6 June 2014

WN 62: A German Soldier’s Memories of the Defence of Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944

Heinrich Severloh’s moving autobiography and service memoir describes the greatest amphibious landing-operation in history, which on D-Day marked the beginning of the decisive campaign of the Second World War. When in the dawn of June 6, 1944, the western Allies opened their offensive against the Atlantic Wall on the coast of Normandy, with 7,000 ships and 13,000 airplanes, Severloh, the machine-gunner who became the German most feared by the Americans, was posted at Strongpoint WN62. He fired at the G.I.’s on the beach with his machine gun and rifle for nine long hours - more than 2.000 of them were taken down.

In a moving and unsparing account, Heinrich Severloh describes  the dramatic hours during which 34,000 G.I.’s landed in his sector of what later was called “Bloody Omaha”, and met with the hard-fought resistance of only 300 German soldiers. Severloh the young farmer’s son from the L√ľneburg heath, survived a firestorm, as bizarre as it was terrible, that stamped the rest of his life.

Many internationally-known military historians, as well as the press and television, have immortalized Severloh in the history of warfare. Until the publication of this sad confession, Americans had never known the name of the one who, in large measure, caused the landing to become this awful slaughterhouse.

This memoir, in collaboration with Helmut Konrad Baron Keusgen, a writer for military history, is an extremely thrilling factual account with precise descriptions of the immediate area of the assault. It provides an additional point of view of the events of his dramatic day, and presents the relations of the French and the Germans in a different light.. It is told with violent emotion and unvarnished truth. Severloh clarifies uncompromisingly spurious moral values and ideologies, and questions hitherto prevailing official statements.

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Battle for Cherbourg

One of the Battle Zone Normandy series published by Sutton Publishing, Battle for Cherbourg gives an overview of the battle for the port town, urgently required by the Allies as a port to allow landing of troops and vital supplies.

The battle started on the 22nd June, with three American divisions beginning their assault. A bitter six-day battle ensued, as the 40,000 strong German garrison in the Cotentin peninsula had been ordered to hold the port to the last man.

The book also includes four different battlefield tours, colour illustrations and reference maps.

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Normandy Landings - A 19-year-old's diary with unique photos

"....we had to fight two wars, one against the sea and the other against the Germans."

Still only in his teens, and newly commissioned, Sub Lieutenant Carter was one of the youngest naval officers to engage in prolonged action on the Normandy beaches during operation overlord in June 1944.

Their first beaching took place with his landing craft filled with American Stuart tanks. It was a grim scene, faithfully recorded by the author in this excellent account and clearly attested by the over twenty-five of his own photographs. Because of the leaky state of his LCT Mark V, Sub-Lt. Carter was kept in Normandy for three weeks of hard toil delivering armaments and supplies all along the American beachhead, experiencing the horrific storm and the break-up of his craft.
 Uniquely, then, he presents a record of many landings, rather than just one, and gives us a chilling overview of the chaos that turned - miraculously - into triumph. After seventy years, it is well to remember how much we owe to the men who landed on D-Day, and to those, like the author, who helped ensure their victory.

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Destination Normandy - Three American Regiments on D-Day

G. H. Bennett collects oral histories from the soldiers of three American regiments and weaves them into an intimate account of the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. 

Widely scattered during its drop into Normandy, the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (82nd Airborne Division) stopped the advance of an SS division. The untested 116th Infantry Regiment (29th Infantry Division) landed on bloody Omaha Beach, where it suffered more casualties than any other regiment that day. Meanwhile, the 22nd Infantry Regiment (4th Infantry Division) easily waded ashore on Utah Beach but faced savage fighting as it moved inland.

While the book covers the experiences of the men of these regiments on D Day and in Normandy, an additional element is the detail given to the time spent training across the UK - an aspected often overlooked.

