- Paperback: 366 pages
- Publisher: Abacus (April 29 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349115974
- ISBN-13: 978-0349115979
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 322 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,674,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ten Days to D-Day Paperback – Apr 29 2004
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As Stafford's publishers say, it reads like a thriller...a gripping read.―Allan Mallinson, THE TIMES
Meticulously reconstructed and carefully interwoven...it is a double triumph of gripping and sensitive celebration.―TLS
A fine book.―SPECTATOR
A miliatary expert and lecturer, Stafford is concerned with the ordinary Joes who were ripped from humdrum lives and thrown to the fates. That he manages to chronicle their part in the landings and still give due respect to the courage and leadership of Churchill and Eisenhower and their ilk is the mark of a work worthy of classic status.―GLASGOW HERALD
About the Author
David Stafford, a former diplomat, has written extensively on intelligence history and is the author of, among other books, THE SILENT GAME and CHURCHILL AND SECRET SERVICE. He is Project Director of the Centre for Second World War Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
Top customer reviews
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The dramatic build up to the D-Day invasion.
The superb pacing.
The fully drawn historical figures.
The variety of people and places depicted.
The important contribution to our understanding of D-Day.
David Stafford's "Ten Days to D-Day" is one of the best and most important works on World War II I've read in recent years. It is a testament to Stafford's amazing talents as a researcher and a writer. The author acquaints us with such disparate figures as Adolph Hitler, a young English woman supporting the war effort as a WREN, an American paratrooper, Charles DeGaulle, a Gestapo prisoner in Norway, a member of the French resistance to name a few.
We follow these people and numerous others in the ten days before the greatest sea-to-land invasion ever contemplated. We share their anxieties, fears, hopes and plans. We get to know not only where they were in those ten days but how they got there. Stafford never lingers with any person to long, deftly going from one person to the next while ultimately still managing to give full justice to each story. Because of the breadth of characters, Stafford hardly ever needs to step away to offer perspective, it's there. He also eschews "cheating," almost never framing his stories with latter-day knowledge.
This would be a useful to students of World War II especially those with a particular interest in D--Day. At the same time it would serve as a great introduction to the war and this aspect of it to a newcomer. Yet at the same time it would be an entertaining for someone just looking for a good read. Remarkable.
In France, a member of the Resistance listens anxiously to the BBC on a tiny radio hidden inside a soup can. A German soldier stationed in France writes home wishful assurances that all is well. TEN DAYS TO D-DAY follows these and many others as they count down the minutes to H-hour and what happenS when the signal is given. There is much pain and struggle ahead, but it marks the beginning of the end of the War.
Drawing from diaries, official records and first-hand accounts, David Stafford has compiled a gripping history of extraordinary courage and sacrifice in the most dramatic, agonizing days of the European front in World War II. Especially appropriate at the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, it is every bit as exciting as Tom Clancy's best. And it's all true.
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General Eisenhower relieved stress by hitting an imaginary golf ball in his office; General Montgomery named his two dogs Rommel and Hitler; Churchill's wife Clementine often sent him notes signed "Love from Clemmie" with a small drawing of a cat.
Several days before the troops sailed for France, security was intense. A British soldier who knew about the invasion sneaked out of his camp and hitchhiked to see his parents and girlfriend. Along the way he bought drinks and told several American soldiers details of the coming invasion.
When he was discovered missing, a quiet but intense manhunt covered the area. He was finally found and interrogated. The American base where he had stopped was cordoned off, and the people who gave him rides were found and volunteered to stay inside their homes for several days. Later the British soldier was sentenced to ten years in prison.
A British newspaper published daily crossword puzzles, and one contained the words "Utah," "mulberry," and "Omaha," all key words describing D-Day operations. Frantic British intelligence agents interrogated the author of the puzzle, a school teacher. Years after the war it was found that his students gave him suggestions for his crossword puzzles. Utah, mulberry, and Omaha were terms that they had heard by spending time with soldiers.
