by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Overlord, The Illustrated History of the D-Day Landings
By Steven J. Zaloga and Ken Ford
INTRODUCTIONOsprey is perhaps best known for concise works of about 100 pages overviewing specific events, weapons, units, and people. They also publish comprehensive and highly detailed titles of which Overlord, The Illustrated History of the D-Day Landings is one. Co-authored by the esteemed historians Ken Ford and Steven J. Zaloga, this book provides close analysis of the plans and build-up to D-Day, the execution, the battles, and the results. It is full of hundreds of images of original artwork and maps from the Osprey archives, and photographs. Fans and students of Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers or Antony Beevor’s D-Day will find a great deal of familiar accounts here, perhaps even new information. This book complements D-Day Companion by Osprey.
CONTENTMessers. Ford and Zaloga created an erudite work about the massive D-Day event. I have only read a couple of D-Day subjects by Osprey so I cannot comment whether this book is a compilation of previous titles, or a fresh account of the facts. Regardless, I consider this the most detailed work about Overlord that I have read. The writing style works well. To me, the text focuses on the important aspects without overwhelming minutia.
Overlord is presented first within the context of the strategic situation leading to the liberation of northwest Europe. Then the preparation is examined, followed by the multi-part presentation of the actual attack. Overlord was a huge corporate undertaking that wrote many personal and group stories. Recounted is General Cota on the beach with the stalled Ranger attack; German counterattacks; 10.5 cm howitzers; PaK 43/41s at Omaha Beach; “Panzer” Meyer and the murder of the Canadians by Hitlerjugend at Ardenne Abbey; Major Howard and Pegasus Bridge; DD Tanks and the initial Commonwealth forces' rapid push towards Caen, to name a few. Many charts and tables support the text.
The authors conclude the book first with a brief synopsis of the painful breakout and advance from the beaches. A fair amount of detail goes into these stories: Michael Wittmann destroying 22nd Armor Brigade at Villers Bocage receives just a few lines although it does have a detailed 3-D map. A chapter about the battlefields today rounds out the book.
The book is organized into many chapters and four special parts:
• Background to D-Day
• Part I, Omaha Beach
• Part II, Utah Beach and the US Airborne Landings
• Part III, Sword Beach and the British Airborne Landings
• Part IV, Gold and Juno Beaches
• The Normandy Beaches Today
• Further Reading
Each Part is broken down into chapters such as:
* Opposing Commanders
* Opposing Plans
* Opposing Armies
These are further divided into sections, e.g., The Battle for Carentan, The Landings: Sword Beach, etc.
ILLUSTRATIONS, MAPS, PHOTOGRAPHSGraphic support of the text is provided with hundreds of photographs, maps and original Osprey artwork. Although by far there are too many to list, a examples are:
1. LANDINGS AT EASY RED SECTOR, 0730hrs ; assault troops of 1/16th Infantry prepare for the LCVP ramp to lower and dash into the firestorm.
2. THE 2ND RANGERS AT POINTE-DU-HOC; preparing to scale the cliffs.
3. PEGASUS BRIDGE ; Lt Den Brotheridge leads No. 1 platoon into the attack across the canal bridge at Benouville.
4. NO. 4 COMMANDO MOVES INLAND ; troops and a DD tank attack the battery at Ouistreham/Riva Bella.
5. THE CAPTURE OF STRONGPOINT HILLMAN ; 1st Suffolks pass a knocked-out 5cm KwK.
6. GERMAN COUNTERATTACK ON THE RIVER MERDERET, 1400hrs D-DAY; Luftlande grenadiers and tanks attacking Company A, 1/505th PIR.
Quality of the photographs is high. (Despite being difficult to photograph for this review! The book is too thick to lay flat.) Many are familiar to almost anyone who has read a work on Overlord. There are several that are new to me. Ranging from studio quality to photos obviously taken by amateurs, there are none I would consider to be just stuck in as page filler. A couple appear to be stills captured from motion picture negatives.
Plenty of full color maps orient the reader, including several of Osprey’s ‘Birds-eye’ 3-D types. They allow you to visualize the operations and battles, and why and how some objectives were important.
CONCLUSIONWhether you are a historian, enthusiast, modeler, student or researcher, the authors have packed a wealth of information into this remarkable book. Messers. Ford and Zaloga need no introduction and with their names on the spine you are assured an authoritative work of not only fact, but also respected interpretation and insight. An excellent selection of photos, maps, charts, and artwork.