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BREACHING FORTRESS EUROPE: The Story of U.S. Engineers in Normandy on D-Day

Sid Berger, 1994, 286p. illus., Kendal/Hunt Publishing, $ unknown.


D-Day, the 6th of June 1944, began the greatest amphibious invasion in history. Hitler's Fortress Europe periphery was defended on the west by an 'Atlantic Wall' that stretched along 2,400 miles of coastline. This wall was composed of nearly 15,000 fortified positions designed to produce a continuous belt of deadly interlocking fires that covered obstacles, mines, wire, seawalls, and anti-tank ditches.


Much has been written of this great undertaking and it's difficult to imagine another work that could add much to what has already been produced. Fortunately, I was wrong. Sid Berger, a veteran of three amphibious invasions -- Sicily, Italy, and Utah beach at Normandy -- provides the reader with an extremely articulate, well organized, and specific work that culminates on the Longest Day.

Reviewed: Mar-Apr '95


In Breaching Fortress Europe, Berger's approach is very well structured and provides a tremendous amount of background information leading up to Operation Overlord from the amphibious perspective. He takes an in-depth look at the role of engineer units in amphibious operations, the cross-channel invasion planning, the Atlantic Wall defenses, the landing force preparations, the invasion force marshaling and embarkation and the actual invasion itself. 


Replete with an assortment of pictures, graphs, maps and anecdotes that very ably support his narrative, Berger has produced an exceptionally authoritative work on the Normandy invasion.


Interestingly enough, his subtitle, The Story of U.S. Engineers in Normandy on D-Day, is misleading for much of what he addresses is not just from an engineer perspective. The background coverage is broad and presents an exceptionally concise picture of every factor that impacted on the amphibious assault.


Breaching Fortress Europe is not a personalized novel in the style of Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day. The closest the reader will get to that in this book is with some anecdotes the author has included. But that was not Berger's intent. Where does this book belong in the plethora of books about 6 June 1944?  Combined with Marshall's Night Drop and Ryan's The Longest Day, Berger's Breaching Fortress Europe provides the background and framework upon which the other two novels build.


In this book's Preface, MG(Ret) McCarthy, the Society of American Military Engineer's National President, states that this account "will make any engineer proud." It does even more than that. It clearly demonstrates why Engineers will always lead the way.

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