Beyond the Beach

The Allied War Against France

Hardcover $11.68
Book: Cover Type


An important rethinking of the Normandy war narrative

Beyond the Beach examines the Allied air war against France in 1944. During this period, General Dwight David Eisenhower, as Supreme Allied Commander, took control of all American, British, and Canadian air units and employed them for tactical and operational purposes over France rather than as a strategic force to attack targets deep in Germany. Using bombers as his long-range artillery, he directed the destruction of bridges, rail centers, ports, military installations, and even French towns with the intent of preventing German reinforcements from interfering with Operation Neptune, the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches. Ultimately, this air offensive resulted in the death of over 60,000 French civilians and an immense amount of damage to towns, churches, buildings, and works of art. This intense bombing operation, conducted against a friendly occupied state, resulted in a swath of physical and human destruction across northwest France that is rarely discussed as part of the D-Day landings.

This book explores the relationship between ground and air operations and its effects on the French population. It examines the three broad groups that the air operations involved, the doctrine and equipment used by Allied air force leaders to implement Eisenhower’s plans, and each of the eight major operations, called lines of effort, that coordinated the employment of the thousands of fighters, medium bombers, and heavy bombers that prowled the French skies that spring and summer of 1944. Each of these sections discusses the operation's purpose, conduct, and effects upon both the military and the civilian targets. Finally, the book explores the short and long-term effects of these operations and argues that this ignored narrative should be part of any history of the D-Day landings.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“Beyond the Beach is very well written, expertly researched and, while written with passion, is well balanced. It challenges histories of D-Day that ignore the bombing campaigns – campaigns which contributed directly to the success of the landings and subsequent breakout of forces into France; and it confronts the reader, documenting the terrible casualties and immense damage wrought upon the French population by the bombing. The book is well-suited for students of the application of air power.” —United Service
"This is a truly magnificent book. First, the lavish production of the cover and book itself is wonderful. The wealth of photographs come in all different sizes and provide visual details that help you better experience the text. The way the writer weaves the tale of the ship's origins, design and construction, her many voyages and career, preservation, and current renovated state flow seamlessly through the book. Aside from being a cherished monument representing all Clipper ships that sailed the world, Cutty Sark participated in the Great Tea Races from China, and although she set most of her sailing records transporting wool from Australia to the docks of England. As you read this book you learn every detail of her career, visit exotic ports around the world, and feast your eyes on black-and-white pictures and many two-page, full-color spreads. It's hard to get past the fold-out plans of Sails, Masts and Rigging, Deck-plans, and Stowage in the hull without studying them first! These fold-outs give a wonderful and complete view of this complex sailing vessel." Pirates and Privateers
Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France fills a vital space in the military planner’s intellectual kit. This book is highly recommended for scholars of the Second World War, and even more strongly for all who plan and integrate large-scale aerial bombing campaigns.” —Canadian Military History
“The throngs of French citizens attending the festivities in Normandy today and in decades past were no doubt genuinely grateful to their liberators, yet that gratitude must surely be tempered with the knowledge of the great cost that came with that liberation.  After three-quarters of a century, it is high time that those outside France become just as acquainted with those unpalatable details. Bourque has done a masterful job of laying out that cost in great detail, and I doubt that after reading Beyond the Beach anyone could ever look upon Eisenhower's ‘crusade’ with the same eyes again.” —Hampton Roads Naval Museum
“The sacrifices of the D-Day operation overlord, whose 75th anniversary will be celebrated on Thursday, saw 60,000 French perished under allied bombs.Written by a specialist in military history, this book brings back the shadows of this terrible episode.” —Histoire
“This book … is an excellent initiative. By putting the issue of civilian casualties caused by the British and American aerial bombardments first, allows us to reopen a debate that was largely ignored since the 1950s.” —Les Crises
“[A] well-conceived and well-researched book.... A book rife with lessons for our generation, Beyond the Beach is one of the most important texts to appear about the war in France in years.” —New Books Network
“Bourque presents a well-balanced, thorough summation on the effectiveness of aerial bombardment. His emphasis on the neglected subject of French civilian casualties and collateral damage is thought-provoking and worthy of further study. As such, Beyond the Beach is a welcome addition to the study of the use of air power in support of ground operations.” —On Point: The Journal of Army History
“Stephen Alan Bourque makes an important contribution to the growing body of scholarship giving voice to what he calls the ‘missing narrative’ of French civilians (and other friendly populations) as victims of Allied bombing throughout the Second World War.” —French Studies
“This book is a major, well-written addition to the field and contains a wealth of resources for further analysis. Bourque’s Beyond the Beach is a painful reminder of the human costs of war and the importance of ongoing research. It is essential reading for every airpower or World War II historian and will also appeal to the casual reader on the war, or anyone intending to visit France and explore the wide variety of memorials. Beyond the Beach adds substantially to the Overlord narrative, the history of World War II, and the history of airpower in general.” —History: Reviews of New Books
Award Winner: 2020 Literary Prize of the Aeroclub de France
“In Beyond the Beach, Bourque has given Anglophone readers a superb corrective account of the vastly different perceptions of their French counterparts, who have erected many memorials to the forgotten suffering inflicted by Allied bombers.” —Michigan War Studies Review