[September 27, 2022] The Fall weather is teasing us here in Southern Jersey; the winds increased, temps and humidity falling, and shorter days. This is the time of year I begin some serious reading. Luckily I was in the library near where I live and ran across a book on Dunkirk. Ever since the movie Dunkirk (2017) came out, many have taken to reading about one of the most important stories of heroic survival in the last hundred years. The author, Walter Lord (1917-2002), an American lawyer and popular historian, is best known for his 1955 account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, A Night to Remember. In his later book on Dunkirk, Lord tells the story of French and British armies trapped by Hitler’s blitzkrieg that was on the verge of being crushed against the coast. It’s one of those tales that need re-telling every so often because it gives us hope in the face of great danger and delivers heroes by the bucket. We are all better off for the survival of these armies that fought Hitler later in the war.
The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo, Walter Lord 1982
In May 1940, French and British armies were hemmed in by overwhelming Nazi strength; some 338,000 men gathered on the beach where all that stood between Hitler and Western Europe. Unable to retreat further, the Allied soldiers set up defense positions and prayed for deliverance. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered an evacuation on May 26, expecting to save no more than a handful of his men. But Britain would not let its soldiers down. Hundreds of fishing boats, pleasure yachts, and commercial vessels streamed into the Channel to back up the Royal Navy, and in a week, nearly the entire army was ferried safely back to England.
The evacuation of Dunkirk is seen as a British “miracle.” Still, Walter Lord’s portrayal of the French troops and their commanders gives a good background on their essential contribution to the “miracle.” Without the French troops delaying the German advance, the “miracle” would not have happened. The image of all the French troops abandoned on the beaches of Dunkirk as the last rescue ships leave is haunting.
Based on interviews with hundreds of survivors and told by “a master narrator,” The Miracle of Dunkirk was a remarkable history of a week when the outcome of World War II hung in the balance (Arthur Schlesinger Jr.). Walter Lord’s details put the readers in the midst of chaos. There were heroes. There were cowards. The fog of war caused numerous friendly fire casualties. The execution of British POWs by the Nazis was a surprise, as was the recounting of British officers shooting and killing their own men who deserted their defensive position.
The evacuation of Dunkirk is seen as a British “miracle,” but Walter Lord’s portrayal of the French troops and their commanders gives a good background on their essential contribution to the “miracle.” Without the French troops delaying the German advance, the “miracle” would not have happened. The image of all the French troops abandoned on the beaches of Dunkirk as the last rescue ships leave is haunting.
Great book. Highly recommended.
Please read my newest book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
To go to the complete Professional Reading list, click on this direct link: www.theleadermaker.com/reading-list/
Side Note: Please remember and take a look at Tom Copeland’s reading blog. His website, which I highly recommend, can be found here: https://militaryreadinglists.com/map