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Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and e Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and especially Omaha, the scene of almost unimaginable human tragedy. The sea of crosses in the cemetery sitting today atop a bluff overlooking the beaches recalls to us its cost. Most accounts of this epic story begin with the landings on the morning of June 6, 1944. In fact, however, D-Day was the culmination of months and years of planning and intense debate. In the dark days after the evacuation of Dunkirk in the summer of 1940, British officials and, soon enough, their American counterparts, began to consider how, and, where, and especially when, they could re-enter the European Continent in force. The Americans, led by U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, wanted to invade as soon as possible; the British, personified by their redoubtable prime minister, Winston Churchill, were convinced that a premature landing would be disastrous. The often-sharp negotiations between the English-speaking allies led them first to North Africa, then into Sicily, then Italy. Only in the spring of 1943, did the Combined Chiefs of Staff commit themselves to an invasion of northern France. The code name for this invasion was Overlord, but everything that came before, including the landings themselves and the supply system that made it possible for the invaders to stay there, was code-named Neptune. Craig L. Symonds now offers the complete story of this Olympian effort, involving transports, escorts, gunfire support ships, and landing craft of every possible size and function. The obstacles to success were many. In addition to divergent strategic views and cultural frictions, the Anglo-Americans had to overcome German U-boats, Russian impatience, fierce competition for insufficient shipping, training disasters, and a thousand other impediments, including logistical bottlenecks and disinformation schemes. Symonds includes vivid portraits of the key decision-makers, from Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, to Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the naval element of the invasion. Indeed, the critical role of the naval forces--British and American, Coast Guard and Navy--is central throughout. In the end, as Symonds shows in this gripping account of D-Day, success depended mostly on the men themselves: the junior officers and enlisted men who drove the landing craft, cleared the mines, seized the beaches and assailed the bluffs behind them, securing the foothold for the eventual campaign to Berlin, and the end of the most terrible war in human history.


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Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and e Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and especially Omaha, the scene of almost unimaginable human tragedy. The sea of crosses in the cemetery sitting today atop a bluff overlooking the beaches recalls to us its cost. Most accounts of this epic story begin with the landings on the morning of June 6, 1944. In fact, however, D-Day was the culmination of months and years of planning and intense debate. In the dark days after the evacuation of Dunkirk in the summer of 1940, British officials and, soon enough, their American counterparts, began to consider how, and, where, and especially when, they could re-enter the European Continent in force. The Americans, led by U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, wanted to invade as soon as possible; the British, personified by their redoubtable prime minister, Winston Churchill, were convinced that a premature landing would be disastrous. The often-sharp negotiations between the English-speaking allies led them first to North Africa, then into Sicily, then Italy. Only in the spring of 1943, did the Combined Chiefs of Staff commit themselves to an invasion of northern France. The code name for this invasion was Overlord, but everything that came before, including the landings themselves and the supply system that made it possible for the invaders to stay there, was code-named Neptune. Craig L. Symonds now offers the complete story of this Olympian effort, involving transports, escorts, gunfire support ships, and landing craft of every possible size and function. The obstacles to success were many. In addition to divergent strategic views and cultural frictions, the Anglo-Americans had to overcome German U-boats, Russian impatience, fierce competition for insufficient shipping, training disasters, and a thousand other impediments, including logistical bottlenecks and disinformation schemes. Symonds includes vivid portraits of the key decision-makers, from Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, to Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the naval element of the invasion. Indeed, the critical role of the naval forces--British and American, Coast Guard and Navy--is central throughout. In the end, as Symonds shows in this gripping account of D-Day, success depended mostly on the men themselves: the junior officers and enlisted men who drove the landing craft, cleared the mines, seized the beaches and assailed the bluffs behind them, securing the foothold for the eventual campaign to Berlin, and the end of the most terrible war in human history.