In spite of extraordinary security measures, there were other leaks. Three days before the invasion, a Teletype operator practiced typing the invasion news. By mistake the news went out worldwide and was read on hundreds of radio stations.
The British people knew when the invasion was at hand. They had become accustomed to seeing lines of jeeps, trucks, and trailers laden with backpacks and equipment along the roads. The olive drab uniforms and vehicles became as ubiquitous as the green of the spring countryside. Then overnight, the crowds of GIs that had milled through the towns disappeared. After months of hearing vehicles roaring through streets and voices of soldiers that filled the shops, the towns were strangely quiet.
On the night before the invasion, General Eisenhower and his driver, Kay Summersby, watched rows of C-47 transport planes roar into the sky from an airfield outside Newbury. The planes were heading for Normandy carrying airborne troops. As Eisenhower and Summersby walked back to the car to leave, she noticed tears in his eyes.
General Rommel was celebrating his wife's birthday in Germany when he heard news that the Allies had landed at Normandy. During the drive back to France, Rommel sat impatiently in the back of his speeding car punching a gloved fist into the open palm of the other gloved hand.
TEN DAYS TO D-DAY is about the preparation and the waiting. "We defy augury," Hamlet tells us. "If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all." The readiness, not the eventual conflict itself, is the theme of the book; the anxiety and the curiosity that enveloped the two sides, both waiting for the hammer-blow to fall, not knowing where or when, hostage to the weather and to fortune.
David Stafford's book starts in medias res --- literally, in the middle of a daring parachute jump behind enemy lines. It is concerned with two groups of people --- one group familiar to the reader, the other group not. The familiar group is the generals and politicians and other assorted leaders who were making the preparations for what would come on June 6th, 1944. This is the group responsible for the high politics: determining where the Allied blow would fall on the German side, and ensuring strategic surprise, French cooperation and combat readiness on the Allied side. (This involves interesting trivia, like the details of Hitler's medical care and the kerfuffle regarding whether Churchill would be allowed to hit the beaches with the troops personally.) This is the group that you expect to read about --- Eisenhower, Rommel, Montgomery, DeGaulle, Roosevelt --- and Stafford does a stellar job of explicating their thoughts, feelings and strategies, right down to Eisenhower managing stress by putting invisible golf balls on his office carpet.
The second group whose actions are highlighted in TEN DAYS TO D-DAY is much more diverse, having really only one thing in common. All of them were inveterate diarists, which means something. We are now, as of this writing, sixty years from June 1944, and the members of the D-Day generation are seeing their numbers dwindle into infinity. Interviews and oral histories are becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain. Stafford's choice --- going back into the library to retrieve diaries and letters --- is a sad one, but increasingly necessary.
Stafford's diarists cover a wide swathe of the D-Day events, including some people who were completely uninvolved. The idea apparently is to choose the most interesting diary entries for the time frame, and that necessarily involves people who had little or nothing to do with the invasion. There is the young woman serving in a "Wren" unit in Southern England, the heroic actuary languishing in a Nazi prison cell in Norway, and the Jewish hairdresser hiding from the Gestapo in a Paris garret.
None of these diarists really affect the invasion in any meaningful way, but they have their place in the story --- the invasion is being fought on their behalf, if nothing else. This does make for some jarring transitions, with the narrative skipping around from rural French cottages serving as Resistance centers to high-level strategic meetings in Eisenhower's trailer --- but anyone who has read a Tom Clancy novel will be familiar with the structure.
Even in choosing the period before D-Day, TEN DAYS TO D-DAY traverses well-trodden ground; there isn't much new information here (except for the explanation of how the Daily Telegraph crossword editor put "Overlord," "Omaha" and "Mulberry" into his puzzles). Stafford's achievement here is putting his team of diarists into the action, introducing them to the reader, and breathing new life into their words and deeds.
--- Reviewed by Curtis Edmonds