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Beyond the Beach: The Allied War against France

Beyond the Beach: The Allied War against France by Stephen Alan Bourque. Naval Institute Press, 2018, 341 pp.

In Beyond the Beach, author Stephen Bourque—a retired US Army officer, former history teacher, and currently a professor emeritus at the US Army Command and General Staff College—attempts to analyze and give meaning to the Allied heavy bombing missions over France leading up to the D-Day invasion. Indeed, it was a glance at a remembrance plaque in Metz honoring railway workers killed during the war that inspired Bourque to learn more about the Allied bombing raids.

Bourque states in his book that the success of the bombing campaign waged against France in the preceding months and days before the D-Day invasion is a hotly debated topic among historians and analysts. Supported by his research annotated throughout the book, he details the bombing campaigns, the strategy behind the styles of bombings, and the apparent effectiveness of these raids. The author also asks whether the bombings could have caused the decimation of homes, churches, schools, and infrastructure in France, not to mention the death toll of the French civilians who lived near or in the actual bombing targets. Bourque goes to great lengths to introduce individual French civilians whose lives were upset during these bombing raids and postulates that the bombings could have been conducted with less recklessness.

WWII enthusiasts will be intrigued by Bourque’s description of Germany’s invasion of France before the United States entered the war. He writes about the capitulation of the French government, the formulation of the puppet government, and the horrifying merge of Jewish persecution into German philosophy that enveloped the now-German-occupied peoples of France.

War strategists will be equally enticed with this book as Bourque delves into England’s strategic bombings throughout France before the United States’ involvement in the war. He discusses how that strategy changed with the rise of General Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and his implementation of new procedures for bombing raids. Here is where Bourque may lose a few readers, as he flip-flops between agreeing with the bombing strategies’ effectiveness and clearly emphasizing his distaste for the sheer destruction the bombings caused France. He understands the importance of the bombings but goes to great lengths in chastising the warring factions for conducting them.

The book includes some photos and illustrations as well as a few maps of the areas Bourque discusses. It is a long story that may need more than one sitting as it gives many strategic theories that deserve consideration and further study. It is one book out of a series of five intended to explore previously ignored facets of the history of airpower, according to the book’s editor, Paul Springer.

MSgt Vicky Spesard, Kentucky Air National Guard
            

The views expressed in the book review are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense.
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