30 review for Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    “Alas, all that sound and fury disguised the fact that on Omaha Beach at least, the bombs fell too long, the rockets fell too short, and the naval gunfire was too brief.” My love affair with history is fairly recent, in particular my intellectual curiosity in bloody conflicts. I hope not to astonish my GR friends when I confess to have read only a handful of books on each WWI and WWII. Oh, so I am not any kind of expert on the theme. Therefore, I don’t know how much I can really contribute be “Alas, all that sound and fury disguised the fact that on Omaha Beach at least, the bombs fell too long, the rockets fell too short, and the naval gunfire was too brief.” My love affair with history is fairly recent, in particular my intellectual curiosity in bloody conflicts. I hope not to astonish my GR friends when I confess to have read only a handful of books on each WWI and WWII. Oh, so I am not any kind of expert on the theme. Therefore, I don’t know how much I can really contribute besides telling that I really enjoyed Craig L. Symonds’s Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings. It was the first book dedicated to D-Day I read. Nevertheless, I can say it is an eloquent, comprehensive, centered and well documented analysis of the immense project that was Operation Neptune. “The Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944, bore the designation Operation Overlord, but everything that came before it, including the surge across the Channel and the landing itself, was part of Operation Neptune, and D-Day could not have place without it.” In detailed 400-plus pages, we read about the planning and execution operation that finally created the second-front and would culminate in the Allied forces taking back Europe from the Nazis. “Operation Neptune was the largest seaborne assault in human history, involving over six thousand vessels and more than a million men.” The first half of Neptune discusses the planning of the D-Day invasions. Symonds goes back to March of 1941 when, during the ABC conference in Washington, the Allies first began discussing a plan to invade occupied Europe. Despite many conflicts between American and British commanders, compromises were reached with their ultimate cooperation lead to a well-orchestrated execution of the Normandy invasion launched on June 6th, 1944. Symonds highlights the staggering amount of details involved in pulling off the invasion, including among others: training of troops, cooperation between different branches of the military, gathering of supplies, building of transport ships. The second half of the book discusses in detail how the events unfolded during the month of June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. Symonds backs up his assertions with well-placed citations that only add to the credibility of his work A chapter is dedicated to analyse Yanks and Brits, or how they live together in England in preparation for Neptune-Overlord. We read how some half million American men (these numbers added to almost one million on the eve of the assault) had to be housed in the seven counties of the so-called West Country, with almost a hundred thousand accommodated in private homes. These men had to be fed in a country that was suffering with food rationing since the beginning of the war. It was not an easy task. On top of that, cultural differences abounded despite the fact that both spoke the same language: ”One slice of American culture that migrated across the Atlantic with the soldiers was the tradition of racial separation and discrimination …[B]lack American soldiers in England were billeted separately, ate separately, and were generally restricted to their own areas unless they were making a delivery or assigned to a work project. White Americans, both officers and enlisted, accepted this as perfectly normal …The British, however, had no legacy of domestic slavery and no tradition of race separation; at the time, there were fewer than eight thousand black residents in England. Consequently, while Americans of any color were novel and therefore innately interesting, black Americans were especially intriguing.” But ultimately, those differences led to problems and had to be dealt with: “In the end, however, the British were compelled to adjust. Their perceived need for American military partnership proved the trump of the card, and the British accepted, without embracing the racial code imposed on them by the Americans. Pubs were designated as either black or white, or in some cases blacks and whites were allowed access only on alternate days.” All things considered, American and British worked together efficiently over the almost 3 years of planning for the invasion. Oh, their relationship was not problem-free, but they were able to put common objective above their differences. This is largely explained by the way senior military leaders were able to resolve their conflicts and work efficiently with one another. Because the overall commander of Neptune-Overlord was an American, the three men who would exercise direct command of the ground, air, and sea aspects of the invasion were all British.” Symonds as a naval historian, and Neptune being a marine assault, you will find a detailed discussions on the naval requirements and bottlenecks to the operation, up to considerations on naval commanders and naval supplies. Shipping seemed to be the main hindrance. “In a kind of chicken-and-egg dilemma, the Allies had to decide whether it was more critical to build escorts to protect the convoys, or replace the cargo ships they were supposed to protect. And now there was a third imperative. All of the agreements solemnly accepted by the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the heads of government about invading occupied France on May 1, 1944, would be meaningless if the Allies could not produce the thousands of landing ships and the landing craft to carry the invasion force to the beaches.” Symonds points out, through a detailed analysis (backed by very informative tables), how crucial their production and delivery were for a successful execution of Neptune-Overlord: “Instead, a variety of factors conspired to hinder both their production and concentration, and very soon it became evident that a shortage of LSTs (Landing Craft, Tank) was the Achilles’ heel of the entire Allied invasion effort.” An important aspect of planning was to prepare the million and a half soldiers, spread out in a hundred or more camps across southern England, those that would be landing in Normandy. "[F]ew of them had ever participated in an amphibious landing or ever been on board an amphibious ship... Equally important was the training needed by the Navy and Coast Guard officers and men on the thousands of vessels that would carry these soldiers to the beaches." Practices began around the midwinter chill of January 1944 and went up through practically the eve of the actual assault. The Allied planners who organized these training sessions gradually raised the stakes. The exercises became larger and more realistic until they began to approximate the feel of a live-fire assault. And they were not without its own costs: “The final death toll from Exercise Tiger was 198 sailor and 411 soldiers killed, which was more, as it happened, than died during the actual landing on Utah Beach five weeks later.” But it served for improving the overall actual landing: "…Stark ordered an “immediate investigation” of the events in Lyme Bay, and the ensuing report cited several failures that could be taken as lessons. The first was obvious: American-British communications had failed”. From the difficulties and challenges faced by Operation Torch, critical problems were revealed, but the fact they were detected would aid the planning of Neptune-Overlord, as Eisenhower promptly discovered: “… making plans was the easy part; it was the implementing them that was hard, for coordinating all the various moving parts of this complex multinational operation was daunting. In the end, the material, the logistical, organizational, and political difficulties of Torch demonstrated how problematic an attempt to invade Europe in 1942 would have been. On the other hand, the experience proved invaluable in preparing Eisenhower to exercise even greater responsibility eighteen months later as the commander of Neptune-Overlord.” Finally, on June 5, 1944, the minesweepers started to clear channels for the invasion forces. It was an herculean task, as the fleet consisted of more than 6000 vessels. “It is an aphorism among military professionals that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. That may be especially true when the plan is as detailed and complex as the eleven-hundred-page, four-inch-thick plan for Operation Neptune.” The fleet was on its way. Divided into five major invasion forces, they were to meet at a position at sea but not surprisingly some confusion occurred, although all would be resolved. “The rendezvous site for all five of the invasion forces was a few miles south of the Isle of Wight. Officially it was designated as Area Zebra, though virtually everyone called 'Piccadilly Circus' after the notoriously congested roundabout in the middle of London. It was an appropriate sobriquet. The thousands of ships of nearly every size and shape made up a city of the sea. The congestion was so great that it was hard for some of the vessels to find their assigned flotillas, and inevitably there was some intermingling of ships from various commands.” Due to Eisenhower’s transportation strategy, bombing “had focused little attention on the Normandy beaches in order to avoid tipping their hand”, but in the end proved itself very effective despite their short duration. The British and Canadian beaches had one hour more of bombing and better results, due to their later lading schedule (different tide time). Army leaders feared that a lengthy bombardment of the Normandy coast would alert the enemy and might bring reinforcements. ”With so many planes operating in so small a space, each group was assigned a very specific flight path. The pilots …assigned to Omaha Beach had the most difficult mission, for their flight path was almost due south, directly over the invading fleet, and they would strike Omaha Beach perpendicularly…The B-24s dropped more than thirteen thousand bombs, but due to the conditions and their determination to avoid friendly casualties, all of them fell uselessly into the French countryside behind Omaha Beach. While the spectacular pyrotechnics boosted the morale of the men in approaching landing craft, who cheered the explosions ashore, the historian Joseph Balkoski has noted that ‘not a single bomb fell anywhere near Omaha Beach’”. The other beaches were more successfully bombed. But even the third element to soften the beaches, the fairly experimental rocket firing LCTs fell short in Omaha Beach. “Those that reached the beach did some damage to the barbed wire and the obstructions… At least none of them struck a Higgins boat.” But none penetrated the Germans bunkers and pillboxes. As it is reasonable to expect, the landing did not always go as planned. The Allied men on Utah Beach landed far from their designated area, but to their good fortune, the German defenses were somewhat weaker there than where they were supposed to have landed. Nevertheless, German bullets rained around them. There were for more serious problems in Omaha Beach, the most arresting being geography: “Omaha was the only landing beach that was overlooked by high bluffs that ranged from 100 to 150 feet in height. On those bluffs the Germans had erected thirty antitank and field guns as well as an astonishing eighty-five machine guns positions, four times as many as on any other invasion beaches” To make things worst: “…none of the German gun emplacements had suffered a direct hit. As a result, whem the first wave of Allied infantry rushed out onto the beach, the men were struck almost at once by an intense crossfire of artillery, mortars, and machine guns. …Thus as a result of geography, weaponry, and manpower, Omaha was a much tougher objective than any of the other targeted beaches.” The congestion along the beachfront and the artillery fire from the bluffs played havoc with the prescribed formations of the approaching landing craft. …The result was that, as Hall put it in his subsequent report, ‘all semblance of wave organization was lost.’” So, only two hours after the landing on Omaha Beach was started it was interrupted, when Admiral Hall was notified of the problem. "...Horrified by the prospect of failure, he (Bradley) asked Kirk if there wasn’t something the Navy could do to break the bloody stalemate on Omaha Beach. In fact, there was.” “Several of the American Destroyers that had participated in the early-morning bombardment had pulled off the invasion beaches prior to H-Hour. …Nevertheless, the destroyer skippers could see for themselves that the situation on Omaha Beach was deteriorating, and even without orders some of them returned to the beachfront to open fire on the high ground behind the beach. Now, just past eight-thirty, Hall recalled them, ordering them to ‘maintain as heavy volume of fire on beach target[s] as possible.’ …More than a dozen Allied destroyers responded to the call that morning… …These dozen or so destroyers constituted only a tiny fraction of the more than five thousand ships that participated in the invasion, but over the ensuing ninety minutes, they turned the tide of the battle on Omaha Beach.” So, “In the end, it was the training and instinct of those soldiers and sailors, more than the carefully prepared script, that produced the Allied victory on the Normandy beaches.” After seizing the beaches from the German forces, only one target remained to be achieved for the completion of Operation Neptune: the taking a major seaport. The Allied forces were successful to win the seaport of Cherbourg and on June 30 1944, Operation Neptune was officially declared to be over. Neptune by Craig L. Symonds is undoubtedly a masterly work. The amount of information this book gives about the preparation, launching, and the success of Operation Neptune makes this book a must read for anyone interested in World War II history.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Veeral

