Drawing on memoirs, diaries, letters, and oral accounts, D-Day is a purely chronological narrative, concerned less with the military strategies and more with what people were thinking and doing as D-Day unfolded, minute-by-minute. Moving seamlessly from various perspectives and stories, D-Day sets the reader in the midst of it all, compelling us to relive this momentous day in world history. A snapshot follows…
Monday June 5, 1944
07.30hrs: At this moment precisely, naval officers are breaking open their sealed orders and discovering the best-kept military secret in history. Tomorrow, they’ll be sailing for Normandy. The Allied invasion will centre on five beaches, each of which has been given a code name. The British and Canadians have opted for Gold, Juno and Sword — from a list supplied by the British Army. The Americans will land on Utah and Omaha — names chosen by their generals.09.00hrs: Already, the biggest invasion force the world has ever seen is mobilising off the South Coast. In all, D-Day will involve more than 6,203 vessels — 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft and 864 merchant vessels.
13.00hrs: At the Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s headquarters in the Bavarian Alps, his personal doctor Dr Theodor Morell is arriving for his daily appointment. The 54-year-old Fuhrer is a hypochondriac — and willingly takes the 28 different pills and injections Morell gives him every day. At Downing Street, as usual, Winston Churchill is having a large lunch with plenty of wine.
13.55hrs: Out in the Channel, on board the British troop ship Princess Ingrid, almost every soldier is on the upper deck, waiting for a church service to begin. Suddenly, a gust of wind catches the cloth covering a makeshift altar, and a small silver cross falls on to the deck and breaks in two. The padre and the troops are distraught at this terrible omen. Ronald Seaborne, a naval telegraphist, reflects that he now knows the exact meaning of the phrase ‘fear of God’. On-eve-70th-anniversary-new-book-relives-D-DAY-MINUTE-BY-TERRIFYING-MINUTE.Tuesday 6th June 14:35 hrs: German medical orderly Fritz Müller is on a mercy mission, looking for wounded troops in the Normandy fields. Right now, he’s walking beneath trees filled with parachutes. Some have empty harnesses; some hold corpses. In a clearing, Müller finds an American paratrooper lying motionless on the ground, but he can’t tell if he’s dead or unconscious. Kneeling over the American is a German soldier who’s rummaging through his pockets, and making crude comments about a picture of a girl that he’s found in the man’s wallet. Müller yells at him to stop talking about the girl and leave the poor man alone. The soldier refuses, pulls a ring off the paratrooper’s finger and walks away. Suddenly, there’s a gunshot and the German soldier drops down dead. Müller freezes, then kneels by the American parachutist, who he can now see is alive. Getting out his medical kit, he starts treating him as best he can.
As Müller works, cigarettes start to fall around him. Only later does he realise that the cigarettes have been dropped by American parachutists still hanging in the trees. It was they who’d shot the German soldier, and the cigarettes were a thank you to Müller for defending, and then treating, their injured friend.
A trusted friend and military historian gave me the ‘heads up’ on this book by Jonathan Mayo. I feel it is a fitting tribute to place it here on Memorial Day. My order for the same was made this morning… Yours Aye.