Rediscover: The Miracle of Dunkirk

Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, more than 338,000 British and French soldiers were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in Northern France. Following Hitler's stunningly successful invasion of Western Europe, the British Expeditionary Force found itself trapped and on the verge of annihilation. The new prime minister, Winston Churchill, called the imminent fall of France "a colossal military disaster," and said "the whole root and core and brain of the British Army" was about to be lost at Dunkirk. And yet, like so many other pivotal moments during World War II, a mistake by Hitler--letting the German air force  destroy the troops at Dunkirk instead of moving in on the ground--allowed the Allies to avoid disaster. In what became known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, a flotilla of ships, including small, sometimes civilian-crewed vessels, sailed stranded soldiers back home across the English Channel. Though the BEF lost nearly all its equipment, the rescued soldiers gave a badly needed morale boost after the calamitous collapse of the Continent.

History writer Walter Lord (1917–2002), best known for his riveting, minute-by-minute account of the sinking of the Titanic in A Night to Remember (1955), chronicles the evacuation of Dunkirk in The Miracle of Dunkirk (1982). Using interviews with surviving sailors and soldiers, Lord's book presents the perfect background material to the new Christopher Nolan film, Dunkirk, which has received rave reviews. The Miracle of Dunkirk was reprinted by Open Road Media on July 18, 2017 ($16.99, 9781504047548). --Tobias Mutter

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