    **Disclosure – I requested and received an ARC from the author/publisher through Netgalley.** “Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics.” The logistical challenges for Operation Overlord were nothing short of mind-boggling. And reading more about that did not help. The more I read about Overlord, the more convinced I got that it should not have worked. But Operation Overlord [spoiler alert] did indeed work, which played (to quote Captain Obvious) “…a major role in the demise of the Nazi **Disclosure – I requested and received an ARC from the author/publisher through Netgalley.** “Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics.” The logistical challenges for Operation Overlord were nothing short of mind-boggling. And reading more about that did not help. The more I read about Overlord, the more convinced I got that it should not have worked. But Operation Overlord [spoiler alert] did indeed work, which played (to quote Captain Obvious) “…a major role in the demise of the Nazi rule, and hence the prediction of 1000 Year Reich fell short by just 988”. (The other major role was played by the Russians. Don't ever overlook their effort.) If you start lining up all the books written on Operation Overlord in a single file from Cherbourg, I guess you could reach Berlin. (1,345,500 m (total distance) /0.2 m (length of a single book) = 6,727,500 books). Okay, maybe not that far, but you could cover some serious distance. But the real question here is how many books are there on Operation Neptune? Operation Neptune involved over six thousand vessels and more than a million men which makes it the largest seaborne assault in human history. Neptune was a joint British–United States Operation, the object of which was to secure a lodgment on the Continent from which further offensive operations could be developed. It was part of a large strategic plan designed to bring about total defeat of Germany by means of heavy and concentrated assaults upon German-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom, the Mediterranean, and Russia. The Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944, bore the designation Operation Overlord, but everything that came before it, including the surge across the Channel and the landing itself, was part of Operation Neptune, and D-Day could not have taken place without it. Yes, no Neptune, no D-Day. The plan for Neptune was so detailed and complex that its total length was 1100 pages. It specified the D-Day assignments of every ship, every landing craft, every vehicle, and nearly every Allied sailor and soldier on almost a minute-by-minute schedule. So to put Operation Neptune in a book form, one can guess that a special effort is required. To tackle such an enormous and complicated Operation like Neptune, one needs a top historian. Craig L. Symonds, a retired professor of history at the United States Naval Academy, has done it brilliantly in his new book, Neptune. The book describes in detail how the British and Americans managed to overcome thousands of obstacles to bring the Allied armies to Normandy and more importantly – managed to keep them there. Symonds demonstrates that how logistics was the main deciding factor for the Allied forces. In 1942, a cross-channel invasion of France (owing to – you guessed that right – logistic factors) was deemed impossible, so instead, Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, was launched. The book describes the preparation and launching of Torch in minute details. One can even say that Torch served as a sort of pilot for the Allies for the much larger and difficult Neptune-Overlord. It was also necessary to bring all the Allies under a single command for such a big undertaking. Hence Dwight Eisenhower was made the commander of all the Allied forces. Such a thing was unprecedented, and Symonds shows in the book that how the British and Americans managed to overcome their divergent strategic views in order to make this work. One of the main problems for the planners of Neptune was unavailability of sufficient number of ships. As the war was raging, manufacturing of escort vessels was naturally a top priority. But that hurt the production output of the cargo ships. Cargo ships’ production could only be upped at the expense of making less escort vessels. But that meant that U-Boats could sink more ships in a convoy due to the depleted cover provided by lesser number of escort ships. The planners of Neptune had to find an acceptable solution for many such problems. But the success of Operation Neptune heavily depended on the accessibility of various types of landing crafts used for amphibious landing. And before reading this book, I was unaware that 46 different types of landing crafts were used in the 2nd World War. Unarguably, the most crucial one was the Higgins boat. Higgins boat was an LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) which could carry 36 troops or 2700 kg of military vehicle or 3700 kg of cargo (In the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, the craft from which Tom Hanks and his troops landed on the Normandy beach was a Higgins boat). Symonds also tells about the training that the invasion troops had to go through for Neptune. Even while training, troops had to survive occasional bombing raids by the Luftwaffe which added another level of wartime realism into their training sessions. A total of 171 embarkation ports were allocated (from Southern England to as far as Scotland) to the invasion force for D-Day. It was extremely difficult to manage such a massive concentration of personnel and to keep their spirits high. The leaders did all they could to cheer-up the soldiers as well: Both Eisenhower and Ramsay visited Portsmouth to chat with the soldiers and sailors and offer encouragement. Even King George showed up. Robert Evans was busy loading jeeps and other equipment onto LCT-271 when a black Rolls-Royce pulled up on the hard and King George VI stepped out wearing the uniform of a five-star admiral in the Royal Navy. Evans knew the proper protocol was for him to come to attention and salute, but instead he, and everyone else in the immediate area, started cheering and waving. The king took it all in good spirit and waved back. At another site, the king strode toward the ramp of a ship that was being loaded, only to be confronted by a young American quartermaster, clipboard in hand, who had been told not to let anyone on board without first checking his identity and recording his name. That led to this curious exchange: “What is your name, Admiral?” “Windsor.” “First name?” “George.” The quartermaster dutifully recorded on his clipboard that the ship had been visited by Admiral George Windsor. Finally, on June 5 1944, the minesweepers started to clear channels for the invasion forces. As mentioned earlier, the armada consisted of more than 6000 vessels. The armada was divided into five major invasion forces and they were to rendezvous at a position at sea designated as Area Zebra. Confusion ensued, as it was difficult for some of the vessels to find their assigned flotillas, and inevitably there was some intermingling of ships from various commands. Even the landing did not always go as planned. The Allied men on Utah Beach landed far from their designated area, but to their good fortune, the German defenses were somewhat weaker there than where they were supposed to have landed. Many men lost their explosives and detonators in their frantic scramble for the shore, and they had to go back to their boats to retrieve the reserve explosives, while, needless to say, German bullets rained around them. On the other hand, creation of artificial harbor, under the Mulberry Project, had also commenced. To maintain a steady supply of additional troops and cargo, artificial harbors at sea were required until the Allies could capture a major sea port. More than 27,000 men, nearly 2,000 vehicles, and another 7,752 tons of supplies came ashore on Omaha Beach in a single day through artificial harbors. After snatching the beaches from the German forces, only one target remained to be achieved for the completion of Operation Neptune – seizing a major seaport. The Allied forces were successful to win the seaport of Cherbourg and on June 30 1944, Operation Neptune was officially declared to be over. Hard fought victories (and the fiasco of Market Garden) were to follow, none of which would have been possible if Operation Neptune would have been a failure. Neptune by Craig L. Symonds is undoubtedly a masterly work. The amount of information this book gives about the preparation, launching, and the success of Operation Neptune makes this book a must read for anyone interested in World War - II history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Operation Neptune And Its People In his most recent book, "Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings" (2014) Craig Symonds tells the story of Normandy with a focus on the role of individuals in an enormous undertaking. Symonds tells the reader that the invasion of the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 bore the designation "Operation Overlord" while everything that came before it, "including the surge across the Channel and the landing itself" was part of Operation Neptune. Symon Operation Neptune And Its People In his most recent book, "Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings" (2014) Craig Symonds tells the story of Normandy with a focus on the role of individuals in an enormous undertaking. Symonds tells the reader that the invasion of the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 bore the designation "Operation Overlord" while everything that came before it, "including the surge across the Channel and the landing itself" was part of Operation Neptune. Symonds (b. 1946) taught at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis for many years. He is a prolific author on the Civil War whose books include a highly-praised study of Lincoln's role in the war at sea," Lincoln and His Admirals" and a biography of the enigmatic Confederate general, Joseph Johnston "Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography". Symonds has also written an earlier book about WW II on the Battle of the Midway. Symonds conveys the background, scope, and extraordinary character of the Normandy invasion. Eloquently written and well-organized his book tells the broad story with an eye for specifics as well. Symonds has a gift for writing military history in a technically sophisticated way that remains accessible for non-specialists. Besides telling the facts and background of the invasion -- the events and the participants -- Symonds writes with passion and with a sense of meaning that gives importance to facts. He describes heroism. He emphasizes the long-term nature of Neptune, its almost inconceivable size, and the patience, co-ordination, effort, and putting aside of individual and national conflicts that were required to make it succeed. He writes with a recognition that "people are the driving force of history". His book shows why Normandy has become a seminal event in history and why it will continue to be studied and remembered. Symonds begins with the entry of the United States into WW II following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He shows the disagreements and differences of approaches of the United States, Britain, and the USSR in the conduct of the war. Broadly the United States favored an immediate invasion of France while Britain wanted to attack Germany, at least initially, on the perimeters. In a 1943 conference at Quebec, the Allies agreed at last on the invasion in 1944. The following 13 months were spent in planning and in the enormous logistical efforts to build ships, clear the sea, transport men and material to Britain, and train and coordinate the soldiers and sailors. Approximately the first half of the book takes the story through the approval of the invasion while the second half of the work studies the planning for Normandy, carrying it out, and its aftermath. Symonds describes the many different types of ships and landing craft used at Normandy and of the roles of each. He discusses in detail the relationship between Britain and the United States in carrying out the invasion and, of course, the overlap in the role between the Army and the Navy. He emphasizes throughout the book, as shown below, the importance of the effort of each person involved in the invasion. Symonds writes: "Operation Neptune was the largest seaborne assault in human history, involving over six thousand vessels and more than a million men. This book is a study of how the British and Americans managed to overcome divergent strategic views, Russian impatience, training disasters, and a thousand other obstacles to bring the Allied armies to Normandy and keep them there." Symonds concludes that for all the elaborate planning and training, the ability of people at all levels, from the top to the bottom, saved the day at Normandy. He writes: "It is an aphorism among military professionals that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. That may be especially true when the plan is as detailed and complex as the eleven-hundred page, four-inch thick plan for Operation Neptune. ..... It was perhaps inevitable that it would not play out exactly as scripted. Moreover, with so many working parts, and a timetable that made each element dependent on so many others, early miscues created a cascading series of difficulties that threatened to wreck the invasion altogether, especially on Omaha Beach. In the end, what saved the day was the ability of the men both afloat and ashore to adapt and adjust." Symonds reiterates many times the importance of courage, fortitude and adaptability in the ultimate Allied success at Normandy and in the war. He writes: "Thanks to the sheer will of the officers and men who had fought the battle, and in part at least to the close-in fire support of a handful of destroyers, by nightfall on June 6 the Allies had landed 132,450 American, British, and Canadian soldiers on French soil. ... In the end, it was less the detailed invasion plan, labored over for so many months, that provided the margin of success than it was the desperate ferocity of the men themselves. If the plan had failed, the men had triumphed; if they had not quite established a foothold, they had at least secured a toehold. The question now was whether they could maintain that buildup of men, vehicles, and supplies needed to keep that toehold and to expand it." The Allies were indeed able to "keep that toehold and expand it" as Symonds explains in the latter chapters of his book. Then again, Symonds reinforces his point in his concluding chapter discussing the various roles of everyone in the Operation beginning with General Eisenhower. "Despite all that has been rightly said about the importance of Allied manpower and superior material assets, it was not merely the overwhelming numbers that made Neptune possible. ... It was the people involved who made Neptune possible..... Most of those engaged in Neptune, however, did their jobs anonymously: the ensigns and lieutenants, coxswains, enginemen, boatswain's mates, line handlers, demolition specialists, gunners, Seabees, and medics -- indeed, all the varied ratings of a vast and complex maritime organization, American, British and Canadian, both Navy and Coast Guard. They made Neptune a success." Symonds has written an outstanding history of Operation Neptune and its significance. This book will appeal both to readers with a broad background in WW II military history and to readers wanting a basic understanding of a seminal military, historical, and human event. Robin Friedman

