By Guy Hartcup
I’m a big fan of anything to do with the landing in Normandy back in 1944, and have read countless books about it. In particular the building and use of the Mulberry harbors has always tickled my imagination. My all-time favorite book about that is – and will remain – the Haynes D-Day Operations Manual…. But Code Name Mulberry by Guy Hartcup most certainly has deservedly found itself a place on my shelf among the many Normandy books !
Hartcup’s book is dedicated to the design, planning, building and installing the two Mulberry harbors and provides a unique insight in the size and complexity of this project. Even though I have read about it so much and have been researching it for so many years, there’s always something more to learn, to discover and to awe about.
Most often emphasis is on the operation of the harbors, on the enormous amount of goods transferred through them, on the disaster of losing the American harbor early on in a storm. But in this book we learn all about the initial ideas and proposals, about the very complex – and not always successful – organization with many many people and companies responsible for the myriad of bits and pieces. About the disagreements and errors that were there, too.
Where the Haynes Manual puts the emphasis on the technical construction, and indeed the entire operation Neptune, this book covers everything related to the Mulberry harbors only. One of the most interesting parts I find is the listing of all the resources in both materials and men that went in…. And the incredibly short time it ultimately took to get things completed, almost making the deadline.
When we read nowadays of government projects that get started, run for ages, get overdue, pass their budgets and plannings, one cannot but have the utmost respect for the flexibility and ingenuity of our fathers and grandfathers in that period in 1942-1944 ! Against all odds they pulled this gigantic project off, among many other operations and projects that went on simultaneously!
When we can hardly find a plumber to do some repairs nowadays, back in 1943-44 they managed to find and employ 45.000 construction workers to build all the components of the Mulberries. And all the bits and pieces, some huge, like the Phoenix caissons, were not built in once place, but in many dozens of locations by many different companies.
The book covers all this in detail, including the gigantic effort of collecting all the bits in a few locations prior to the final tow across the Channel towards the Normandy coast.
The book only counts 160 pages, but is chock full of interesting facts, supported by drawings, photos and maps. Today it only costs 5,50 British pounds, which in my view is a steal. Go get it !!!
In addition to the book reviewed above, I would recommend yet another related publication, namely that of ‘Force Mulberry’, written back in 1951 by Commander Stanford (who is also mentioned in Guy’s book of course, being one of the top people in the Mulberry project.
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Published: 14th August 2011