Thousands of books have been written about D-Day.
Alex Kershaw’s new telling, The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II is one of the first to try to take you there.
The prominent World War II historian and New York Times bestselling author buried himself in diaries, letters, and oral histories of the invasion of Normandy to build a nearly minute by minute description of the day, told by the men who were there.
“These exploits have been covered by not minute by minute and second by second,” he said. “These are characters and people that we haven’t read about before.
“D-Day has been covered so many times. To write a book that is entirely new and fresh is impossible,” Kershaw said. “What you can do is take a different approach.”
In The First Wave, Kershaw focuses on those first rows of men to exit the boats and hit the beach. The men, who he says, were the most likely to die that day.
“They had the toughest jobs,” he said. “They had to succeed that day or D-Day would have failed.”
Through his re-telling Kershaw introduces audiences to men who stormed the beach that have not necessarily been focused on in previous writings. He carefully picked from a slate of candidates in order to humanize the events of the day.
“I wanted to try and do justice to the sheer craziness and depths of spirit it took to pull off what they pull off,” he said. “It was a suicide mission really and I thought it would be nice to show what it cost and what it took and dramatize that in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
He said he not only hope people feel a connection with those soldiers through his book, but also feel a sense of pride in what they accomplished.
“I want people to reflect on what I believe is America’s finest hour,” Kershaw said. “Countless people suffered way too long and when they heard about D-Day they finally had hope. That sacrifice was altruistic it and was not for the people at home in America, it was for the people in Europe. I grew up in that Europe and I’m eternally grateful.”