Reviews for When The Sea Came Alive

by Garrett M. Graff

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A sprawling history of D-Day from the point of view of participants on both sides. “There have only been a handful of days since the beginning of time on which the direction the world was taking has been changed for the better in one 24-hour period by an act of man. June 6th, 1944, was one of them.” So recalled Andy Rooney, then a war correspondent. Timed for the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, Graff’s book is an anthology of sorts: Most of the stories gathered in this oral history come from printed sources and weren’t gathered firsthand. Still, it’s a worthy endeavor, bringing together 700 people who took part in the invasion in one way or another. Rooney was there; so was a German officer on Juno Beach who recalled, “This battle was the beginning of the end of the war.” Graff emphasizes the precariousness of the Allied position on a couple of scores: The sea was rough, drowning as many soldiers as were gunned down on the beaches, and the Germans could have defeated the attackers if they had organized an effective counteroffensive strategy. That’s not the way it worked out, of course—although, as Graff comments, “German resistance would continue along the beaches for multiple days, until the final strongpoints were defeated and the final batteries inland were captured.” Another point of emphasis is the appalling rate of casualties suffered by the Allies: One British soldier recalls that when his unit reached Germany a few months after landing in Normandy, “there were only three of us remaining from the original complement of men who landed on D-Day. All the others had either been killed or wounded.” A timely reminder of the cost of war, as well as the bravery of those who stormed the beaches all those decades ago. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.