Jean Edward Smith taught at the University of Toronto for thirty-five years, and at Marshall University for twelve. He has also been a visiting scholar at Columbia, Princeton, and Georgetown. He is the author of Bush, a biography of the 43rd president; Eisenhower in War and Peace; FDR, winner of the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians; Grant, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist; and John Marshall: Definer of a Nation.
Before World War II, Normandy’s Plage d’Or coast was best known for its sleepy villages and holiday destinations. Early in 1944, German commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took one look at the gentle, sloping sands and announced "They will come here!” He was referring to "Omaha Beach”—the prime American D-Day landing site. The beach was subsequently transformed into three miles of lethal, bunker-protected arcs of fire, with seaside chalets converted into concrete strongpoints, fringed by layers of barbed wire and mines. The Germans called it “the Devil's Garden."
When Company A of the US 116th Regiment landed on Omaha Beach in D-Day’s first wave on 6th June 1944, it lost 96% of its effective strength. Sixteen teams of US engineers arriving in the second wave were unable to blow the beach obstacles, as first wave survivors were still sheltering behind them. This was the beginning of the historic day that Landing on the Edge of Eternity narrates hour by hour—rom midnight to midnight—tracking German and American soldiers fighting across the beachhead.
Mustered on their troop transport decks at 2am, the American infantry departed in landing craft at 5am. Skimming across high waves, deafened by immense broadsides from supporting battleships and weak from seasickness, they caught sight of land at 6.15. Eleven minutes later, the assault was floundering under intense German fire. Two and a half hours in, General Bradley, commanding the landings aboard USS Augusta, had to decide if to proceed or evacuate. On June 6th there were well over 2,400 casualties on Omaha Beach – easily D-Day’s highest death toll.
The Wehrmacht thought they had bludgeoned the Americans into bloody submission, yet by mid-afternoon, the American troops were ashore. Why were the casualties so grim, and how could the Germans have failed? Juxtaposing the American experience—pinned down, swamped by a rising tide, facing young Wehrmacht soldiers fighting desperately for their lives, Kershaw draws on eyewitness accounts, memories, letters, and post-combat reports to expose the true horrors of Omaha Beach.
These are stories of humanity, resilience, and dark humor; of comradeship and a gritty patriotism holding beleaguered men together. Landing on the Edge of Eternity is a dramatic historical ride through an amphibious landing that looked as though it might never succeed.
By the end of the Battle of Normandy, almost one of every two soldiers involved was an American, and without American weapons, supplies, and leadership, the outcome of the invasion and ensuing battle could have been very different.
In the first of two volumes on the American contribution to the Allied victory at Normandy, John C. McManus (Deadly Brotherhood, Deadly Sky) examines, with great intensity and thoroughness, the American experience in the weeks leading up to D-Day and on the great day itself. From the build up in England to the night drops of airborne forces behind German lines and the landings on the beaches at dawn, from the famed figures of Eisenhower, Bradley, and Lightin' Joe Collins to the courageous, but little-known privates who fought so bravely, and under terrifying conditions, this is the story of the American experience at D-Day. What were the battles really like for the Americans at Utah and Omaha? What drove them to fight despite all adversity? How and why did they triumph? Thanks to extensive archival research, and the use of hundreds of first hand accounts, McManus answers these questions and many more.
In The Americans at D-Day, a gripping narrative history reminiscent of Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day, McManus takes readers into the minds of American strategists, into the hearts of the infantry, into hell on earth.
Impressively researched, engrossing, lightning quick, and filled with human sorrow and elation, The Americans at D-Day honors those Americans who lost their lives on D-Day, as well as those who were fortunate enough to survive.
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