D-Day—the Greatest Invasion: A People's History


176 pages
Contains Maps, Index
ISBN 1-55192-586-9
DDC 940.54'2142





Photos by Peter Christopher
Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


D-Day—the Greatest Invasion is a book about the Allied invasion of
Normandy, which began on June 6, 1944. At first glance, it appears to be
an overpriced coffee-table book, lavishly illustrated with photos and
reproductions of contemporary art, and supplemented with sidebar
vignettes that sometimes interrupt the main theme. This the book
certainly is, but it is also a first-rate, albeit short, account of the
invasion and the subsequent three-month Normandy Campaign, seen from
both the Allied and the German points of view. My only criticism of the
analysis of D-Day is the author’s assertion that the Allies learned
the lessons of the disastrous Canadian-British raid on Dieppe in August

The other flaws in the book are relatively minor. Van der Vat rightly
portrays Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay as a naval commander with a talent
that verged on genius, but to state that Ramsay formed a mutual
admiration society with Ground Forces Commander Bernard Law Montgomery
is a great exaggeration. Nor did Montgomery and the American Third Army
commander George Patton “heartily dislike each other”; Patton’s
bluster and invented rivalry with Montgomery concealed private respect.

Perhaps inevitably in a book of this length, the author, an
accomplished historian, puts his own singular gloss on the events and
the strategic verdict. Where this is questionable is his apparent
endorsement of Montgomery’s contention that the
British-Canadian-Polish moves on Caen were intended to draw the German
armour to the east, allowing the Americans to break out at the western
end of the bridgehead. When this happened, Montgomery claimed that
things went according to plan. This was a Montgomery myth exploded by
Carlo D’Este in 1984. That things went well in the end for the Allies
does not prove that things were planned that way.


Van Der Vat, Dan., “D-Day—the Greatest Invasion: A People's History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15616.