June 6, 1994, marks the 50th anniversary of D-day. Astor's panoramic account of the amphibious assault should rank high in the scramble to commemorate the anniversary and, on its considerable merits, could supplant Cornelius J. Ryan's estimable The Longest Day as the standard popular reference. Drawing on interviews with scores of surviving veterans as well as archival sources, Astor (Battling Buzzards, 1993, etc.) provides a selectively detailed, wide-angle overview of the greatest air/land/sea operation in military history. While he largely allows those who participated in the epic clash to speak for themselves, he adds background information that puts the experiences of his eyewitness combatants into context: After reviewing the massive preparations required to put over 120,000 troops aboard a 5,000-vessel armada in the English Channel, he focuses on the individual units assigned to seize specific objectives. Starting with the airborne outfits that dropped behind Wehrmacht lines shortly after midnight, the author offers a graphic, sector-by-sector briefing on how the Allies gained a foothold in occupied Europe. Owing to intelligence gaffes, human fallibility, adverse weather, planning errors, and the stubborn (if uncoordinated) resistance of German defenders, the invasion's outcome hung in the balance for much of the first day. Astor does a fine job of recounting how the valor, initiative, and resourcefulness of Allied soldiers helped them prevail. He tracks these comrades-in-arms from the deadly beaches won at no small cost in casualties through their inland link-ups with those who had arrived under cover of darkness, and he closes with after-action reports on how his narrators spent the rest of the war -- and their lives. Astor all but ignores the Air Force's role in D-day. This cavil apart, he brings vividly to life the achievements of the soldiers and sailors whose invasion turned the tide of the war. The consistently absorbing text has 24 pages of contemporary photographs.