Available from:
Casemate (UK Distributor)

5 June 2014

The Normandy Battlefield - D-Day & The Bridgehead

The dramatic events of 70 years ago left behind many signs across Normandy: from the huge caissons of the Mulberry Harbour around Arromanches, the gun emplacements at Longues and Merville, to the multitude of hardware used as memorials—tanks, artillery, pillboxes—and the many graves and cemeteries that honour those who died on both sides. It is in memory of the dead that much of what can be seen on the ground survives, but as the last few survivors reach their 90s, a new audience requires information about the events of the past that can only come from seeing the ground where the battle was fought. Today, the beaches are a fascinating mixture of the new and the old, including the new visitors’ center at Colleville and the renovation and expansion of the Utah Beach museum—even as further new memorials jostle with the older sites that have changed little in 70 years.
The Normandy Battlefields details what can be seen on the ground today using a mixture of media to provide a complete overview of the campaign. Maps old and new highlight what has survived and what hasn’t; then-and-now photography allows fascinating comparisons with the images taken at the time—particularly the aerial views—and computer artwork provides graphic details of things that can’t be seen today.

A particular aspect of the book that is worthy of note is the photograph captions. A concerted effort has been made to identify not only locations, but also the individuals contained within well known photos - including in some cases their fate, during the battle for Normandy. 

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Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy

On the afternoon of 7 June 1944, Lorne Brown, a private serving with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in Normandy, was bayoneted to death while trying to surrender to troops of the 12th SS Division 'Hitler Youth.'

Over the next ten days, more than a hundred and fifty Canadian soldiers were brutally murdered after capture by the 12th SS. Despite months of post-war investigation by Allied courts, however, only two senior officers of the 12th SS were ever tried for war crimes.

Drawing extensively on archival sources, Howard Margolian reveals the full account of an atrocious chapter in history and exposes the causes - an inept and indifferent Canadian military justice system, and a Canadian government all too willing to let bygones be bygones - of the flagrant inaction that followed. Highly praised for both its meticulous research and its engaging passion, this book will resonate with veterans, those interested in war crimes, military buffs, and historians.

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D-Day - By Those Who Were There

Drawing upon the archive of the Second World War Experience Centre, the support of veterans world-wide and from archives overseas, the author, Peter Liddle, uses previously unpublished letters, diaries, photographs and reminiscences to tell the story of D Day in a way which brings the reader closer to the actual experience. From an aerial, naval and land perspective the events of D Day are captured superbly in wartime contemporary and retrospective documentation.

Each of the beaches is fully represented. American, Canadian and British testimony is supported by new, compelling, German material. Appropriately the RAF and Merchant Navy experience appear as do the contemporary and retrospective reactions of women ‘in the know’ and those whom knew from ‘unofficial sources’ of the immediate imminence of the assault.

The reader will share in each stage of the day from the experience of paratroops and glider-borne troops to crossing the Channel by sea and at the landings on each beach. The book is profusely illustrated with previously unpublished photographs and facsimile documentation.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

The Bayeux British Cemetery

No war cemetery has been so intimately recorded during the years of its creation as that of Bayeux.

This account, published by Pitkin Guides, is based on interviews and personal experiences, and includes many images, including previously unpublished photographs by Corporal Eric Gunton of Number 32 Graves Registration Unit, who photographed the cemetery as it took shape. Here is a tribute to those - known and unknown - who gave their lives in the Second World War and whose last resting place is this 'corner of a foreign field'.

Available from:
The History Press

Achtung! Minen! The Making of a Flail Tank Commander

Ian Hammerton was a Sherman Flail (Crab) troop commander, B Squadron 22nd Dragoons, whose first experience of combat was at D Day. The book details his landing at Bernieres-sur-Mer on the 6th June, and follows his experiences in North West Europe, until the end of the war.

I personally found this an excellent account, one of the most engaging that I have read of the experiences of a British tank commander during the war, and I would certainly recommend obtaining a copy - if you can find one.

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70th Anniversay of D Day - a few books from my shelf

It is quite hard to not be aware that it is the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy landings - D Day. While there are a considerable number of books available that consider the Normandy campaign, I thought I'd list a few over the next few days from my personal collection.

The books I will be listing are mostly titles published in the last 10 years, with a few more recent ones. They are books that I've obtained over the years, which caught my interest for one reason or another. I hope that you find something of interest.