“Remembering D-Day: The Plan, the Invasion, Survivor Stories”
by Ronald J. Drez.
National Geographic Society, Washington D.C., 2004, 61 pages, Grades 4-6.
World War II was a catastrophic event in world history, resulting in the death and oppression of millions of people. In 1939, Hitler’s German Army invaded Poland, starting the war. Within a year, the Nazis controlled much of Europe, including France.
With the fall of France, there was the very real possibility that the Nazis would impose their distorted and evil values on Western Civilization. But Great Britain successfully thwarted the Nazi invasion of England in 1940. As the war continued, the United States joined Great Britain (Allies) in the battle to overthrow Hitler’s Germany. But to do so, a land invasion on the shores of France would be necessary. It took years of planning and huge expenditures in manpower and military supplies.
Since the 75th anniversary of this historic event just occurred, it is well to remember the great courage involved in the invasion. Donald Drez tells the dramatic story of the invasion in this well-written title “Remembering D-Day: The Plan, the Invasion, Survivor Stories.”
The powerful German Army held France and much of Europe in its clutches in 1944. Though the Soviet Army was beginning to gain victories in Russia, a land invasion of France was going to be necessary to overcome Hitler’s Third Reich. But where, along the hundreds of miles of French coastline, should the attack occur? The most obvious site would be the port of Calais, a mere 25 miles from England. Due to its proximity to an invading force, the Germans heavily defended the area. This made an attack in Calais to be a potential bloodbath.
The German Army also began preparing other areas along the coast for attack. Among them were the beaches of Normandy. Meanwhile, the Allies began assembling a gigantic army, a massive fleet and an enormous air force in England for the invasion. Spies and espionage were utilized to trick the German defenses. Finally, five invasion beaches were selected. The two British landing sites were codenamed Gold and Sword. The one Canadian landing site codenamed Juno and the two American positions, Utah and Omaha formed the assault.
But the day of the battle, the weather over the English Channel turned foul, with rain and heavy winds. Fortunately, a slight break in the weather seemed possible on June 6, 1944. With this, the American Commander in Chief of the Allied Army, General Dwight Eisenhower, issued the final decision with three words: “Okay, let’s go.” With that brief command, the largest flotilla in history of ships, soldiers, sailors and air force aviators attacked the heavily defended French coast of Normandy.
The author gives detailed accounts of the Nazi domination of Europe and the Allied military plan for the Normandy Invasion. The readers learn of the effective spying and deception before the invasion. He tells the stories of the paratroopers and soldiers in the battle.
Though the combat was brutal at times, Drez does not sensational the accounts. This results in a well-written, accurate account of one of the great battles for freedom in World War II. This book is especially poignant on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Without the heroic sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians, the world would be a very different place today. I hope you get a chance to read this fine book and to encourage the younger members of your family to do the same.