I’m not usually one for a conspiracy theory. I don’t believe for one minute that Princess Diana was ‘murdered’ by the Queen for example. That the SAS must have been involved or that she was pregnant and therefore had to be assassinated. I’m more level headed than that..
She was a former Princess and the most photographed faces in the world. She died in a car crash caused by a drunken chauffeur In Paris. Case closed. Sad but get over it. The FBI and the CIA; he KGB; the SAS and even the RAC all have better things to do than go round cutting people’s brakes.
Accidents happen. Mistakes happen. People die. As in day to day life war is the same. The mass movement of thousands of vehicles loaded with tons of equipment and supplies over hundreds of miles, hundreds and thousands of men; all pushing in different directions with timescales to keep and deadlines to meet, on unknown territory. The lack of sleep and food; exhaustion and fatigue clouding minds, with fear making the easiest of decisions a chore.
All this before the enemy is encountered; before the firing begins or the shelling starts. Before the screams of the wounded are heard and the smell of battle fills nostrils and lungs, a smell forever to be remembered by those lucky enough to survive.
It’s at times like these when a soldier’s training comes to the fore. Autopilot cuts in. All those hours, days and weeks on the assault course and the constant drilling on the parade ground; the monotonous discipline that appeared to have no meaning suddenly become funnelled into the body as an order, an action, a movement that saves the soldier’s life. All split second decisions that are carried out without hesitation. A burning shell-hole the size of a dinner table left behind as a reminder of what a few seconds of indecision means on a foreign field or beachhead in wartime. A ‘level playing field’ was all that was asked by the Tommy or GI during WW2.
The build-up to D Day is well documented enough. Intelligence, training and, above all, up to date information, was vital to the well-oiled khaki machine that had started to cross the Channel on June 5th, 1944. By daybreak not only a new day had dawned but the birth of a new era. This was June 6th, the day the civilised world would ‘dance with the devil’. Some waltz it turned out to be, too!
As the sub-title of this book says, the author concentrates his efforts and expertise on the US Rangers and the Maisy Battery. Also, as the title suggests, he leans towards a cover up. But, what of it, aren’t mistakes made in war? Was there a valid reason for not mentioning Maisy Battery? At first glance I thought this book was going to be one of those written by an author trying to make a name for himself attempting to come up with an alternative passage in history for no other reason than to be controversial. The more I read, however, the more I glanced from book, to map to internet and I started to realise this was nothing of the sort. This was a book putting right, or rather telling the story, of the US Rangers on D-Day. A story which had been white washed and dismissed from D-Day history.
When most of us think of the Rangers on D-Day we automatically think of the Omaha Beach scenes in Saving Private Ryan or the infamous battle at Pointe du Hoc portrayed so accurately in The Longest Day. I try to imagine them using grappling hooks, flimsy ladders and ropes to scale the heights and I often wonder what sort of men would volunteer to be so close to death before the actual fighting starts. I always wondered what they felt, when, finally having assaulted the Point and getting to their objective only to discover the guns missing. Was it relief, frustration, anger?
As the title suggests, Gary Sterne, implies a cover up of gigantic proportions just behind the Omaha beachhead. But is this label warranted? One man would know. Sterne himself!
For those who know the history of D-Day and have an interest in Operation Overlord they will know Gary’s background or at least will be familiar with his work. For, back in 2006 after years of painstaking research and hunting Gary made headlines when it was uncovered to the world (quite literally) that he had ‘discovered’ a WW2 German gun battery lost not only in France but also in time. This was Maisy Battery. Even more remarkable was that the battery ‘didn’t exist’ at least not on paper, or on any maps. Why?
Sterne slides in two footed, coming up with a number of ideas why Maisy was ‘covered up’ and forgotten about for all these years. Like I said before, I’m not one for a conspiracy theory and I don’t agree with all of Gary’s angles in this drama, but I do commend him for his clear and some might say reckless accusations. It is how accepted history should be; questioned constantly.Gary’s approach is blunt and to the point and he doesn’t hold back at pointing the finger; a style I like and feel is often lacking when writing, or, as Gary puts it ‘re-writing’ history. He clearly is very knowledgeable on the subject but then, as it was he who discovered the Maisy site and had personally uncovered practically every inch including over two miles of trenches; I’m guessing he would be.
This isn’t a one man crusade or an angry man ranting. This is a man, who, nearly seventy years after the event actually happened has been the first to write about a piece of unknown history. Now that has to be worth climbing to the top for.
Review by Phil Hodges for War History Online
THE COVER UP AT OMAHA BEACH
Maisy Battery and the US Rangers
By Gary Sterne.
Pen and Sword Military
ISBN 978 1 84884 489 1