Neptune by Craig L. Symonds - 2015 Samuel Eliot Morison Award For Naval Literature


Neptune, The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings

by Craig L. Symonds

Craig L. Symonds, winner of the 2015 RADM Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, will be received by the New York Commandery and speak at our Annual Book Award dinner, to be held at the Racquet & Tennis Club in New York City on Wednesday evening, 18 November 2015.


• A riveting story of the greatest sea-borne assault in human history
• Discover the often overlooked naval arm of the D-Day invasion just in time for the 70th anniversary of the invasion
• Expertly told by one of the foremost naval historians writing today, author of the highly acclaimed Battle of Midway



Craig L. Symonds is Professor of History Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of many books on American naval history, including The Battle of Midway and Lincoln and His Admirals, co-winner of the Lincoln Prize in 2009.



Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and especially Omaha, the scene of almost unimaginable human tragedy. The sea of crosses in the cemetery sitting today atop a bluff overlooking the beaches recalls to us its cost.

Most accounts of this epic story begin with the landings on the morning of June 6, 1944. In fact, however, D-Day was the culmination of months and years of planning and intense debate. In the dark days after the evacuation of Dunkirk in the summer of 1940, British officials and, soon enough, their American counterparts, began to consider how, and, where, and especially when, they could re-enter the European Continent in force. The Americans, led by U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, wanted to invade as soon as possible; the British, personified by their redoubtable prime minister, Winston Churchill, were convinced that a premature landing would be disastrous. The often-sharp negotiations between the English-speaking allies led them first to North Africa, then into Sicily, then Italy. Only in the spring of 1943, did the Combined Chiefs of Staff commit themselves to an invasion of northern France. The code name for this invasion was Overlord, but everything that came before, including the landings themselves and the supply system that made it possible for the invaders to stay there, was code-named Neptune.

Craig L. Symonds now offers the complete story of this Olympian effort, involving transports, escorts, gunfire support ships, and landing craft of every possible size and function. The obstacles to success were many. In addition to divergent strategic views and cultural frictions, the Anglo-Americans had to overcome German U-boats, Russian impatience, fierce competition for insufficient shipping, training disasters, and a thousand other impediments, including logistical bottlenecks and disinformation schemes. Symonds includes vivid portraits of the key decision-makers, from Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, to Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the naval element of the invasion. Indeed, the critical role of the naval forces--British and American, Coast Guard and Navy--is central throughout.

In the end, as Symonds shows in this gripping account of D-Day, success depended mostly on the men themselves: the junior officers and enlisted men who drove the landing craft, cleared the mines, seized the beaches and assailed the bluffs behind them, securing the foothold for the eventual campaign to Berlin, and the end of the most terrible war in human history.


Reviews and Praise for Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings

"Excellent... Symonds has produced a terrific account of the heroic role the U.S. Navy played in making the D-Day landings a success." --Charleston Post and Courier
"Symonds employs his extensive knowledge and skill at synthesis to turn an oft-told story into vibrant on-the-scene history... Symonds touches all the bases... The landing is especially well narrated. Solid writing has the reader feeling the suspense, where the outcome is already known." --Sea History
"[A]n impressive account... Most accounts of the D-Day invasion start with landing craft opening their gates as courageous men rush out into German gun fire, Symond's brilliant narrative starts years earlier with American entry into WWII. The reader gains an incredible appreciation for the logistical masterpiece completed by Allied leaders and the careful, all-important buildup of the 'special relationship' between the United States and Great Britain... a must read for this year's important 70th Anniversary of D-Day."
"Neptune is unquestionably a work that makes major contributions to the field... a finely written piece of history... It is very readable and hard to put down." --Proceedings
"In this well-written, engaging volume, Craig Symonds, Professor Emeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy, makes an original contribution to the historiography of the Normandy landings... Symonds masterfully mixes the big picture, operational descriptions with colorful, illuminating firsthand accounts from the sailors.... Symonds has an especially strong feel for naval command. His personal profiles and assessment of the key leaders such as Bertram Ramsay, Alan Kirk, Morton Deyo, Philip Vian, and Don Moon are arresting and unforgettable. One suspects that his analysis of these important personalities will substantially influence and inform subsequent generations of Neptune historians...Neptune is a truly original and important contribution, one that substantially rounds out our understanding of the Normandy invasion." --Robert C. McMannus, Journal of Military History
"[A] fascinating, multi-layered story... Symonds has an excellent eye for telling details and arresting quotes from the ordinary participants." --Daily Beast
"This superb volume is the first comprehensive account in a half century of the vital naval operations that lifted the liberating legions to France, landed them on D-Day, and supported them. Craig Symonds ranges with easy command from often fractious strategic planning sessions to the searing experiences of young sailors in the crucible of fire-drenched beaches.Neptune is at once an important scholarly contribution and a great read." --Richard B. Frank, author of Guadalcanal and Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire
"Craig L. Symonds, one of America's greatest military historians, scores a triumph withNeptune. In this masterpiece of historical scholarship Symonds sheds new light on how FDR mobilized the U.S. Navy for the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. His archival work is dazzling. Highly recommended!" --Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University, CBS News Historian, and author of The Boys of Point du Hoc
"Craig Symonds brings to vivid life the Allied assault from the sea on Normandy. He has written a clear, comprehensive, and often thrilling account of the massive and complex invasion--a tale of heroism and folly, genius and muddle. Neptune is an invaluable contribution to the history and literature of D-Day." --Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder and Ike's Bluff
"The prose is distinguished by the author's ability to simultaneously present an academic history supported by excellent research while captivating the reader with the individual narratives of soldiers and sailors who participated in the operation. Symonds has crafted an enjoyable and informative read for anyone interested in the history of WWII." --Publishers Weekly
"Acclaimed naval historian Symonds has the teacher's patient touch and big-picture knowledge to accessibly present the truly incredible scope of this largely naval endeavor." --Kirkus Reviews
"Neptune is a sweeping account . . . Symonds is lucid and incisive. His writing is as good as Rick Atkinson's . . . accessible, sharp and faithful to the human foibles of the protagonists whose plans and courage bore fruit on June 6, 1944." --ARMY
"In Neptune, prolific naval historian and longtime US Naval Academy professor (now emeritus) Craig Symonds describes in fascinating detail Allied planning and preparation for the defeat of Germany in 1944 . . . Neptune fills a lacuna in D-day literature by its unusually thorough treatment of the naval requirements for the successful invasion of northern Europe. And, too, his extensive use of archival materials and relevant personal papers and documents allows him to elucidate the naval planning, preparation, and organization for Operation Neptune in far greater detail than do previous works." --Michigan War Studies Review
"[A] magnificient achievement. By framing the primary problem of the Normandy Invasion as the landing, Symonds is able to show one element that made the success of the invasion so impressive. The book is well researched and cited, and is a strong addition to an already crowded historiography. It certainly merits a thorough read." --On Point: The Journal of Army History

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