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    Last year there were a number of new books that appeared commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D Day landing in June 1944. These books include COUNTDOWN TO D DAY: THE GERMAN PERSPECTIVE by Peter Margaratis, NORMANDY ’44: D DAY AND THE EPIC 77 DAY BATTLE FOR FRANCE by James Holland, SAND AND STEEL: D DAY AND THE LIBERATION OF FRANCE by Peter Caddick-Adams, THE FIRST WAVE:THE D DAY WARRIORS WHO LED THE WAY TO VICTORY IN WORLD WAR II by Alex Kershaw, and SOLDIER, SAILOR, FROGMAN, SPY, AIRMAN, G Last year there were a number of new books that appeared commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D Day landing in June 1944. These books include COUNTDOWN TO D DAY: THE GERMAN PERSPECTIVE by Peter Margaratis, NORMANDY ’44: D DAY AND THE EPIC 77 DAY BATTLE FOR FRANCE by James Holland, SAND AND STEEL: D DAY AND THE LIBERATION OF FRANCE by Peter Caddick-Adams, THE FIRST WAVE:THE D DAY WARRIORS WHO LED THE WAY TO VICTORY IN WORLD WAR II by Alex Kershaw, and SOLDIER, SAILOR, FROGMAN, SPY, AIRMAN, GANGSTER, KILL OR DIE: HOW THE ALLIES WON ON D DAY by Giles Milton. Another important book appeared in 2014, Craig L. Symonds, NEPTUNE: THE ALLIED INVASION OF EUROPE AND THE D DAY LANDINGS. Symonds the author of THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY, and LINCOLN AND HIS ADMIRALS does a remarkable job describing the preparation and implementation of allied plans for a cross channel invasion that culminated on June 6, 1944 in NEPTUNE: THE ALLIED INVASION OF EUROPE AND THE D DAY LANDINGS. The book is broken down into two parts. First, Symonds explores the coming together of the British-American special relationship that begins following the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, the role of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and the integration of allied planning for the invasion with the personalities of Dwight Eisenhower, George C. Marshall, Sir Alan Brooke, General Bernard Montgomery and a host of others. The second half of the narrative delves into the placement of allied shipping and personnel in England and their preparation for the invasion, and the actual landings themselves culminating in the allied attempt to drive the Germans out of Cherbourg. The book is heavily researched including interviews with survivors, archival material, and the leading secondary works. According to Symonds there were three major steps to prepare for the invasion. First, before the United States entered the war British and American planners began to consider how, when, and where the allies could reenter Europe. Second, the development of the wherewithal needed to achieve the common goal of taking one million men and transforming them into soldiers and sailors to dislodge the Germans from the French coast and drive them inland to defeat. Further, ramp up production to deliver the necessary shipping, weaponry and other tools of war. Third, embarkation, the landing, mastery of the beaches, critical naval gunfire support, food, and ammunition all had to be prepared and organized. Remarkably, the allies where able to overcome numerous obstacles ranging from production issues dealing with landing craft and other necessities, strategic disagreements, personality conflicts, cultural differences, in addition to German U-boats, gun emplacements, and Luftwaffe bombers. Symonds takes the reader through all the major conferences and planning sessions that took place between 1941 (nine months before Pearl Harbor) and 1944 and breaks down the major issues from unity of command, the disagreement over which should take precedence a cross channel invasion or landing in the Mediterranean theater, the number of troops and shipping needed, what types of landing craft should be employed, and the actual timing of any invasion. According to Symonds the key to D Day was Operation TORCH, the allied invasion of North Africa. All the major issues that would emerge for a cross channel invasion were already present in preparing TORCH which would become a dress rehearsal for D Day - creating a multi-national force under one allied commander. In the end TORCH was a success but it highlighted that a great deal of work needed to be done to prepare for Operation OVERLORD. What makes Symonds narrative so compelling are the numerous insights he offers. Especially interesting is his analysis of the cultural differences between British and American society that led to the low opinion that the British had of American soldiers, the American approach to war, and the attitude they felt Americans engendered. The British believed that they had been fighting for a number of years while the Americans may have produced their weaponry, shipping, and other necessities they did not have the combat experience and know how of British planners and soldiers. On the other hand, Americans viewed the British as rather haughty, slow in preparation, and in part beholden to the United States. Symonds explanation of the pros and cons of the Anglo-American relationship is very valuable and reflects how they were dependent upon each other. What separates Symonds account from others is his focus on the different types of landing craft that were needed for OVERLORD, how each fit a particular need, the necessary ingenuity particularly on the part of the British, and the production process and schedules that were developed. Symonds breaks down each type of landing craft and points out the differences of each, the training components, their positive aspects and design flaws, and overall, how important they were to the success of D Day. Symonds explores the experiences of the soldiers who were dependent upon the landing craft as they departed the 171 launching sites dispersed around England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, their experiences in the channel, and what it was like to land on the Normandy beaches. Symonds delves into production issues that forced a one-month postponement of OVERLORD in addition to the weather issues that would force a postponement of one day to launch the operation and forced Eisenhower to smoke even more cigarettes than normal! Symonds is correct when he points out that despite the massive allied firepower the overall impact, particularly on Omaha Beach turned out to be less than hoped for. “….the bombs fell too long, the rockets fell to short, and the naval gunfire was too brief. Ashore, the Germans crouched down in their bomb proof shelters, many with concrete walls five feet thick, and they covered their ears, but none of the Allied ordnance penetrated their bunkers and pill boxes.” Symonds is dead on in arguing that OVERLORD contained so many working parts with a timetable that made each element dependent on so many others. As a result, early errors created a series of difficulties that threatened to ruin the invasion especially on Omaha Beach. However, in the end what saved the day “was the ability of the men both afloat and ashore to adapt and adjust.” Further, what saved the day for those dealing with the heavy German guns were the destroyers in the channel that maneuvered expertly and were able to rein hellfire on the well ensconced German pill boxes. It was clear that even though Omaha Beach fell into allied hands the assault had not gone according to plan and Symonds describes the reasons for the failure. It would take over 10,000 casualties, 3,000 of which occurred on Omaha Beach, a sum greater than the losses on all four of the other invasion beaches combined. Symonds integrates the personal stories of the men who fought and died on D Day into the narrative. Whether describing the men who climbed Pointe du Hoc to knock out heavy German artillery; the men who climbed the bluffs to the shock of the German gunners; Ensigns who found themselves in command of landing craft; or those who splashed in the water or crawled onto the beaches under withering German fire Symonds tells their stories in a clear fashion so one can get a feel for what these brave individuals experienced. The book reads like a work of fiction in parts particularly as the author discusses the planning stage. It morphs into more of a non-fictional work as he gets into the nitty gritty of the types of ships that were employed. If there is a criticism to be made it is that Symonds approach seems a bit American-centered. However, in the end this is an efficient work that is well written and should maintain reader interest. I look forward to reading Symonds latest work WORLD WAR II AT SEA: A GLOBAL HISTORY soon.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mac McCormick III

