NEPTUNE by Craig L. Symonds


The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings
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A fine D-Day study both technical and humanitarian.

Before Operation Overlord, involving the vast amphibious landing of 1 million Allied troops across the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, there was the 13-month intricate planning and execution that made it possible: Operation Neptune. Acclaimed naval historian Symonds (Emeritus, History/U.S. Naval Academy; The Battle of Midway, 2011, etc.) has the teacher’s patient touch and big-picture knowledge to accessibly present the truly incredible scope of this largely naval endeavor. He begins with an important memorandum drafted by Gen. Harold Stark at the height of the German Blitz on London laying out “a major naval and military effort in the Atlantic” to forestall British collapse. This “Germany First” thrust was subsequently taken up at the so-called ABC conference in Washington in March 1941, delineating American and British goals. The strategy involved a huge buildup of American materiel and manpower, which was not available for another year. In the meantime, Churchill and Roosevelt cooked up the joint intervention in North Africa, which would act as a kind of colossal rehearsal of the combined logistical and operational nightmare that would be needed in a cross-Channel thrust. Symonds portrays the American generals as childishly overeager for a European invasion, while the Britons remained prudent and restrained; indeed, American inexperience emerged in the first trying months of the Tunisian campaign. As the plans for a cross-Channel combined operation were assembled, Symonds reviews the staggering requirements in shipping alone—e.g., the building of key landing craft, cargo ships and Higgins boats to transport the materiel and men. He also examines the troop preparation of 1 million Americans spread across bucolic southern England in his suspenseful buildup to D-Day—a graspable, moving spectacle of men and machinery.

A work that manages to be both succinct and comprehensive in scope.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-19-998611-8
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014


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