The D-Day landings began during the night of 5-6 June when the first paratroops were dropped into Normandy. During the day they were followed by thousands of British, American and Canadian airborne troops, some dropped by parachute and some landed (or crashed landed) in gliders. This book focuses on the actions of those airborne troops on D-Day, and in some cases on the next two or three days as they struggled to join up with the troops coming from the beaches.
The author is very good on the close-up details of the fighting on D-Day and on the development of airborne forces, but less strong on the wider picture (for example he has the BEF crossing to France in May 1940, rather than the autumn of 1939, presumably mistaking the dash east into Belgium for a dash across the channel).
The book starts with a brief history of the development of airborne troops, from the earliest pre-war experiments with paratroops to the German successes of 1939-41, ending with the costly capture of Crete. He then moves on to look at the development of airborne troops in Britain, the United States and Canada, the build-up to D-Day and the Allied plans for the day. This takes up much of the first half of the book, leaving part of the first half and all of the second half for the detailed account of the fighting in Normandy on D-Day. This part of the text is supported by a large selection of eyewitness accounts from participants in the day's events, which help give an idea of the general level of chaos and confusion that dominated after the scattered landings.
By focusing on all Allied airborne forces involving on D-Day Whitlock allows the readers to compare their different experiences, while the eyewitness accounts and detailed narrative allow the individual paratroops and glider troops to come to the fore.
1 - The Germans' Brilliant Idea
2 - Training a Brit Paratrooper
3 - American Joins the Fight
4 - Canada: Standing on Guard
5 - Getting Gliders off the Ground
6 - The Germans on the Defensive
7 - The 'All Americans' Prepare
8 - Pathfinders and Paradummies
9 - The British/ Canadian Preparations
10 - The Sharpening of Knives
11 - The Decision to Go
12 - The British/ Canadian Take-Off & Drop
13 - Target: Sainte-Mère-Église
14 - The Canadian Drop
15 - The 101st' Jump
16 - Shootout at the W-X-Y-Z Complex, the Fight for Brécourt Manor, and Other Skirmishes
17 - Battle for the Orne Bridges
18 - Disaster at the Merville Battery
19 - Securing Pegasus Bridge
20 - Death at the Château, Battle at the Crossroads
21 - Battle of Sainte- Mère-Église
22 - Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer
23 - Hell in the Hedgerows
24 - The Battle for Chef-du-Pont & La Fière Bridge
25 - D-Day Plus 1 - And Beyond
26 - The Battle for Bréville
27 - Final Fight for La Fière
28 - The Battles for Carentan & Graignes
Author: Flint Whitlock