    Many books have written about the D-Day Invasion of 6 June 1944. Most of them concentrate on the landings and the air drops behind the lines. Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig Symonds is not one of those books. If you're looking for another account of what happened on the Normandy beaches and the countryside beyond on D-Day, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for a book about how D-Day came to be and what it took to get those t Many books have written about the D-Day Invasion of 6 June 1944. Most of them concentrate on the landings and the air drops behind the lines. Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig Symonds is not one of those books. If you're looking for another account of what happened on the Normandy beaches and the countryside beyond on D-Day, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for a book about how D-Day came to be and what it took to get those troops on the beaches and keep them there then this is the book for you. "This book is a study of how the British and Americans managed to overcome divergent strategic views, Russian impatience, German U-boats, insufficient shipping, training disasters, and a thousand other obstacles to bring the Allied armies to Normandy and keep them there." While the story of Overlord is an often told and interesting story, you can't really grasp the challenge of it without studying Neptune. You have to get an understanding of how the Allies went from America joining the war to amassing over six thousand vessels and one million men to begin the liberation of Western Europe in just two and a half years. There were so many challenges to overcome. Many of them were logistical. Where were all of the ships and men coming from? How would they get there? Where would they stage from? Once they get there how do you house and feed them all. Some of them were operational. When would they land? Where would they be landed? Who would lead them? How and where would they be trained? Yet others were diplomatic. The Americans and the British had differing views on how and when. They also had inherently different solutions to the problems at hand. They also had to placate the Russians, who desperately needed a second front to be opened up. Of course, the enemy also had their cards to play. Symonds ties all of these threads together to tell the story of how the Allies got from America's declaration of war at the end of 1941 to the beaches of Normandy in Summer 1944. You might have to be southern to understand this, but I liked Symonds' use of the Tar Baby from the Br'er Rabbit tales as an analogy for the North African and Italian campaigns. I hope it's one that people will read and think about instead of immediately taking offense to it (as some of Joel Chandler Harris' work is prone to do). "In the end, what saved the day was the ability of the men both afloat and ashore to adapt and adjust." Symonds covers the strategy, the equipment, how it was done, why it was done, and describes the confusion and struggle of Omaha Beach - all of which are important parts of the story - but what I like so much about Neptune is that he concentrates on the personalities involved. He develops the personalities of the major figures such as Roosevelt, Churchill, King, Marshall, Brooke, Eisenhower, Ramsay, and other Admirals and Generals and shows how Neptune developed out of the interaction of those personalities. Neptune is just as much a story about how the Allies developed and maintained a working relationship in spite of differing strategies, national personalities, and experience levels as it is a book about Operation Neptune. Neptune, much less Overlord wouldn't have been possible without the Allies working as a team. Symonds doesn't just concentrate on the leadership however, he also credits the men on the pointed end of the spear with the success of the D-Day invasion. He tells the story of Neptune from the Executive level to the Command and Staff level all the way down to the perspective of the landing craft sailor. He tells the story of how when the intricately detailed plan fell apart it was the sailors' and soldiers' training, instinct, and ability to improvise that carried the day. One of the things you come away from reading Neptune with is an understanding that although material, planning, and strategy are important - the human factor is the most important factor. No matter how good your equipment is, no matter how detailed your planning is, no matter what your strategy is, if you don't have the skill and drive to implement it and you aren't flexible enough to adapt when the plan falls apart you aren't going to win. "In the end, it was less the detailed invasion plan, labored over for so many months, that provided the margin of success than it was the desperate ferocity of the men themselves. If the plan had failed, the men had triumphed; if they had not quite established a foothold, they had at least secured a foothold." Neptune is an excellent history of the invasion of Western Europe. It is well researched, using secondary and primary sources which he documents well throughout the book. It is detailed without being dull; it's a compelling book that the casual history reader would appreciate just as much as a World War II anorak. The maps and charts are good (see, two Kindle books in a row - it CAN be done!). If you are going to study the liberation of Western Europe from the Third Reich, this is a must read book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    Book review Neptune Eloquent, thorough, focused, and well documented; Neptune, by Craig L. Symonds, is a definitive work regarding maritime’s most immense project, the invasion of Normandy during World War II. That said, I urge the reader to get a hard copy of this book, because the e-reader version as I saw it had charts that were useless; in addition maps, so important to a work like this, are simply impossible on a tablet. For a book of this importance that should hold a place of pride on the s Book review Neptune Eloquent, thorough, focused, and well documented; Neptune, by Craig L. Symonds, is a definitive work regarding maritime’s most immense project, the invasion of Normandy during World War II. That said, I urge the reader to get a hard copy of this book, because the e-reader version as I saw it had charts that were useless; in addition maps, so important to a work like this, are simply impossible on a tablet. For a book of this importance that should hold a place of pride on the shelves of any professional or serious personal library, it is worth the investment to procure a hard cover copy. Symonds’ narrative opens with strategizing and secret diplomacy regarding American aid to Britain, which is in far worse condition during the war against Nazi Germany than I had ever understood. Just as a plan begins to gel, word comes that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Months of careful planning must now be carefully reexamined and new plans made. Should the USA fight on one front, or on two? Should it attack Japan first, or go straight to Europe (as most US advisers were inclined to do), or follow Churchill’s suggestion that the fight begin in Northern Africa? Americans tended toward quick action and massive investment of resources; the British were careful in husbanding materials and preferred to examine every aspect of every possible plan before moving forward. Frankly, I am glad I didn’t have to be there during the debate. Symonds has put together a narrative different from any other I have read regarding this period, and the only work I have read that deals exclusively with the Invasion of Normandy from the naval viewpoint. I have also never seen any writer try so valiantly to balance the perspectives, the strengths and challenges of both Britain and the USA. It was in reading the ways in which cultural attitudes not only created friction but directly impacted military positions that I realized how completely American I am. He further explains how the decisions that were made came about and all of the careful compromises and considerations that went into the events as they unfolded. Because this is such a momentous work, I found myself marking far too many pages—a weakness when I become overly enthusiastic—and now it would be too much to go back and refer to all of them. The vantage point was enormously enlightening, and I came away feeling as if I had only just begun to grasp the enormity of this horrific conflict. Highly recommended…in hardcover, not tablet form.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I was not born yet when D-Day happened. But I can remember reading about these events in my history class. It is one of the events that shaped America and it should not be forgotten. Especially for all the men and women that gave their lives for what we have now. I think too many young people are not being taught the importance of history and just take things for granted. It is reading books like this that really make you thankful for what you have. I thought the author did an excellent job taki I was not born yet when D-Day happened. But I can remember reading about these events in my history class. It is one of the events that shaped America and it should not be forgotten. Especially for all the men and women that gave their lives for what we have now. I think too many young people are not being taught the importance of history and just take things for granted. It is reading books like this that really make you thankful for what you have. I thought the author did an excellent job taking me back in time in history to the events leading up to D-Day. One thing though that I have always found a problem for me reading these types of books are the numbered references. What I mean by this is that I will be reading and then there will be a number inserted somewhere in the text that the author uses to refer you to the reference that the author used at the back of the book. While I appreciate the author pointing to references, I find that It makes it easier if I read up on the references afterwards when I have finished the book otherwise it is not easy to go back and forth. However, I like the footnotes. They are quick to read and they have lots of very informative information that adds to the section I am currently reading. This book is a must read for history buffs.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Very well written and very detailed, which is what I like. I have read many books about WWII and most of them describe the D-Day invasion of Normandy with a couple of sentences about the ships that transported the troops across the channel to the 5 beaches we landed on. This book expands those few sentences to 400 pages of detail about the planning, preparing and mustering of 6,000 ships and 1,000,000 troops to open the second front and take back Europe from the Nazis.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Alkema

    This book did an amazing job of making a description of logistics exciting. I had never considered the immense amount of planning and logistics behind Operation Neptune, and Craig does a great job of making all of that riveting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings,” by Craig L. Symonds (Oxford, 2014). I had previously read his “Lincoln and His Admirals”--- about Lincoln and the Navy, of course---and enjoyed it very much. Then again, “what, more about D-Day?” you exclaim in exasperation. Well, yes, but Symonds is focused on how the plan developed, the continual warfare between the British, who wanted to go slow, and the Americans, who wanted to invade Europe NOW! Most of the material here is fr “Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings,” by Craig L. Symonds (Oxford, 2014). I had previously read his “Lincoln and His Admirals”--- about Lincoln and the Navy, of course---and enjoyed it very much. Then again, “what, more about D-Day?” you exclaim in exasperation. Well, yes, but Symonds is focused on how the plan developed, the continual warfare between the British, who wanted to go slow, and the Americans, who wanted to invade Europe NOW! Most of the material here is from other books (very few original material) but he gathers it very well, and keeps the main threads clear. He emphasizes exactly how much had to be done to be able to make Normandy possible: not just for the Americans to gather and train enough soldiers, but to build the weapons, and especially to build the ships to carry so many men and so much equipment. Torch in North Africa was a basic rehearsal that only worked because the Germans were fighting on two fronts, out of supplies, and being squeezed. The Americans began learning how to fight; and again in Sicily; and again in Italy. While King and Marshall fumed. But they were learning. Symonds spends a good deal of time on the American shipbuilding feat (remember they were also carrying out a pretty difficult and complicated war in the Pacific, too). His discussion of the development of the landing vessels---the Higgins boats, the slightly larger LCI (Mike) boats, up to the LST---of which there were barely enough—is clear and interesting. Some of the things I learned: not only did Omaha Beach have a bluff above it from which the Germans could fire, but it was a sort of half-moon, so there was enfilading fire from both sides. He says that the only thing that saved Omaha was the intervention of about a half dozen American destroyers, which came practically up onto the beach and took out the German pillboxes and bunkers that were pinning the troops down. He also spend some time on the naval makeup and how it was used, especially in the attack on Cherbourg. There were three battleships along with heavy cruisers sent to destroy two groups of German heavy artillery defending the port. The German guns outranged the Americans and British (which I do not understand since the largest German guns were 11-inchers while the Allies had 14 and 15-inchers, which should have far outranged the others). The German batteries essentially fought off the naval assault, although the bombardment did hurt the defenders’ morale. Among the commanders, he notes as do many historians how Eisenhower’s greatest asset was his level head and tamped down temperament. As all around him raged and plotted and fought, he kept cool and kept them all going in the same direction. And he makes the point over and over: this was never a sure thing. So many things had to go right---not least including that one speck of good weather at the very last moment to allow the invasion to go ahead. Good book. http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/97...

