An engrossing work that cuts and pastes chaotic events for order and sense in a manner very much like fiction.
Mayo, who previously tackled The Assassination of JFK: Minute by Minute, has found through the use of montage an effective way to tell the history of these momentous events fed by thousands of smaller stories that make up the whole. Indeed, there are so many parts to the Allied invasion that the only way to tell it comprehensively is by picking and choosing and editing in the present tense, from the actions of the humble American GI, quaking with fear at the tumult coming, to the inner workings of the Map Room of Southwick House, London, where Cmdr. Dwight Eisenhower nervously awaited the weather report for June 6. All the world knew the invasion was coming, even the Germans, but the exact moment was an amazingly well-kept secret. Even when the action started, with the BBC’s reading of a Verlaine poem that acted as a coded message to the French Resistance, German intelligence and field marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Erwin Rommel, lulled by the bad weather and the effectiveness of the deceptive Allied Operation Fortitude, did not believe it was the real thing. Gradually, Mayo puts the pieces together, chronologically, aided by different fonts and typefaces, from extracts of conversations and diaries—e.g., that of Joseph Goebbels, commenting on the Fuhrer’s good mood, and Anne Frank, whose attic-bound family eagerly anticipated the invasion—to the troops’ horrifically nauseous crossing of the English Channel, the enormous strains on airborne and infantry divisions under fire on Omaha Beach, and the work of Life photographer Robert Capa.
An accessible history that conveys the havoc and vast international spread of D-Day.