‘Fields of War: Battle of Normandy’

May 6, 2014

Approaching the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Robert J. Mueller’s “Fields of War: Battle of Normandy” is an important and welcome guide to anyone even passingly considering honoring the brave souls who charged into occupied Europe to help destroy one of history’s most monstrous tyrannies.

We don’t need an anniversary to bugle up gratitude for those brave, brave men who tipped the balance upon Germany’s hellish Nazis — we do need a book like this to help us find the way to do so after such a time as has passed.

Mueller’s “Fields of War” (French Battlefields. Arlington heights, 2014, $29.95) is listed as a “visitor’s guide to World War II battlefields” and it is certainly that. But, more, it is a crisp and clear portrait of world-shaping events and the armies — and individuals — who did the shaping. One by one.

This is a very good book.

“Fields of War” (www.FrenchBattlefields.com) paints in the grandest scale the battles, the units, the terrains and, most important, the soldiers who wrested Europe back from history’s most evil and bloody lords. For anyone considering a visit to northern France, this is the book to have in hand. For those others inspired to salute from afar freedom’s heavy victory, these pages give direction and explanation — and meaning.

Across more than 400 pages of maps, day-by-day accounts of unit-by-unit progress in the ghastly fighting that drove the Germans from their terrible hold on the lands they had conquered, “Fields of War” is a road map to history — across a landscape marked by century after century of nearly unceasing pain and bloodshed.

The prose is brisk and to the point: There is a great story being told here. The photographs are evocative and the perspective captured brings back to life events of so long ago — but only yesterday in the grim accounting of mankind’s mad dedication to violence.

From the hard beaches of Normandy to the routing of the hateful German occupiers, the book paces us through the accomplishments of nations, of armies, of divisions, of soldiers in battle after battle.

Robert J. Mueller’s previous book, “Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium” tellingly looked at six centuries of fighting across a small patch of the world’s landscape. This book dedicates nearly the same space to one seemingly small season’s fighting in the same area — one which, prayerfully, will be the last such look needed as we hope against hope that no more battlefields such as these will be needed again.

The strategies and tactics are made clear. The events and progresses are helpfully outlined. Highlights for a visitor nearly three-quarters of a century later are accounted and defined. We need this book: As the participants fade and the memories dim, “Fields of War: Battle of Normandy” is possibly more important now than it ever might have been earlier.

What do you think?