AMERICANS ON D-DAY – Review by Mark Barnes

This one landed on my doormat a bit late for the anniversary events but 2014 remains very a much a D-Day year despite similar commemorations taking place in the Netherlands for Market-Garden and the spectacular visit of the Canadian Lancaster for the UK air show season. Indeed this helps me salute the author for reminding his readers that D-Day was more than an American experience but we won’t be drifting down that siding on this train ride. This big book does what it says on the front and brings home a superb set of images to illustrate the US role on that momentous day and the period immediately after. It is and isn’t triumphalist in good measure and allows the photography to do the talking.

The photography offers up a fare mix of well-known and rare images. I have to show some caution here because I am sure the many deadly serious aficionados of the American Normandy campaign will recognise pretty well all the photos. This points to the bleedin’ obvious; this book is aimed at a general or more developed audience of WW2 history and is the sort of book I imagine would sit well on the shelves of American houses with other general accounts of US national history. Beyond that it’s nothing more than a damned good book. I am a photo archivist by trade, so it appeals to me in every sense and I often wonder why books like this and the recent Images of the Arsenal of Democracydon’t inspire copycats here in the UK.

A good deal of care has been taken with the captions with some emphasis on kit and caboodle but much more on the men and women we see. I always like to see the names of the people shown. There was a drive by the US media to show the American public that the whole country was fighting for victory and the naming of soldiers and their hometowns underscored this commitment. Above all else it secures the people pictured a permanent place in history and leaves a wonderful legacy.

The book balances the efforts of all arms involved in the D-Day landings and this is entirely correct. It would be easy to slip into way too much emphasis on the airborne or Omaha Beach, but this does not happen here and the big picture is what matters most.

I found a couple of transposed captions and the odd omission but these do not spoil the overall impact. I really like this book and commend it to you. It has a much broader appeal than in just the United States. The great number of Europeans who set out to commemorate D-Day, a fair number wearing US uniforms and driving American vehicles illustrate the enormous sense of gratitude they feel to the Greatest Generation. The 70th Anniversary was a celebration as much as it was a commemoration and who can argue with that?

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online

A Photographic History of the Normandy Invasion
By Martin KA Morgan
Zenith Press
ISBN: 978-07603-4620-4

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.