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Normandy Invasion — viewing in a different way

11 July 2013

Normandy Invasion — viewing in a different way

Normandy: a graphic history of D-Day the Allied invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe, Wayne Vansant, 2013, ISBN 978-0-7603-4392-0, 103 pp.

Normandy: a graphic history of D-Day the Allied invasion of Hitler's Fortress Europe by Wayne Vanshant with cover and art also by Wayne Vanshant

Normandy: a graphic history of D-Day the Allied invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe by Wayne Vansant with cover and art also by Wayne Vansant — image courtesy of Zenith Press

This is a graphical history book done with the same attention to art as a graphic novel. No simple comic book, this is graphic art with more detail and color as well as length than the comic books we read when we were growing up.

It is art since it connects the reader to the past through emotion. And it is historical. Vansant illustrates (quite literally in this case) the Allied and Axis sides of the Normandy Invasion — heroes and war criminals — great decision makers and bad decision makers. He also addresses, and has the reader have a sense of, the terrible destruction suffered by the civilian populace.

The invasion is not only about D-Day, it is about the ramp up to D-Day through the liberation of Paris two months after the Allies first stormed Fortress Europe. Vansant describes the strategic overview of many of the battles which took place, leaving no involved nationality without mention — quite unbiased with regard to national perspective. Especially poignant is the story told of the Polish 1st Armored Division and the defense of Mont-Ormel at the “Mace” (Maczuga, in Pole) with their loss of 325 against the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions — though the spoils of war would not allow them to return to the homeland they left. Feats of many Wermacht soldiers are also told. Vansant’s objective approach makes this book’s writing more by an historian since he applies so much context with little in the way of a particular side’s amplified glorification. The Waffen-SS tank commander Michael Wittman’s exploits and leadership clearly illustrate that brave and dedicated soldiers were on both sides — and explains the obvious, why the battle took so many weeks and at a tremendous cost.

Airpower is addressed just as well as the infantry and armor aspects of the combat. The start of the invasion is shown with the courage and initiative of airborne forces. Strategic bombers did well when on interdiction missions but were ineffective to worse in other missions with Vansant illustrating the killing of the highest ranking Allied officer in an air raid gone wrong. Also shown is how, with the skies flooded with fighter and attack aircraft, the German Panzers were forced to be immobile during much of the daylight hours over the course of the battle. The killing time of an all-but-encircled Wermacht army at the end of the battle in the Falaise pocket, often untold, is told in Vansant’s emotive way showing the grim but needed work of the Allies and madness of events borne by the German servicemen. Necessary to do, but not public relations material lest those on the home front think their service people less than honorable (this occurred in subsequent wars, as well).

War crimes are addressed as is the tragic story of the Hitlerjügend (Hitler Youth) — where the Nazi’s formed a unit consisting of 16 and 17 year old soldiers. Their story is not a good one and Vansant brings the emotion and callousness to us through his artful skill. He also has us experience the horrible suffering thrust upon the civilians.

His artistic skill show emotive faces, moments of joy as well as pain, what the lifelike in the mud (for the infantry there is always mud, it would seem) as well as bodies torn asunder (though not with gory detail). Vansant has given a book to readers which concisely and accurately tells the tale of the Normandy Invasion — he has also given us the emotion of that period in World War II, a different way to look.


As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press has provided a copy of this book to read for the writing of an objective review — no compensation has been offered, expected or requested.

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