The Five Best Accounts of D-Day

The Five Best Accounts of D-Day
DoD photo by A1C Alexis C. Schultz

Norman Smith was a British Cromwell-tank crewman on D-Day, and an unflinchingly honest one in this stark account. Like many veterans of the North African campaigns, he regards Gen. Bernard Montgomery, commander of Allied ground forces during the landings, as “a bit of a bull-shitter.” “This party was not going to be too bad,” Smith recalls Montgomery assuring his troops. “We were not chicken,” Smith observes, “but we would rather someone just tell it straight.” This account does just that, chronicling the buildup and tensions amid threats of ominous weather for the day of the invasion. Smith's extraordinary eye for detail includes images and odors, among them “the prevailing sickly smell of the German soldiery” in their positions, “probably due to some disinfectant soap combined with the smell of stale sweat on ersatz garments.” But in warfare, the German tank crews and gunners “were no slouches.” An enduring memory is his friend's tank being hit by an “88” antitank artillery gun—“a sickening sight,” as the turret was launched to “tree top height, spinning like a child's top before crashing to earth.”

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