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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • S&T professor chronicles D-Day in new book

  • John McManus is a student of military history. The history professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology has written numerous scholarly books on the topic of wars since World War II.
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  • John McManus is a student of military history. The history professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology has written numerous scholarly books on the topic of wars since World War II.
    His latest book, "The Dead and Those About to Die" joins two other of his writings  on the D-Day invasion.
    He recently spoke with the Rolla Daily News on the historical significance of the battle on  this, the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
    What inspired the book?
    This is my 11th book. I take a look at the 1st Infantry Unit at Omaha Beach. The book takes a look at this one unit and its fight on D-Day. It looks at what this is like for a 19- to 20-hour period.
    This is a story of Omaha Beach that is not as well understood, and that is why I decided to do this book.  
    This must have taken a lot of research.
    I had an embarrassment of riches. It was amazing.
    The National Archives had direct reports, diaries and  correspondences. The Military History Institute in Carlyle, Pennsylvania, has a lot of great firsthand accounts and a lot of official sources.
    The 1st  Infantry Division Museum in Wheaton, Illinois, has been a great help and sponsor of this project. It is a wonderful museum and archive on any 1st Infantry Division history that you can access.
    I gathered a lot of stuff over the years, too, such as correspondences and oral histories. There  was just so much stuff, and that is what you want.  
    What got you interested in military history?
    I tend  to think that there is nothing more that could be ever asked of us than to put our lives on the line,  and I am always interested in why people do that and how they do that and what it tells us about our country.
    Like it or not,  conflict  has driven our history. I think it is important to understand why and then how war can be prevented.
    Why such a specific interest in D-Day?
    I  have been studying this battle for well over 20 years. I had a visit there (Normandy, France) out of college and later on I was part of a group called the Normandy Scholars and we got to spend about a month on the ground in Normandy. I was a battlefield historian and then an author.
    Do you have a favorite story from your research?
    Yes, one thing that stands out is the title of the book.
    The phrase: ‘there are only two kinds of people to be on this  beach  — the dead and those about to die' has come to be associated with Omaha Beach. And, I think it kind of sums up the battle.  
    Page 2 of 2 - Col. George Taylor of the lead assault unit coined that phrase. It was not nearly as spontaneous as has been thought.  
    He  wrote in a memo about nine months before this. And by doing what he did,  I thought he had a very positive effect on the battle. He was one of the Army’s foremost thinkers and planners. 
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