Oysters were the secret weapon with which Hitler might have triumphed on D-Day. Not the succulent variety to be eaten on the half-shell, but a devastating mine — code-named Oyster by the Allies — that could not be sunk: an unscupperable mine that revealed a German technology far more advanced than the Allied mines. Fortunately for the Allies, this devilish mine was not ready on June 6, 1944, in sufficient numbers to prevent the landing.
A few of these Oyster mines, laid secretly off the Normandy beaches after D-Day, caused grave inconvenience by forcing ships to limit their speed to one knot to avoid detonating them. Had Hitler’s scientists moved more quickly, these mines would have been available in their thousands, even tens of thousands, as a virtually impenetrable barrier to the Allied armada on the morning of June 6.
The Oyster was one small example of the perils that made the failure of the Normandy landings a grave possibility for the British and American planners. They had agreed almost a year earlier that if the Germans were able to get numerically superior forces to the beachhead, then the whole plan would have to be abandoned.
In June 1967 I was a young teenager in my own world in a little town in the Western US when the Six Day War broke out in Israel. For my mother, the only survivor of her family (and it had been at that time only a mere 26 years since the murder of her parents, sisters and extended family during the Holocaust), this War was another attack on her people, another perceived opportunity to annihilate the remnant of the Jewish people. My mother was shaken to the core and spent the entire six days watching the news on television, watching with such intensity that it may have been her will alone that brought about the success of the Israel Defence Forces – it certainly must have been her hope.
The shock of survival, the speed that brought the war to a swift conclusion, and the thrill to again see Jews at the Western Wall, these are the memories that come to mind now 49 years later. That and my mother soaking up every news report through her every pore, barely allowing herself to breathe until the guns were silenced and the arms were put down.
Photo: David's tower, 1948. To the left is an Ottoman fountain, later removed by the British Mandate authorities. In the foreground, a coffee shop, perched above the Valley of Gihon.
In November 1984 I spent a month in Israel, based in Jerusalem. One of my strongest memories of that visit was being in bed with a stomach upset and exploring Jerusalem through Martin Gilbert's Atlas of Jerusalem. I visited the places I could not visit, either because they were beyond the vicinity of my bathroom, or because they were buried beneath – literally – the sands of time.
Jerusalem has grown into a beautiful city, a city of parks, of ancient sites and modern ones, a city of culture and of cultures. May we live to experience the 'peace of Jerusalem' extended to everyone who calls it home.
Second World War Sir Martin talks about Non-Jews who Helped Jews
Sir Martin speaks about his personal research of the action of Pope Pius XII
Israel & Jewish History Israel: Birth of a Nation on Israel’s establishment Sowing the Seeds of Jewish Statehood: Britain and Palestine, 1909-1922
The Defining Moments in the History of the Jewish People (1998)
Jerusalem: A Microcosm of Jewish Rights
Martin Gilbert and the British Mandate
Explore the new dedicated Index Page
Find people, places and events
Thanks to RosettaBooks and Sir Martin’s other ebook publishers, the Indexes are available here as pdfs, and searchable with a Find & Replace or Search For click.
To search for a particular name or place, each book’s Index must be searched individually. A successful search will show on what page or pages the entry can be found in the book. A link to the book will help the researcher to find more information on the book.
Congratulations to Joe Oliver from the UK,
our May 2016 Book Club winner
Read Joe's Tribute to Sir Martin
For anyone interested in the life of Winston Churchill, as I am like many thousands around the world, the work of Sir Martin Gilbert is inescapable.
Churchill’s own quote on his work as a historian ‘History will be kind to me – for I intend to write it’ is well known. But I don’t think that really tells the full story – in reality History has largely been kind to Churchill primarily because he and Martin Gilbert wrote it.
As someone (I think it may have been John Charmley) called him Sir Martin was ‘Churchill’s angel on earth’ labouring tirelessly to promote understanding of his work, and with steely politeness, correct the many myths and misapprehensions often used to attack him.