  11. 4 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    It was a great change of pace to finally get back into reading History books. It has been quite some time and even longer since I last reviewed one so I seem to have lost touch…we’ll try this today anyway. While listening to the audiobook of Neptune, it struck me that the writing of this book is easily the most lovable thing about this book. It seems to differ from the writing style used in Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (which I am also currently reading) and it is, in its own way, much bett It was a great change of pace to finally get back into reading History books. It has been quite some time and even longer since I last reviewed one so I seem to have lost touch…we’ll try this today anyway. While listening to the audiobook of Neptune, it struck me that the writing of this book is easily the most lovable thing about this book. It seems to differ from the writing style used in Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (which I am also currently reading) and it is, in its own way, much better. The writing style seems more personal and easier to follow. The author has written (and performed) the book in such a way that it mostly felt like I was listening to a story rather than historical data about a certain event. At one point in the book, quite early into the book, there is a scene in which Roosevelt is about to give a speech and the author paints such an image of that singular moment that it felt so personal and intense, almost as if I was a part of it. It describes how Roosevelt paced back and forth in his office, revising his speech, and his concentration on making sure his speech was as clear but potent as it could be. The significance of that moment, as I listen to how Roosevelt looks at the speech, crosses out one word, and replaces it with another felt unbelievably real, as if I was in the moment. While Napoleon was a compilation of historical data, Neptune felt like almost like a personal narrative. Neptune also tends to flow fluidly from one chapter to another. While listening to the book, I wasn’t really ever aware that I’d already finished a chapter and moved on to another. And when I did notice, I realized the author also has a way of ending his chapters is such a way that despite the fact that this book is purely factual, it still makes the reader want to turn the page and find out how the story continues…almost like a cliffhanger. So while listening, these chapter breaks felt more like section breaks and I flew through hours of this audiobook in the span of a week. What I liked the most about this book, however, is that it focuses on more than one aspect of the Normandy invasion as a historical event. It displays the political drama between nations, the military tactics through which such an event was undertaken, and the somewhat personal side of what war was like for the soldiers themselves and the socio-political relationships between American and British soldiers. This is what makes this book a really great educational read. And I think it would be appealing to many audiences, well, many audiences who enjoy non-fiction. If you have a history buff in your family and are looking for a gift this Holiday, I would highly recommend trying this one. Disclaimer: An audiobook copy of this book was provided by Audible in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by any person, place, or event.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings is an outstanding contribution to the popular history of World War II, and specifically the Normandy invasion and the opening of western front in 1944. What sets this work apart from the many, many other examinations of the Normandy invasion, nearing its 70th anniversary, is the focus on the logistical and resource challenges that the military and political leadership that the United States and the British Empire faced leading up to t Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings is an outstanding contribution to the popular history of World War II, and specifically the Normandy invasion and the opening of western front in 1944. What sets this work apart from the many, many other examinations of the Normandy invasion, nearing its 70th anniversary, is the focus on the logistical and resource challenges that the military and political leadership that the United States and the British Empire faced leading up to the invasion. Prof. Craig Symonds, a retired history professor at the US Naval Academy and sometime instructor to British naval cadets, has shown how the challenges of logistical and resource management drove the decision making processes of the Allies, perhaps more than any other consideration. The level of involvement in senior political and military leadership over the details of rate of construction and design of the smallest landing craft (Higgins boats) is shown to be a major determinate in timing, training and allocation of major strategic decisions. It is remarkable the degree, all things considered, that US and British Imperial assists worked together so seamlessly, over the 2.5 year planning for this invasion. This can largely be connected to the way that senior military leaders not only needed to work with one another, but genuinely liked one another as well. All things considered, the degree that many commanders put aside personal desires for advancement for the common goals is well told. Being a naval historian, there is a degree that the naval commanders and the naval supplies, again down to the landing craft, dominate the text. And Army commanders, especial Gen. Montgomery, do not come off well in this text, but Symonds does back up his assertions with well placed citations, that still do not detract from the readability of the text. Finally, after the years of planning, logistical wrangling and endless meetings, this work turns over to the junior officers and enlisted men who actually had to step off the landing craft, shell the Normandy shore, and drop behind the lines to defeat German occupied France. As a readable account of the massive, mind boggling challenges faced by the Allies, from senior political, to manufacturing, to logistics to the enlisted man trying to get the war over with as soon as possible, this is a fine work and well recommended. The book ends shortly after the invasion begins, with only a summary of the next ten months of the Allied advance towards Germany and defeat of the NAZI state.

  13. 4 out of 5

    J.S.

    I've read several books about the D-Day invasion of Normandy (including Cornelius Ryan's excellent history) but this one looks at it from a slightly different perspective. Most history buffs are probably familiar with Operation Overlord, where 6,000 ships put a million men on contental Europe on June 6, 1944, and the fall of Germany in WWII began. But Overlord was part of a larger plan which was called Neptune and encompassed the entire operation, including the operations in the Mediterranean. Th I've read several books about the D-Day invasion of Normandy (including Cornelius Ryan's excellent history) but this one looks at it from a slightly different perspective. Most history buffs are probably familiar with Operation Overlord, where 6,000 ships put a million men on contental Europe on June 6, 1944, and the fall of Germany in WWII began. But Overlord was part of a larger plan which was called Neptune and encompassed the entire operation, including the operations in the Mediterranean. The US had been involved peripherally in the war in Europe, but when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they joined the conflict officially. It was decided by the Allied powers that Hitler and Nazi Germany needed to be the main focus instead of the Pacific. But Churchill had little faith in the untested and green US troops - and probably with good reason - and thus he tried consistently to redirect the US desire for a mainland invasion toward first North Africa and then Italy. While there were good reasons for such actions, it did little to help alleviate the pressure from Russia on the Eastern Front, and eventually Roosevelt got his way and planning for a cross-Channel invasion began. Symonds has written an excellent history of Operation Neptune. It's mostly a high-level history dealing with the highest political and military figures, but it spells out the reasons and motivations behind the decisions and actions of the Allies (there isn't much about the enemy here). And while I found it very interesting information, it was also kind of dry. But all that changed when Symonds got to the actual invasion and I found myself practically unable to put the book down. Suddenly the men on the ground and in the boats became alive. There are plenty of individual stories and accounts woven into the narrative, but the book retains almost a scholarly feel to it. I don't mean to suggest that regular history-readers won't find this a compelling or readable book, but it's probably not something casual readers will be able to get in to. Nonetheless, if you like to read this kind of history, you'll probably enjoy this one and appreciate Symonds excellent writing. I've already added his history of the Battle of Midway to my to-read list.

  14. 4 out of 5

    patrick Lorelli

    This was a fantastic book about D-Day and the planning that went into it from the time of Dunkirk. How Britain had to talk the U.S. out of invading right when they entered the war, and how really everything from fighting in Africa, to landing in Sicily, and the 82nd parachuting into Italy (Anzio). All of these made for what needed to be prepared for still for the invasion. The author takes you through the political back door battles because Russia wanted a second front sooner than when it was go This was a fantastic book about D-Day and the planning that went into it from the time of Dunkirk. How Britain had to talk the U.S. out of invading right when they entered the war, and how really everything from fighting in Africa, to landing in Sicily, and the 82nd parachuting into Italy (Anzio). All of these made for what needed to be prepared for still for the invasion. The author takes you through the political back door battles because Russia wanted a second front sooner than when it was going to happen, and how Stalin waited two weeks because of that before he started his counter attack against the Germans. He also shows you how much equipment that needed to be made ships, landing craft, ammo, planes, guns, gliders, fuel storage in England, and training personal, men and women. This also goes into medical equipment. Anyway you get the point. If we had invaded right away it probably would have failed. The failures of Dunkirk actually helped with this invasion. The other also goes into how every branch of service was involved. The Coast Guard were the men operating the landing craft along with other crafts. This is a much entailed book about the invasion that change the course of the war. You must remember we were also fighting in the Pacific, and we were producing the most as a country and supply our allies, so we needed time which helped all around. Could go on, and on but read this book it is better than most books on the invasion. I got this book from netgalley. I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This is an excellent narrative of the planning and execution of the largest Maritime expedition in history. The first half of Neptune summarizes the planning of the D-Day invasions. Symonds rewinds all the way back to March of 1941 when, during the ABC conference in Washington, the Allies first began discussing a plan to invade occupied Europe. He goes on from there to explain the many conflicts and compromises between the American and British commanders and how their ultimate cooperation led to This is an excellent narrative of the planning and execution of the largest Maritime expedition in history. The first half of Neptune summarizes the planning of the D-Day invasions. Symonds rewinds all the way back to March of 1941 when, during the ABC conference in Washington, the Allies first began discussing a plan to invade occupied Europe. He goes on from there to explain the many conflicts and compromises between the American and British commanders and how their ultimate cooperation led to the execution of the Normandy invasion launched on June 6th, 1944. He explains the staggering amount of details involved in pulling off the invasion, including the training of troops, the cooperation between different branches of the military, the gathering of supplies, the building of transport ships, etc. The second half of the book goes into detail about how the events unfolded during the month of June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy. I have read two of Craig Symonds' books on World War II - Neptune and The Battle of Midway. In my opinion, his books convey historical events better than any other author I have ever read. He stays to the point and doesn't get bogged down in too many details. His narrative is both entertaining and very informative. If you are interested in WWII, I highly recommend both of these books by Symonds.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Edgar Raines

