Video Review: "The Americans on D-Day"

Blending archival film footage with maps, animation and recent video, “The Americans on D-Day” is a visually compelling retelling of the battle our troops fought 65 years ago at Normandy. The story of the world’s largest amphibious invasion is brought home by the on-screen explanations of battlefield historian Elwood von Seibold. Wearing a U.S. paratrooper’s uniform from World War II, Seibold takes us from the glider landings of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions to the amphibious landings at Omaha and Utah beaches by the 29th and 4th Infantry divisions. He bypasses the landings at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches, which were invaded by British forces. Omaha and Utah are truly a “tale of two beaches,” and this battlefield tour covers their stories well. Interspersed with Seibold’s excellent narrative are interviews with several U.S. veterans who served as paratroopers and fought at Normandy; one German paratrooper adds his memories to the mix, providing insight into how enemy troops reacted to the Allied invasion. Seibold explains why GIs had such a terrible time on Omaha Beach: 155mm enemy guns with well-trained crews, many heavy machine-gun emplacements, and ineffective Allied naval and air bombardment. After the first two waves of troops at Omaha took heavy casualties, Gen. Omar Bradley nearly called off the invasion, Seibold tells us. But the 29th Division held on until tanks began to arrive and move inland, giving the Americans the edge they needed to establish a foothold. Although Utah Beach was no cakewalk, Seibold explains the fighting was less fierce and Allied tanks arrived sooner. As luck would have it, the 4th Division stormed ashore about 4 kilometers from its intended landing site – the area was lightly defended by Eastern European troops. The program also shares some famous events that sprang from D-Day: Army Rangers scaling the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc to capture enemy guns, the 82nd Airborne’s furious battle at La Fiere Bridge, and 101st Airborne’s Easy Company fighting at Brecourt Manor (also portrayed in the “Band of Brothers” series). Besides providing us with a lot of detail about the fighting at Normandy, Seibold takes the time to explain weapons and equipment used by Americans and Germans at the time. The program wraps up with views of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. For those who have never been to Normandy, “The Americans on D-Day” is the next best thing to being there. And for those who have visited those hallowed beaches in northern France, this program will add well-crafted detail to your experience.