• The First Wave

  • The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II
  • By: Alex Kershaw
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 8 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (427 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

A National Best Seller

Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter and The Liberator, returns with an utterly immersive, adrenaline-driven account of D-Day combat.

“Meet the assaulters: Pathfinders plunging from the black, coxswains plowing the whitecaps, bareknuckle Rangers scaling sheer rock.... Fast-paced and up close, this is history’s greatest story reinvigorated as only Alex Kershaw can.” (Adam Makos, New York Times best-selling author of Spearhead and A Higher Call)

Beginning in the predawn darkness of June 6, 1944, The First Wave follows the remarkable men who carried out D-Day’s most perilous missions. The charismatic, unforgettable cast includes the first American paratrooper to touch down on Normandy soil; the glider pilot who braved antiaircraft fire to crash-land mere yards from the vital Pegasus Bridge; the brothers who led their troops onto Juno Beach under withering fire; as well as a French commando, returning to his native land, who fought to destroy German strongholds on Sword Beach and beyond. Listeners will experience the sheer grit of the Rangers who scaled Pointe du Hoc and the astonishing courage of the airborne soldiers who captured the Merville Gun Battery in the face of devastating enemy counterattacks. The first to fight when the stakes were highest and the odds longest, these men would determine the fate of the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe - and the very history of the 20th century.

The result is an epic of close combat and extraordinary heroism. It is the capstone of Alex Kershaw’s remarkable career, built on his close friendships with D-Day survivors and his intimate understanding of the Normandy battlefield. For the 75th anniversary, here is a fresh take on World War II's longest day.

Praise for The First Wave:

“Masterful...readers will feel the sting of the cold surf, smell the acrid cordite that hung in the air, and duck the zing of machine-gun bullets whizzing overhead. The First Wave is an absolute triumph.” (James M. Scott, best-selling author of Target Tokyo)

“These pages ooze with the unforgettable human drama of history's most consequential invasion.” (John C. McManus, author of The Dead and Those About to Die

©2019 Alex Kershaw (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“[A] fast-paced tale.... Kershaw is at his evocative best describing the chaos, courage, and carnage of combat, vividly portraying the bravery of the ‘greatest generation.’ Even readers well-read on the subject will enjoy this perspective.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The reader looking for inspirational accounts of what it took to win the day - especially in its very first hours - will find Kershaw as compelling as ever.... This new history of the twentieth century’s most momentous day belongs on any history lover’s bookshelf.” (The Roanoke Times)

“Compelling...Kershaw puts events ranging from the humorous to the heartbreaking into context against the backdrop of an operation so large it almost defies comprehension.” (Army magazine)

What listeners say about The First Wave

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Thoughtful and Sobering

This book is very good, as an American Ive heard so much about Omaha beach and the airborne divisions, and also the Rangers at Utah beach. This book goes deeper into the contributions by our Canadian, English, Scottish and even French allies on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. If everybody in the United States, and around the world, especially in the Allied WW2 countries, could step into a time box and just watch the carnage unfold, or even just walk the beaches and fields a few hours after the landings, I think most of the division we face would just silently fade away. These men knew who the enemy was, the Nazis of Germany. Today all the people running around the US calling each other Nazis would quit, if they really knew what went down on June 6th. As a grateful American, books like these need told. A must listen/ read

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Outstanding!

It was great to read a book that didn't focus only on the American experience of D-Day. The compelling individual stories of men dealing with the horrors of battle, along with plenty of background and detail made this a book that will stay in my memory. The reader is captivated by the writers from the first page to the last.

6 people found this helpful

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This is the best on-the-ground account of D-Day

Alex Kershaw, with the help of Paul Michael's clear and engaging narration, gives us what no book and certainly no movie has ever given us: an account of the experience of D-Day from the viewpoint of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who actually fought the battle.

His focus is tight and intense. We get almost none of the top-level decision-making that usually consumes most of the pages in books about D-Day or World War II. In effect, The First Wave begins when paratroopers and glider troops first embark, and then puts us in the boats that carried men and their equipment to the shore. Some plans were wretched failures -- a shocking number of tank crews died when their incompetently prepared equipment was launched in water too deep, or with flotation systems that didn't work. Yet tanks had been a crucial part of the planning for the beaches -- infantry were supposed to come ashore on beaches that were already dominated by Allied tanks! Yet somehow, despite failures of planning, of testing, and of execution, the troops who landed on all the beaches, American, Canadian, and British, fought their way to secure a foothold from which they were not driven off.

We also get a close view of the German side, and not just of their mistakes. Many German soldiers fought bravely and stubbornly; none of the Allied achievements in Normandy were handed to them. And we can see how many practices that are now military doctrine in armed forces everywhere were learned the hard way in the Normandy campaign.

Unless World War II has been your life study, chances are that many of the stories told in The First Wave will come as a surprise. And when you're through listening to the account, you will have a far better understanding of D-Day, from all sides, than you can possibly have gotten from any book or movie you've read before.

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Amazing from start to finish.

Narrated well, easy to listen to and never lost its pace. Will definitely listen to it again at some point soon.

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Listen with Maps by your side.

was a very good insight into those who were there. The reader was excellent and if I would have down loaded some maps of the invasion I would have been able to follow it better. I still really appreciate the effort that went into producing this book.

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Excellent encompassing narrative of D-Day Invasion

This was another terrific, well-researched story by Alex Kershaw, covering the invasion by air and sea. It was interesting to learn more about the British and Canadian involvement in D-Day as well. The narrator was very good with French and German pronunciations and was pleasant to listen to.

If you ever wondered why the U.S. D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia of all places, I very highly recommend another book by Alex Kershaw called, The Bedford Boys.

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I thought I knew what happed.

this great work, taught me so much more.
A much greater appreciation of the people at all ranks.

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excellent detail

I really like this book with a description of the details, it flowed very well and quick. You really get the feel of the dedication of the men of our greatest generation. something that we don't have today and maybe never will again.

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Excellent coverage of the D-Day invasion

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book and will listen to it a second time in the near future. As an avid reader of authentic military history, I already knew the overall picture for the battle. In fact, parts of it are known to every American since they are key in movies such as "The Longest Day". What I enjoyed here, however, was what happened to these men at the tip of the spear afterwards.
For example, in the coverage of the first night in the pre-dawn attack, it was known that John Howard's commandos took and held the Pegasus Bridge after their gliders landed virtually on top of it. What I didn't know was what happened to Howard afterwards. Likewise, as they waited for Lord Lovett's men to relieve them it was never covered how much resistance Lovett had to face before getting to Pegasus Bridge to relieve Howard. In addition, I never knew what happened to Lovett afterwards which this book covers very well.
Military history buffs will love this new addition to the archives since it follows up on what happened to the key players in the years afterwards...how they lived out their lives, some badly wounded, and how they ended up.
This is a well done book and highly recommended.

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Top Shelf!

Quite possibly the best book I've listened to. Paul Michael is an amazing narrator.