    Craig Symonds is a very distinguished naval historian. The book gives an overly detailed account of the Allied decision-making between the development of Plan Dog in 1940 to give priority to defeating Germany if the U.S. became involved in a two-front war down to Eisenhower's decision to launch the invasion of France on 6 June. All this has been covered by other historians in greater detail, but for readers not familiar with this literature he gives a knowledgeable survey. The only difficulty is Craig Symonds is a very distinguished naval historian. The book gives an overly detailed account of the Allied decision-making between the development of Plan Dog in 1940 to give priority to defeating Germany if the U.S. became involved in a two-front war down to Eisenhower's decision to launch the invasion of France on 6 June. All this has been covered by other historians in greater detail, but for readers not familiar with this literature he gives a knowledgeable survey. The only difficulty is that this causes him to deal with naval operations on D-Day and later with perhaps less detail than he might otherwise have provided. Still, this is a very good book, well researched and very well written. I do have one question: Did naval operations in support of the Normandy campaign end with the fall of Cherbourg? Symonds carries his story beyond the events of 6 June but not to the end of the Normandy campaign.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melody Cox

    My oldest son is using this book as part of his history curriculum in our homeschool. He loves anything that has to do with military history and finds this book fascinating. This is an all-encompassing view of D-Day and the decisions, events and planning that went into bringing this about. I cannot give a full synopsis of the book since we are using it daily for our History lessons. But, I can say that, so far, we are enjoying it and I appreciate the tremendous amount of education this book provi My oldest son is using this book as part of his history curriculum in our homeschool. He loves anything that has to do with military history and finds this book fascinating. This is an all-encompassing view of D-Day and the decisions, events and planning that went into bringing this about. I cannot give a full synopsis of the book since we are using it daily for our History lessons. But, I can say that, so far, we are enjoying it and I appreciate the tremendous amount of education this book provides. A thank you to Craig Symonds for the time and effort to create such a masterful compilation of D-Day and the events leading up to it. I highly recommend this book as a pleasure read or an addition to your homeschool history class. It is very informative and is easily understood.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dimitri

    A very informative look at the Achilles heel of operation OVERLORD : the naval fire support, the cargo transport and the landing craft. Even the might of American industrial production had trouble keeping juggling all these balls between the European & Pacific theaters, with the liberation of Europe seemingly depending on a Landing Ship, Tank (LST) more or less.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    D-Day primarily from the Navy’s perspective. Symonds takes us through the planning and logistics, from the very start prior to US entry in the war, the conferences and the details of ship design, procurement and production. Ultimately, every strategic and tactical decision made, every priority set, throughout the war was dependent upon availability of shipping – landing craft, minesweepers, cargo haulers. If they weren’t available or were not sufficient in numbers and capability, the operation u D-Day primarily from the Navy’s perspective. Symonds takes us through the planning and logistics, from the very start prior to US entry in the war, the conferences and the details of ship design, procurement and production. Ultimately, every strategic and tactical decision made, every priority set, throughout the war was dependent upon availability of shipping – landing craft, minesweepers, cargo haulers. If they weren’t available or were not sufficient in numbers and capability, the operation under consideration could not happen. It’s a fascinating, and largely overlooked, aspect of the war throughout all theaters. In this case, Symonds is focused on Operation Neptune – the D-Day landings up to the assumption of command of forces ashore by the Army high command. Until that moment, the entire operation was under the command and control of the Navy, the US Navy and the Royal Navy combined staffs. In addition to the mundane, but vitally important and compelling aspects of logistics, ship production and design, and command issues, there are riveting accounts of the landings, the courage, determination and sheer will of the landing forces soldiers and sailors alike; the initiatives and heroism of the warships that went into shallow mined waters and dueled German land-based artillery. The situation at Omaha Beach was so grim – a nearly certain total failure due to unforeseen planning, supply and command execution problems – that the intervention of a small armada of destroyers turned the tide with their sustained volume of fire at point blank range and their willingness to chance grounding, mining and destruction for the sake of the soldiers pinned on the beach. Symonds is clear and objective in his analysis of mistakes and errors along the way, and their consequences. This book will amplify and explicate the sheer magnitude of the D-Day operation, from its inception. It also highlights the different approaches of the British and American forces, and the friction that generated. For example, Symonds notes that if planners determined that there was insufficient shipping to support two simultaneous landings in a given time frame, the British response would be to postpone one of the operations – the American response would be to build more ships. This simple paradox or outlook colored much that occurred. And yet it all did occur! Ultimately, this book is a paean to the men – those ashore and those afloat – and their indomitable will to succeed in the face of numerous and unforeseen obstacles, failures and unanticipated events. Definitely a necessary addition to any D-Day collection!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fred Svoboda

    Super book. Many accounts of the invasion of northern Europe are accounts of combat that take up the story close to the point at which Americans are going ashore to die on Omaha Beach, the most widely known image of D-Day. Of course this much ignores the factors that determined how and where they landed, when, and a myriad of other details. "Neptune" is an account of the logistical and coalition elements that led to the invasion happening as it did. Only at most the last half of the book is an ac Super book. Many accounts of the invasion of northern Europe are accounts of combat that take up the story close to the point at which Americans are going ashore to die on Omaha Beach, the most widely known image of D-Day. Of course this much ignores the factors that determined how and where they landed, when, and a myriad of other details. "Neptune" is an account of the logistical and coalition elements that led to the invasion happening as it did. Only at most the last half of the book is an account of combat operations. Preceding we get the assembly of the US-British alliance, the logistics of the operation, and how those led to June 6, 1944. The picture of an overwhelming armada materializing off the Normandy coast is attention-getting (think of the great scene in the film version of "The Longest Day" where a German looks out and sees that fleet materializing out of the mists of morning). Defeat for the Germans seems inevitable looking back, but in fact all that happened was highly contingent upon many moving parts. The most important was the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) that allowed vehicles and supplies to be landed over open beaches. The US built well over a thousand of these, but they were in perpetual short supply for landings in the Pacific, the Mediterranean and Africa, as well as in Normandy. A few factoids: D-Day originally was scheduled for early May, but was delayed a month so that more LSTs could be built in America and sailed to England; the invasion of southern France originally was planned to coincide with D-Day but had to be delayed (not enough LSTs to support both simultaneously), earlier landings in French North Africa, Sicily, and Italy helped to support the USSR, then doing the heavy lifting against the Germans, but inevitably delayed D-Day, probably by a year. Contrasting views of the Soviets and western allies and the very different points of view of the Brits and Americans are well explored also (top military and civilian leaders), helping further to explore the many factors behind choices that were made.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kieran Healy

    This is an incredible achievement. Somehow Symonds took the largest amphibious landing in human history and boiled the build-up and attack down to a digestible 360 reading pages. His grasp of the nuances is sublime. His writing is crisp and entertaining, devoid of the dry re-telling some fall victim to. Symonds balances the attack out extremely well. All get their time to shine, from stevedores on the beach all the way to admirals and generals. In particular I appreciated his attention to the ro This is an incredible achievement. Somehow Symonds took the largest amphibious landing in human history and boiled the build-up and attack down to a digestible 360 reading pages. His grasp of the nuances is sublime. His writing is crisp and entertaining, devoid of the dry re-telling some fall victim to. Symonds balances the attack out extremely well. All get their time to shine, from stevedores on the beach all the way to admirals and generals. In particular I appreciated his attention to the role American Navy ships played in saving the day at Omaha beach by gunning at Germans despite nearly running aground and dodging very accurate fire from the Germans. I was not aware of the efforts these ships made in helping the Americans on that beach. There are a few issues I have with this book, however. The main issue I have is that it is almost too easy in it's approach. Symonds does not write as if success is inevitable, but at times I lost sense of just how massive and complex this build up actually was. Eventually, though, a table or chart would appear showing the sheer volume of men and materiel headed to Africa, then Italy and then, finally, Britain. Context would return and all that easiness would disappear. A smaller complaint is that he completely bypasses the disinformation campaign used to throw off the Germans to where the attack may land (Operation Bodyguard). It was integral to the Germans not amassing more forces in the area the Allies eventually landed, but there is also barely any literature on it. I was hoping, given his access to all the major planners documentation, that there would be at least something new to learn. But, it's barely mentioned at all. In the end I would say this is highly readable, very enlightening and worth picking up for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of D-Day.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Malloy

