CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012
The Second World War lasted from 1939-1945. The beginning of the end of the war in Europe began on June 6, 1944, when the allied armies of Britain, the United States, and Canada landed on the beaches of Normandy. This invasion of German occupied Europe was called "Operation Overlord" and is described in Assault on Juno as "the largest amphibious invasion in history". Assault on Juno is the story of Canada's role in this invasion when the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade landed on Juno Beach. There is, in addition, a brief history of the war before the Normandy invasion. The book has 16 chapters ranging in length from 4 to 16 pages. It has an Index, two maps of the part of France where Operation Overlord took place and eight pages of functional black and white photographs grouped together. The second map, because it is small, is detailed and confusing.
Occasionally, unusual words are used for which there is no explanation. One example is "the 79th Armored Division Funnies". Another is "a battery of priests". A glossary which included these terms would have been useful.
Assault on Juno reads much like how the actual assault probably took place. It tells of the actions of scores of men, both officers and enlisted soldiers, as they tried to make the best of a dreadful situation. Coming ashore in deep water, they faced numerous deadly obstacles including a well-positioned and well-armed foe determined to make June 6th the last day for as many Canadians as possible. There is no central figure in the story, just countless tales of individual heroism. Frequent mention of soldiers' names and their experiences gives Assault on Juno a human touch. It is easier for the reader to relate to this horrible drama when such personal details are mentioned. The tragic story of Rifleman Andrew Galoway Mutch, who drowned before the landing craft he was on reached shore, is but one example.
Assault on Juno, a detailed and poignant account of a horrific event, is accurate and well researched. The intended readership should have no trouble with it. It is clearly written and easy to understand. It is suitable for recreational reading, and, in the thoughtful reader, will raise many questions about the futility of war and why so many young men had to die.
Mark Zuehlke, previously a journalist, has written more than twenty books, including Ortona Street Fight, also published by Raven Books. In addition to writing history, Zueklke writes mysteries for which he has won awards and received critical praise.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.