December 20, 1943. Two Canadian infantry battalions and a tank regiment stand poised on the outskirts of a small Italian port town. They expect to take Ortona quickly. But the German 1st Parachute Division has other ideas. For reasons unknown, Hitler has ordered Ortona held to the last man. Houses, churches and other buildings are dynamited, clogging the streets with rubble. Germans with machine guns lie in ambush. Snipers slip from one rooftop to another. The Canadians seem to have walked into a death trap. This is a battle fought at close range, often hand to hand. Casualties on both sides are heavy. In the end, raw courage and ingenuity save the Canadians.
Dawn, June 6, 1944. Off the Normandy coast 6,500 ships carry 150,000 Allied troops. This is D-Day, the long-awaited Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe. The Allies will storm five beaches. One is code-named Juno Beach. Here, 14,500 Canadians will land on a five-mile stretch of sand backed by three resort towns. The beach is heavily protected by a seawall, barbed wire, underwater obstacles and hundreds of mines. Behind these defenses a heavily armed German force waits inside thick concrete pillboxes and deep trenches that bristle with machineguns and artillery pieces. About 3,500 Canadians will lead the way. The fate of the invasion is in their hands. They either break the German defenses or die trying. Piling out of small, frail landing craft, they struggle through bullet- and shell-whipped water to gain the sand. And the bloody battle for Juno Beach begins. With his trademark you-are-there style, acclaimed military historian Mark Zuehlke plunges readers into a vivid and powerful account of the day-long battle that put the Allies on the march toward victory in World War II.