The Americans on D-Day and in Normandy
Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives (Images of War)
Brooke S. Blades
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2019, 176 pages
Book Review published on: June 28, 2019
If a picture is worth a thousand words than Brooke Blades’ book The Americans on D-Day and in Normandy: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives (Images of War) is a lot thicker than its 176 pages. The author incorporates photographs and maps to illustrate the reality of battle on both the landscape and the participants. He hopes readers will not just see the book as a collection of photographs but use the photographs as interpretive documents to enhance their understanding of the battle in Normandy.
To accomplish his goal, the author divides the book into eleven chapters, each covering a different aspect of the invasion. For example, there are chapters covering the airborne landings, Omaha Beach’s Easy Red and Fox Green beaches, as well as sections on the wounded, prisoners, civilians, and American cemeteries. Each chapter begins with a short overview where the author provides the overall context of the battle associated with that particular section of the book. The author intersperses personal recollections of participants throughout each overview to provide a human touch for occurrences in that battle. Readers with extensive knowledge of the Normandy invasion will not find new insights in the chapter overview. However, most readers will find the overview provides some well-written and well-researched information that explains the experience of the American forces. This general overview also sets the stage for the photographs illustrating that section.
The heart of the book is the photographs. The author includes both famous and virtually unknown photographs, some of which are taken from participants’ person collections. Grouped according to the chapter, the photographs provide a vivid illustration of the subject and help the author accomplish his goal. The captions for the photographs provide context and allow the reader to determine where and when the photograph was taken. The photographs are most effective when combined with the overview at the start of the section. For example, Blades describes a series of pictures taken by a combat photographer in the town of Saint Marcouf. He discusses the unit, the terrain, and what was going on, thus bringing the series of photographs to life. The best photograph combinations include present-day photographs of the battlefield taken from the perspective of the accompanying period photos. In addition, the maps the author includes are excellent, allowing the reader to visualize the battle and, in some cases, where the photographs were taken.
Blades’ book provides readers an excellent source to visualize the D-Day invasion. I recommend it for all readers interested in this battle.
Book Review written by: Robert Rielly, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas