The Pointblank Directive: Three Generals and the Untold Story of the Daring Plan That Saved D-Day
2012 nonfiction book by L. Douglas Keeney
Where was the Luftwaffe on D-Day? Historians have debated that question for six decades, but in 2010 a formerly classified World War II D-Day history was restored, and in it were a new set of answers. Pointblank is the result of extensive new research … see full wiki
While perusing the Amazon website the other day quite by accident I happened upon a brand new book chronicling the planning and execution of the D-Day invasion. Although I am a huge history buff books about World War II and military history have never been of particular interest to me. Knowing precious little about the military I have always been intimidated by the nomenclature and as a result I usually have tended to shy away from these subjects. But there was something about this book that drew me in. In the opening pages of "The Pointblank Directive: Three Generals and the Untold Story of the Daring Plan That Saved D-Day" author L. Douglas Keeney made a point of telling his readers that he was going to make this book as readable as possible for general audiences. And that he did. I simply could not put this book down.
As early as the fall of 1938 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt could see the handwriting on the wall. On October 16th, FDR approved a secret plan that called for the production of 15000 war planes annually. This critical decision helped pave the way for the United States to enter the European Theater shortly after Pearl Harbor. There was no getting around it--this was going to be a long, drawn out, costly and extremely bloody affair. We learn that the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) aligned the operations of the British Royal Air Force with those of the United States Army Air Forces into a cohesive battle plan for an attack against various targets in Germany. However, as the summer of 1943 approached things were not going particularly well for the allied forces. Thus, a new strategy was devised at the highest levels and was dubbed "The Pointblank Directive". According to Mr. Keeney: "The Pointblank Directive prioritized the Luftwaffe for destruction over all other German targets as the immediate objective leading to the D-Day invasion. The focus for the British and American forces would be `(1) the destruction of the German Air Force, its factories and supporting installations and its ball bearings plants and (2) the destruction of transportation facilities,'" This was a daunting task that was going to have to be achieved in a relatively short period of time. On December 6, 1943 President Roosevelt made one of the most crucial decisions of the war. He appointed General Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander of the D-Day operation. Those planning the D-Day mission well understood that the operation would be successful only by the slimmest of margins. It was apparent that more changes were necessary and Keeney chronicles the personnel changes that would prove so crucial to the air superiority that the Allies would ultimately achieve.
In "The Pointblank Directive" L. Douglas Feeney profiles the Generals brought in by Ike who would turn the tide against the Nazi forces. Men like General Carl Andrew "Tooey" Spaatz , General Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada and General James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle all made enormous contributions to the planning and execution of the D-Day strategy. It was General Spaatz who changed the mission of the air war from merely bombing German factories to attacking factories, airfields, transportation grids and oil refineries. It proved to be ahighly effective strategy. And as an aside, I was particularly struck by the determined leadership of President Roosevelt in the final days leading up to the invasion. It seems that a number of important rail yards were located near the Normandy beaches and they happened to be surrounded by small French villages. These rail yards needed to be destroyed in the run-up to D-Day but military planners realized that the operation would result in a tremendous loss of civilian life. When the problem was presented to FDR he responded in this way: "However regrettable the attendant loss of civilian lives is, I am not prepared to impose from this distance any restrictions on military action by responsible commanders that in their opinion would mitigate against the success of Overlord or cause additional loss of life to our Allied invasion forces." I greatly admire him for this decision. It seems we had a slightly different breed of progressive Democrat in charge in those days.
When all is said and done I thoroughly enjoyed "The Pointblank Directive: Three Generals and the Untold Story of the Daring Plan That Saved D-Day". Much to my surprise L. Douglas Keeney managed to hold my attention from the opening pages to the final sentence. "The Pointblank Directive" is enhanced by the inclusion of over 5 dozen dramatic photographs which include the actual D-Day mission orders. For me the most impressive photo was the two page wide reconnaissance photo of the Normandy beaches taken just days before the invasion. There really is something to be said for reading the actual hard copy of a book! "The Pointblank Directive" is an extremely well-written and meticulously researched book. I learned an awful lot and am now motivated to read more about World War II. I suspect that this book will be viewed as an important addition to the literature on the Second World War. Very highly recommended!
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
What's your opinion on The Pointblank Directive: Three Generals...?