    US Naval historian Craig Symonds really knows how to put together narratives. This is my second book by him - I found his book on Midway outstanding. This time the topic is a little more dry than an exciting battle: what are the logistical, operational, and political concerns surrounding the largest naval invasion in world history? The US was extremely trigger happy after Pearl Harbor, and the British had to bring to the table the problems of shipping, supplies, and training in order to keep the US Naval historian Craig Symonds really knows how to put together narratives. This is my second book by him - I found his book on Midway outstanding. This time the topic is a little more dry than an exciting battle: what are the logistical, operational, and political concerns surrounding the largest naval invasion in world history? The US was extremely trigger happy after Pearl Harbor, and the British had to bring to the table the problems of shipping, supplies, and training in order to keep the US in check. In hindsight this was quite wise as the North African landings were very clumsy and raw, and a European invasion would not have succeeded given the resources and circumstances of 1942. In fact the notion of the Normandy invasion failing is a little hard to imagine but it was very possible. Terrible weather, strong resistance from the Germans, technical failures on the invasion beaches (like the DD Tanks at Omaha beach), etc... could have prevented the allies from success. Symonds does not spend much time on things like Allied deception tactics or air superiority. Nor does he provide much insight into the German perspective. He stays focused on the operational concepts of the invasion. Overall a good read for anyone who wants to learn more about everything from vehicle quality and quantity to political pressure on operations.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark Luongo

    Not only did I enjoy reading this book but I had the privilege of listening to the author speak about it at the D-Day symposium sponsored by the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College this past March. The book emphasizes the role that shipping played in the strategic planning of the war, it's impact on both the Pacific & European theaters. It's message, you just don't have enough landing craft. In particular the importance of ships like the LST (Landing Ship Tank). Churchill it was said, when Not only did I enjoy reading this book but I had the privilege of listening to the author speak about it at the D-Day symposium sponsored by the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College this past March. The book emphasizes the role that shipping played in the strategic planning of the war, it's impact on both the Pacific & European theaters. It's message, you just don't have enough landing craft. In particular the importance of ships like the LST (Landing Ship Tank). Churchill it was said, when informed about the inadequacy of shipping, wrote to George C. Marshall, that "the destinies of two great empires... seemed to be tied up in some god-damned things called LSTs." Without the numbers and varieties of landing craft Neptune/Overlord would have been a disaster. Without the naval gunfire of the plucky destroyers who "put their bows on the bottom to suppress German guns ashore" the difficulties on Omaha Beach would never had been surmounted. Professor Symonds also emphasizes the men at "the point of the spear" and rightly credits the success of the operation to the initiative, courage and bravery of the sailors, soldiers and airmen who "got the job done." This book is highly recommended, especially for a 75th Anniversary D-Day read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    There are many histories of D-Day/The Normandy Campaign, but by and large they concentrate on the armies involved. The largest amphibious invasion ever launched obviously couldn't have happened without the Allied navies, and this book sets out to tell the story of the naval side of D-Day. The book starts off with a thorough backstory. Symonds covers British courting and US pre-war planning, American entry to the war, early amphibious operations, and the evolution of naval planning, technology an There are many histories of D-Day/The Normandy Campaign, but by and large they concentrate on the armies involved. The largest amphibious invasion ever launched obviously couldn't have happened without the Allied navies, and this book sets out to tell the story of the naval side of D-Day. The book starts off with a thorough backstory. Symonds covers British courting and US pre-war planning, American entry to the war, early amphibious operations, and the evolution of naval planning, technology and logistics that would make D-Day possible. The reader will learn just how crucial the LST(L) was to the Allied war effort, among many other interesting facts. As enlightening as the earlier chapters are, the chapters covering the invasion are exciting and make for very compelling reading. Besides the more well known ordeals of the landing craft/ships and the contributions of the battleships and cruisers to shore bombardment, Symonds elucidates lesser known actions like the destroyers that made the eventual breakthrough at Omaha Beach possible. If you're at all interested in naval history or World War II, this book is a must read!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

    An excellent account of the planning that went into the D-Day invasion from the earliest days before America's involvement in the war through the days following the invasion. It also covers the invasion of North Africa and the invaluable lessons learned there which had a significant impact on the planning for D-Day. The Americans were right to focus on an invasion of France (which the British were reluctant to do), but the British were right in postponing it as long as they did because the Ameri An excellent account of the planning that went into the D-Day invasion from the earliest days before America's involvement in the war through the days following the invasion. It also covers the invasion of North Africa and the invaluable lessons learned there which had a significant impact on the planning for D-Day. The Americans were right to focus on an invasion of France (which the British were reluctant to do), but the British were right in postponing it as long as they did because the Americans were not trained and ready (as much as they thought they were) for an early invasion. Each party had their strengths and weaknesses but setting aside their sometimes not so minor differences they worked together for the common cause. The role of the combined navies in pounding the shore batteries on Omaha Beach showed enormous heroism and saved that landing from being a complete disaster. The overall story is told with great clarity and is peppered with many anecdotal accounts of individual acts of heroism. Quite a remarkable read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim Van Sant

    A fine survey of the planning, preparation and execution of the naval component of the D-Day landings. Army generals such as Marshall, Morgan, Montgomery--all were central to the prioritization and planning of a landing in Northwest Europe. Symonds really shines though in his descriptions of the landing craft and ships that were so essential to Neptune. Their characteristics and operational fates are indelibly described. Thanks to this book, I now know the difference between an LST, an LCI, an L A fine survey of the planning, preparation and execution of the naval component of the D-Day landings. Army generals such as Marshall, Morgan, Montgomery--all were central to the prioritization and planning of a landing in Northwest Europe. Symonds really shines though in his descriptions of the landing craft and ships that were so essential to Neptune. Their characteristics and operational fates are indelibly described. Thanks to this book, I now know the difference between an LST, an LCI, an LCT, and a Higgins boat (LCVP), and when and how they were used. It was thrilling to read of American destroyers providing fire support to soldiers trapped on Omaha Beach just 800 yards away and how they took small arms fire from the Germans. Fire control was improvised in some instances as destroyers observed and followed the lead of units on the beach who would indicate the next target for naval bombardment with their own fire.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    Loved this book, the narrator was excellent, I learned a lot more about landing craft, for example, than I ever thought I would find interesting, but it was entertaining, sad, exhilarating and certainly brought home the difficulties and rewards of these craft and the men who designed, tested, operated, rode in, and died in these imperative craft in WW2. Just an example of one of the many topics this book cover. The narrator has excellent delivery, I am glad I listened to it as an audio book, ins Loved this book, the narrator was excellent, I learned a lot more about landing craft, for example, than I ever thought I would find interesting, but it was entertaining, sad, exhilarating and certainly brought home the difficulties and rewards of these craft and the men who designed, tested, operated, rode in, and died in these imperative craft in WW2. Just an example of one of the many topics this book cover. The narrator has excellent delivery, I am glad I listened to it as an audio book, instead of reading it, I would have missed out on a certain level of enjoymnet

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe Dulworth

    I liked this book. It was well written, well organized, fully documented. It was a pleasant read without being overly dry. Fact based incidents woven into page turning anxious events laced with occasion humorous notes. Good insight into the events that led up to the end of Operation Neptune which encompassed the D Day landings until a matter of days after the landings when the Allies captured Cherbourg before they officially launched their all out assault across the breadth of France towards Ger I liked this book. It was well written, well organized, fully documented. It was a pleasant read without being overly dry. Fact based incidents woven into page turning anxious events laced with occasion humorous notes. Good insight into the events that led up to the end of Operation Neptune which encompassed the D Day landings until a matter of days after the landings when the Allies captured Cherbourg before they officially launched their all out assault across the breadth of France towards Germany during WWII. Well done.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brian Olinger

    An excellent balance of facts and characters..... D-Day has been an area of great interest to me and Craig Symonds’ book gave me a deep appreciation for just how monumental an undertaking this was. The author strikes the appropriate balance of detail surrounding the planning and logistics with an engaging narrative that gives a sense of the people involved. I would recommend for someone either with an already strong understanding of World War II or someone with a keen interest in planning and logi An excellent balance of facts and characters..... D-Day has been an area of great interest to me and Craig Symonds’ book gave me a deep appreciation for just how monumental an undertaking this was. The author strikes the appropriate balance of detail surrounding the planning and logistics with an engaging narrative that gives a sense of the people involved. I would recommend for someone either with an already strong understanding of World War II or someone with a keen interest in planning and logistics.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthias Noch

    With surely millions of pages written about the D-Day Landings in WW2, it is tough to add some new, valuable details. Still, Symonds managed to write such a book, and it was enriching for me to read it, as it covered in greater detail the operations of the thousands of small ships up to the destroyers. Another interesting perspective he adds is to put the D-Day landings into the perspective of available shipping capacity and the limitations this meant for the strategy the Allied could follow. So, With surely millions of pages written about the D-Day Landings in WW2, it is tough to add some new, valuable details. Still, Symonds managed to write such a book, and it was enriching for me to read it, as it covered in greater detail the operations of the thousands of small ships up to the destroyers. Another interesting perspective he adds is to put the D-Day landings into the perspective of available shipping capacity and the limitations this meant for the strategy the Allied could follow. So, that said, it is also very well written. I really enjoyed it. 5 stars are well deserved.

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