June 6 is the anniversary of D-Day, when, in 1944, a massive Allied armada landed in Normandy to fight a battle that turned the course of the Second World War. A new book, The Secrets of D-Day by Larry Collins, intends to lift the veil of secrecy from the invasion.
The Secrets of D-Day by Larry Collins reads like a spy thriller, says Michael Teilmann, who now runs the Bob Hope USO, a club for service members at the Los Angeles airport.
The books' author, Larry Collins, died in France last year, but Michael Teilmann calls himself an avid fan.
Teilmann had a long career in the army and National Guard, and achieved the rank of Brigadier General in the South Carolina State Guard.
He says U.S., British and Canadian troops, with the Free French and others, came together for the biggest amphibious assault in history. Paratroopers landed before dawn, and then the main force landed.
"It was the largest armada of ships, with 5,000 ships, tens of thousands of aircraft, 150,000, plus troops landing on the beach in one invasion that they kept secret," said Michael Teilmann. "And, how they did that was one of the great mysteries of military science."
Called Operation Overlord, the invasion of Nazi-occupied France relied on secrecy and deception. The story, including the vital role of a Spanish double-agent code-named Garbo, is chronicled in the book.
The Germans thought the invasion would take place near a coastal city in the Pas de Calais region, and the Allies did everything they could to suggest this would happen. The planning involved a million-man fake army.
"The supposed United States First Army group, commanded by Lt. General George S. Patton Junior, turned out to be rubber tanks, cardboard tents, no people at all. But the Germans were led to believe, and firmly believed that there was another full army out there," he said.
The amphibious landing was spread out along five beaches. Losses were heavy, especially on the beach code-named Omaha. Michael Teilmann says the bravery of those who landed was just as important to the mission as the elaborate planning.
"The heroism that existed, the guys helping their wounded comrades and bringing them ashore, and still firing their weapons and trying to get the job done - it's history and it's brilliant," noted Michael Teilmann.
Allied troops suffered 10,000 casualties, including at least 2,500 dead. The Germans are thought to have suffered up to 9,000 casualties.
The so-called Battle of Normandy continued through August, as Allied troops fought the Germans back through France, in battles that left more than 400,000 injured, dead or missing on both sides.
Michael Teilmann has spent many years helping boost the morale of troops stationed overseas through the USO, which was created in 1941 as the United Service Organizations. He says armed forces in any conflict face uncertainty and fear, and that those who landed on D-Day on the dark beaches of Normandy sealed the fate of the Nazis. By May 8, 1945, less than one year after D-Day, the war in Europe was over.