cover image The Fighting First: The Untold Story of the Big Red One on D-Day

The Fighting First: The Untold Story of the Big Red One on D-Day

Flint Whitlock, Author Basic Books $27.5 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8133-4218-4

The author of two other WWII histories (Soldiers on Skis and The Rock of Anzio), Whitlock now focuses on the often overlooked 1st Infantry Division that, along with the well-chronicled 29th Division, stormed Omaha beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Nicknamed""The Big Red One,"" the 1st Division was already seasoned in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns and expected to be transferred from the Mediterranean to a cushy job training green recruits stateside. Instead, the haggard, battle-hardy division was sent to England to train for Operation Overload under a new commander, Clarence Huebner. Through interviews, unpublished manuscripts and other primary sources, Whitlock recounts their determined, if exhausted, preparation for the invasion of France: they stoically survived warm British beer and rigorously trained replacements for their fallen brothers-in-arms. Burdened with every piece of equipment they could possibly need (and some they didn't), the 1st fought their way through barbed wire, mines and machine guns, past formidable German fortifications and into the hedgerow country beyond the beach cliffs. They won three D-Day Medals of Honor for those 12 hours of fighting alone. The rest of the book covers the high points of the European campaign, moving along with the 1st through street fighting in Aachen, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Bonn. Altogether this book is a worthwhile chronicle of a small group of worn-out men who were called to do yet another duty and did it well. 50 b&w photographs, 20 maps