OPN When the sea comes alive
When The Sea Came Alive by Garrett M Graff Image Credit: Supplied

When the Sea Came Alive: An Oral History of D-Day by Garrett M. Graff is a book you must pick this summer.

It is a work that weaves the sprawling story of the Normandy invasion, capturing the raw, human essence of this pivotal day from the perspectives of those who lived it.

Coming out during the 80th anniversary of the landings, this anthology brings together the voices of 700 participants, offering a rich mosaic of experiences from both sides of the battle.

Andy Rooney, reflecting on D-Day, once said, "June 6th, 1944, was one of the few days in history that truly altered the course of the world." Graff's work truly echoes this sentiment, revealing the meticulous planning and sheer determination behind the operation.

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Indomitable courage 

The revelation that D-Day’s preparation began over a year in advance underscores the enormous scale and ambition of the endeavour, highlighting the Allied forces' immense logistical challenges and the indomitable courage required to confront the Third Reich.

Graff excels at sifting through an extensive trove of materials to bring the Normandy landings to life. The book’s most harrowing sections recount the landing and subsequent battles, with firsthand accounts that grip the reader.

The bravery of those in the suicide wave, as it later became established, of Company A, the first to storm Omaha Beach, is very powerfully captured, their unimaginable courage laid bare.

The book stands as a testament to the power of preserving historical memories, demonstrating how much can be gleaned from even the most familiar stories.

Airborne drops across Normandy

Graff’s narrative begins with the airborne drops across Normandy, where many Allied paratroopers made their first jump into enemy territory.

These intrepid soldiers quickly organised in the darkness, their actions sowing chaos among German forces. The daring seizure of Pegasus Bridge by a small group of British troops remains a standout moment, a high-risk operation that exceeded expectations and secured a critical objective.

With the global politics in a flux right now - from Ukraine to Gaza - Graff's book is a powerful reminder of the staggering cost of war and the misery it brings.

Graff's skillful curation of these personal stories in When the Sea Came Alive: An Oral History of D-Day continues to remind us of - both - the futility of war and the personal sacrifices of those involved in it.

Ahmad Nazir is a UAE based freelance writer