Beyond the Beach

The Allied War Against France
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Published:April 15, 2018

PRESS RELEASE: Beyond the Beach by Naval Institute Press.

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.

List Price: $34.95
Member Price: $27.96
Product Details
  • Subject: World War II
  • Hardback : 376 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1612518737
  • ISBN-13: 9781612518732
  • Product Dimensions: 6.13 X 9.25 in
  • Shipping Weight: 26.72 oz
  • 2018 Military Times Choice for Summer Reading Guide
  • "This is an important book and essential reading for those wishing to understand France today, and more specifically the actions of General de Gaulle." —The NAVY Magazine
  • Beyond the Beach is an excellent book and will expand the reader’s knowledge of World War II. Bourque proves his case with research and analysis that challenges previous views and offers many avenues for additional research. For these reasons, [we] highly recommend this book to all readers, especially those interested in World War II, D-Day, and air warfare.” —Military Review
  • “As a scholarly source, Beyond the Beach is highly commendable.... Organizationally, the structure of the book is clear…. This book is an excellent contribution to our understanding of the aerial bombing campaign over France in the months and weeks leading up to D-Day. Also, it exposes some hard questions involving the nature and principles of war itself, many of which have no easy answer.” —Strategic Studies Quarterly
  • Beyond the Beach is an essential addition to our understanding of the battle for France, these deaths, generally glossed over as ‘collateral damage,’ profoundly shaped the French attitudes towards and understanding of the war.” —The Strategy Bridge
  • “Stephen Bourque’s astonishing new book Beyond the Beach covers the years-long campaign to fight the Germans in France from the air. He shines light on a scarcely acknowledged wartime experience, that of French civilians, whose homes, cathedrals, and cities were relentlessly bombed by Americans and British on a scale close to that of the bombing in Germany. And the French were Allies! This is a subject … not seen covered before.” —America in WWII
  • “[W]arfare is a human activity which has an infinite number of possibilities and which tends to follow unpredictable models at least as often as it does predictable ones. Beyond the Beach provides a classic example of the importance of human agency on the conduct of warfare and how those of us who wish to achieve certain effects are often blind to the actual results of our operations…. [It] is a very informative work which raises many questions that are relevant today. This book is recommended for air enthusiasts and joint force commanders alike.” —Australian Naval Institute
  • “The book is comprehensively footnoted, with a thorough bibliography. Carefully chosen photos of damaged or destroyed towns, rail centers, and bridges accompany the text. Detailed appendices of the sheer number of targets—factories, rail centers, and bridges—buttress Bourque's addition to the narrative: with all factors weighed in, the cumulative effects of Allied bombing, whether collateral damage or deliberate targeting, constituted an unprecedented war on an occupied, allied country. Bourque intends this volume to become a standard reference. It should be on the shelf of all scholars and readers who make a serious study of the impact of airpower in World War II.” —Air Power History
  • “Passionate from start to finish, Bourque details the merciless flattening of the ancient cities of Rouen, Caen, Le Havre, Saint-Lo, and Boulogne-Sur-Mar for the sake of a ruse to keep the Nazis guessing. He questions the rationale of orders from on high to deliberately miss military targets, a decision that cost thousands of innocent lives. Despite remarkable diligence, most of the answers remain as buried as those lost beneath the rubble... 4 out of 5 stars." —San Francisco Book Review
  • “With little to no knowledge or publicity of these events, with the exception of the French themselves, one gets the impression of a successful air campaign surgically destroying intended targets in support of Overlord. Yet this was obviously not the case. This is a story that needed to be told, so that the victims can be remembered long after their death.” —The Journal of America's Military Past
  • Beyond The Beach is a courageous and important book, well-written, well-considered, and rightly argues that the events chronicled in the book are an essential part of any true account of the D-Day landings. A genuinely important book, one that deserves the widest possible audience and one that truly deserves a documentary television series to go with it.” —
  • “Stephen Bourque’s impressive research and scholarship shed light on a relatively unknown aspect of the World War II narrative in general and of the Normandy landings in particular. This book goes a long way towards addressing a rarely mentioned aspect of World War II air operations – that of collateral damage and the deaths of thousands of allied civilians…. Beyond the Beach is a thought-provoking work that will undoubtedly cause many to reassess their understanding of the common narrative of the liberation of Europe.” —Cercles: Revue pluridisciplinaire due monde anglophone
  • Beyond the Beach offers a haunting yet important narrative which will greatly interest readers of military history in general and World War II in particular. A great deal of controversy remains to this day concerning the air war over France, for just as Allied air operations took the lives of many French innocents, they significantly aided the American, British, and Canadian soldiers who would later land on the beaches of Normandy in the summer of 1944. Bourque ultimately concludes that there is no easy or incontrovertible way to remember the Allied air war over France—or any chapter of World War II, for that matter. For even history’s most noble and necessary war was filled with the horror of blood, brutality, and butchery that reminds audiences old and new that no war is ever anything other than a tragedy.” —H-War
  • “The euphoria generated by the successful landings in Normandy, and the subsequent breakout from the beachheads, has largely glossed over the consequences and collateral damage in France. The author has provided a worthy evaluation of the costs, with the short term and long term effects – Most Highly Recommended.” —FIRE Reviews
  • "Stephen Bourque's 'Beyond the Beach is a well-conceived, well-argued, and well-written exploration of the last major neglected corner of the aerial conflict over western Europe. An indispensable book for anyone interested in the air war, it manages at the same time to earn that precious moniker few other works attain: an important book about World War II." —Thomas Alexander Hughes, author of Over Lord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II and Admiral Bill Halsey: A Naval Life
  • "This book contains a sobering revelation: over 60,000 French civilians died as collateral victims of Allied bombing during the liberation of France in 1944. Stephen Bourque’s careful, thorough and moving account gives a voice to all involved in this forgotten tragedy: the Allied planners, the airmen, and the unfortunate civilians." —Robert O. Paxton, professor emeritus of history, Columbia University
  • "Stephen Bourque’s exciting new book, Beyond the Beach, fills gaps in the story about the Allied bombing campaign in support of the Normandy invasion and subsequent offensive. Not only does he refute the existing narrative that the Allied bombing effort was wildly successful, but he also adds a new dimension to the story by exploring the bombing’s impact on the local civilian populations. In addition to chronicling the destruction to the physical landscape, Bourque also includes personal stories of people whose loved ones and neighbors did not survive the Allies’ 'liberation' operation." —Mary Kathryn Barbier, author of D-Day Deception: Operation Fortitude and the Normandy Invasion, Associate Professor of History, Mississippi State University
  • "For decades after World War II the grim story of Allied bombing of friendly populations in Europe has been missing from the narrative of the 'Good War'. Stephen Bourque has rescued from obscurity one of the most damaging of those campaigns, against French towns, railways and ports in support of D-Day. It should make us all rethink the Allies' uncritical claim to hold the moral high ground in the war. This is a disturbing and important book. Operation Overlord will never seem the same after reading it." —Richard Overy, author of The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945
  • "With Beyond The Beach, Stephen Bourque drives us beyond the myth of a victory only based on justice and heroism. Through a brilliant and accurate global analysis the author reminds us that under the Allied bombs were not only German targets but real people, real villages, real cities. And the heavy price French civilians have paid to Freedom!" —Paul Le Trevier, French historian, expert in Allied bombing over Normandy

After twenty years of enlisted and commissioned service in the U.S. Army, Stephen A. Bourque obtained his PhD at Georgia State University and taught history at several military and civilian schools and universities, including the School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he is professor emeritus.

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23 February - Seminar

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