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.