A s part of the research for my book, D-Day, my wife, Moira, and I spent a summer in Normandy. Staying in small hotels in the seaside villages, we walked along the beaches and swam in the surf. I've been studying this battle since I first went to work for General Eisenhower as editor and biographer in 1964. I have visited Normandy at least a dozen times, for periods ranging from a couple of days to a week or two. I am always startled to find out how much I don't know, and delighted at how much I learn.
One reason for our trip was new source material I had with me, transcripts of oral histories from the men of D-Day. The Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans has been collecting tape-recorded memories from Normandy veterans; to date, we have about 1,000 from Americans and another 300 from German, French, Canadian, and British veterans. In most cases they are detailed enough to make accurate guides.
For example, on Omaha Beach, on the shoulder of the bluff looking down on the Colleville draw, there is a series of German emplacements that impressed themselves forever on the minds of a dozen or so of my U.S. 1st Division informants. The Germans built a miniature Gibraltar to defend that draw. There are a dozen or so "Tobruks" of various sizes. Some are cement silos sunk into the ground, with openings that a mortar crew inside could fire from with all but perfect immunity. Others held machine guns or flamethrowers; some even had