Tuesday, July 29, 2008

{Review} Spearheading D-Day: American Special Units of the Normandy Invasion by Jonathan Gawne

This book is a real find for those who love to wallow in the excruciating details of military operations.This is most definitely not a coffee table book. The author has investigated and thoroughly documented all those small units that assisted the landings of the Allies in Normandy, as well as examining not so much as "who" landed as much as "how" they were equipped and with "what". His emphasis is not so much on the people as on their equipment and operations. Examples? There are loading diagrams for the landing craft, showing where each soldier was positioned (or intended to be positioned). We shown in photos and text how different navy personnel marked their helmets and jackets to differentiate themselves from the men who were landing. We learn how soldiers packed their packs, what kind of uniform they wore, how they protected their weapons from salt water (plastic bags!) and what other items they carried.

There is even a detailed (heck, everything in this book is detailed!) chapter about the combat vest that was used only on the Normandy operation and not by all troops, who made them and how they were made (and how the US Marines tested it and decided against adopting the vest for their landing troops).

This is not to say that the book overlooks the operations carried out by these units. Their actions on D-Day are described in detail and often we are also informed of their subsequent actions through the end of the war.

I have at times described books as "lavishly" illustrated, but this book requires a stronger adjective. The included photographs and drawings are simply incredible in detail and abundance. There are many photos of objects from museums or collections, expertly placed and photographed for clarity. There are even posed photographs of re-enactors to show off different equipment and uniforms.

You don't have to be a D-Day fan to enjoy this book. I would very much recommend it for any military history enthusiast who revels in the details and minutiae of military accoutrements and equipment.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book

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