D-Day, June 6, 1944, and the seventy-six days of bitter fighting in Normandy that followed the Allied landing, have become the defining episode of World War II in the west. Drawing freshly on widespread archives and on the testimonies of eye-witnesses, Holland relates the extraordinary planning that made Allied victory in France possible.
The popular-serious historians...have a double duty: their accounts have to be vividly real but also historically responsible. Holland, in Normandy ’44, discharges this remit with superb energy ... Holland sweeps us through the D-Day preparations, the invasion, the temporary stalemate on the beachheads and beyond to the eventual breakout ... Any brief analysis of an undertaking of this size cannot do justice to Holland’s impressive organization of facts, figures and details. His narrative style is fluent and pleasingly colloquial (though I have to observe that the cliché count is rather on the high side: too many nails are hammered into coffins, towels are thrown in, keels are even, tensions simmer and situations are dire). At the same time every detail is scrupulously referenced ... As an account of this mighty and vitally significant clash of armies on many battlefields Normandy ’44 stands as richly impressive, hard to surpass.
At its heart, Normandy ’44 is a pleasantly straightforward history, embracing tactics, logistics and the bayonet end of combat. Mr. Holland glides up and down the chain of command, from Eisenhower, Montgomery and Bradley down to the Poor Bloody Infantry who stood at 'the coal-face of battle' ... Detail and scope are the twin strengths of Normandy ’44. While emphasizing GI and Tommy less than Messrs. Kershaw and Milton, Mr. Holland effectively balances human drama with the science of war as the Allies knew it.
This story has been told countless times ... Holland boasts that his book is something genuinely new, promising 'radically different conclusions'. To be honest, I didn’t find anything particularly revelatory. However, this is still a superb account of the invasion that deserves immense praise. What makes it original is not its revelations, but its style. Holland tells this story 'at the tactical level'; in other words, we feel what it was like to be a soldier on the beaches and in the bocage. To convey the human drama of Normandy requires great knowledge and sensitivity. Holland has both in spades.