leaving the reader well informed to follow events as they unfold. There is also a useful glossary, a table of comparative ranks, a list of all the Allied Air Forces available for Operation Overlord and many other nuggets of valuable information. Recommended.

The Bulletin

Martin Bowman has written many, many Second World War books. Here he tackles the huge task of D-day, Operation Overlord. He has five volumes of this series to achieve the task.

The D-day invasion of German occupied Europe was an immense logistical task that may never be surpassed. So how do you produce a record of this mammouth task in a new, unseen fashion? Well Martin Bowman has done so with "Air War D-Day: The Build Up".

The book is an array of statements, letters and speeches by a vast amount of people involved with the D-day invasion. They range from the Commander in Chief, Dwight D. Eisenhower to Privates, Doctors, British, Americans, French, Germans, The King of England, in fact anyone that Mr Bowman thought shed a factual light on the subject.
The result is a fresh slant on a well told story.

As with nearly all World War 2 books there is a liberal amount of humour interspersed with the facts and figures of the operation as told by so many participants.

An excellent start to a WW2 series.

WW2 connection

“Air War D-Day” is the first in a series telling the story of the liberation of Europe. The format is the same as “Forgotten Voices”, using quotes and recollections from those who were present.

Bowman is an established author with an impressive track record. He has drawn on an extensive array of interviews, books and official reports from the time. British, American, German, civilians, soldiers, airmen and sailors are all represented. The American contribution is especially strong. Each tale provides a brief profile of the individual and unit, so the book is useful for the beginner.

Very helpfully, there is a seven page glossary of acronyms and equipment, especially useful for the different types of landing craft. There is also a table of comparative ranks, numerous maps and photographs. Fact panels are also dispersed throughout the book, detailing the numerical contribution of the various countries involved, Hobart’s “Funnies” and counter-espionage.

The series will be a valuable addition to anyone with an interest in the Normandy campaign.

Peter Weedon

About Martin Bowman

Martin Bowman is one of Britain’s foremost aviation historians and has written many books and articles.

He lives in Norwich .

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