Book review: D-Day in Numbers by Jacob F.Field

D-Day in Numbers by Jacob F.Field
D-Day in Numbers by Jacob F.Field

On D-Day – 70 years ago this June – over seven million pounds of bombs were dropped by Allied aircraft as Operation Overlord swung into action.

The bombardment from the air was just one component of the Battle of Normandy, the most complex and ambitious invasion in military history, which aimed to reclaim mainland Europe from German occupation.

The significance of the operation has captured the collective imagination and become the defining moment of the Second World War, spelling the beginning of the end of an all-consuming conflict.

The perilous Allied landings on five Normandy beaches – codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – were the culmination of years of planning and preparation.

D-Day in Numbers tells the remarkable story of the largest seaborne invasion of all time, covering the mammoth preparations for the landings, their vast and savage scale and their aftermath in the battle for Normandy.

Historian and writer Jacob F.Field takes a look at some of the most amazing and poignant events through the statistics and figures associated with the campaign from the background and origins of the war, through D-Day to the victorious armed surge into France and Germany.

Each number signifies an important moment within a larger story, all explained in the context of the surrounding events. And with the vast amount of planning that went into the execution of such an ambitious operation, the numbers involved are moving, surprising and awe-inspiring.

Field gives us D-Day (Deliverance Day) as we’ve never before viewed it… a succession of staggering figures underlining not just the scale of the operation but the human sacrifice involved.

Over 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches on June 6 1944. The majority were from the UK, the USA and Canada but also included French resistance fighters, Polish tank crews and Jewish commandos who had fled persecution in Germany.

On D-Day itself, there were over 10,000 Allied casualties and the Battle for Normandy as a whole resulted in the deaths of 19,890 civilians.

Field also provides a fascinating insight into some of the ingenious equipment used to secure victory including ‘swimming tanks’ developed by engineers to support the invading infantry and temporary harbours known as ‘Mulberries.’

He has also unearthed some little known and quirky facts and figures like the four daily packets of Camel cigarettes smoked by General Eisenhower in the months before D-Day, the 70,000 British women who married US servicemen, the 100 million units of penicillin produced by the American pharmaceutical industry in the month before D-Day and the 4,500 trained army chefs sent to Normandy to feed the troops.

These are just some of the incredible statistics that stacked up against the Germans and helped the Allies to change the balance of power in Europe – and the rest of the world.

An amazing, revealing and inspirational countdown to the defining event of the Second World War…

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £12.99)