The Devils of D-Day: Extraordinary concept; disappointingly delivered

The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton horror book reviewsThe Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton

All the devils and demons that appear in this book are legendary creatures of hell, and there is substantial recorded evidence for their existence. For that reason, it is probably inadvisable to attempt to conjure up any of them by repeating out loud the summons used in the text, which are also genuine. I would like to point out that the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defense strenuously deny the events described here, but I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. – from the Author’s Note

I had high hopes for Graham Masterton’s The Devils of D-Day. The U.S. Army knew it had to end World War II quickly, and was going all-in at Normandy, France. During the battles following D-Day, the American’s worked with a number of priests to employ 13 demons as part of a specialized platoon of tanks. Many years later, an old French laborer recalls: “The Germans ran away from here as if the devil himself were after them.” Indeed.

Dan McCook is an American surveyor, working on a book about World War II battlefields. He happens upon a tank, painted black, its track run off the wheels. Adjacent to the field is a farm where he meets the sweet and seemingly innocent farm-girl Madeleine, her father Jacque, and Eloise, their housekeeper.

The tank is a local legend. Everyone has their suspicions about the rusting hulk, and they know it’s no good. Eloise reports:

I have carried milk and eggs past that tank, and the milk has soured and the eggs have gone rotten. Gaston from the next farm had a terrier which sniffed around the tank, and the dog developed tremors and shakes. Its hair fell out, and after three days it died.

Dan investigates the tank on his own and finds its hatch welded shut. He approaches the burned out hulk and hears a voice that sounds only a modicum more substantive than the wind: You can help me, you know. You sound like a good man and true.

Dan gets appropriately freaked out, and then:

Out of my stomach, out of my actual mouth, had poured thousands of pale, twitching maggots in a tide of bile. They squirmed and writhed all over the top of the tank, pink and half-transparent, and all I could do was clamber desperately off that hideous ruined Sherman and drop to the frozen grass.

Unable to simply let go of the legends and return to America, Dan seeks out the local priest, Father Anton. The Father worked in this part of France during World War II and knows of its legendary status. He’s heard the rumors, and says,

I can only assume that there was something about the tank that was not in accordance with the laws of God.

Nobody knows much about the tanks. But they were not like the usual American tanks. They were different, very different, (it was said that) they were visitations from l’enfer, from hell itself.

The set-up of The Devils of D-Day is quite good: the U.S. Army ‘enlisted’ 13 ANPs — Assisting Nonmilitary Personnel — to help defeat Hitler’s Germany. The ANPs are demons, not the devil himself mind you, but honest, hard-working demons looking for blood, death and maybe a little glory.

This is as good as the story gets, however. Father Anton happens to be an exorcist (naturally) and he agrees to help Dan and Madeleine investigate the tank and see what evil lurks within. The evil turns out to be Elmek, one of 13 demon servants of Adremelech, who’s sort of a super demon.

You see, 12 of the ANP demons were returned safely to storage following the war. Their storage was a special church basement, blessed in a particular way. Elmek’s tank got stuck in the seeping mud that was omnipresent in WWII Europe, and the Army, in its conveniently infinite wisdom, left the tank where it lay and welded shut the lid. Yep — that’ll do it: no worries about the hell demon left in a rotting old tank on the French countryside.

Dan and Eloise go hand-in-hand to seek out a more conclusive resting place for their new ‘buddy’ Elmek. A couple of priests (and their unwitting assistants) die along the way as the pair travel across the channel to the UK in search of Elmek’s 12 demon friends. There’s a bit of a surprise in the conclusion, but what Masterton really missed was exploring his ingeniously created WWII back-story. We hear from an English reverend who was involved in the ANP efforts:

They’re devils of war — devils of violence. Thirteen devils in Army tanks were as vicious and terrible as three divisions of ordinary troops. They swept through the hills … in a matter of days. The Germans couldn’t stop them. I heard dreadful stories from some of the prisoners of war. Some of the Hun were dying of leprosy and beriberi. Tropic diseases, in northern France! Some were blazing like torches. And others were drowning in their own blood, without any apparent signs of external injury. It was a terrible business …

I bought The Devils of D-Day as an ebook for $1.99 and it was a fun Halloween diversion at that price.

Published in 1979. Is the rusting old tank only a relic of the war-torn past—or is it the residence of a satanic demon about to inflict its horror on an unsuspecting world? Thirty-five years have passed since the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day turned the tide of World War II against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Reich, and it’s been more than three decades since the residents of the tiny French village of Le Vey witnessed the horrific slaughter of hundreds of German soldiers by thirteen black tanks. One of the tanks remains on the outskirts of town—its hatch mysteriously sealed, trapping its controller inside—only to be discovered by American surveyor and cartographer Dan McCook. Driven by curiosity and an inexplicable compulsion, McCook is about to do the unthinkable and release what lives within the tank upon an unsuspecting world. And once the monstrous occupant reunites with others of its demonic kind, a new world war will begin, one that threatens to wash the earth in blood and drag every man, woman, and child through the fiery gates of hell. A chilling and ingeniously original tale of demonic possession and apocalyptic possibilities, The Devils of D-Day is classic horror at its best, from the award-winning author of The Manitou.

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JASON GOLOMB, on our staff from September 2015 to November 2018, graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

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4 comments

  1. Well, that’s disappointing! It sounds like while it had its moments, it could have been a lot more fun.

  2. Aussie pub brawler /

    the only ‘devils’ in WII were the so-called “Allies” and the super-devils that controlled them…the dirty, filthy jews!
    to HELL with them and to HELL with their memory!
    i piss and shit on their worthless graves!

  3. Dave Armitage /

    I read this when I was a late teenager now 53, Loved It then and have fond if sketchy memories of it today, totally engrossed by the Idea of It and thought it would have made a good film back then of course.

    • Hi Dave. Me too. Possibly my favourite GM novel. This, and still is, the only novel that made me too scared to turn the light off!

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