Hitler's last gamble, the Battle of the Bulge, was intended to push the Allied invaders of Normandy all the way back to the beaches. The plan nearly succeeded, and almost certainly would have, were it not for one small Belgian town and its tenacious American defenders who held back a tenfold larger German force while awaiting the arrival of General George Patton's mighty Third Army.
In this dramatic account of the 1944-45 winter of war in Bastogne, historian Peter Schrijvers offers the first full story of the German assault on the strategically located town. From the December stampede of American and Panzer divisions racing to reach Bastogne first, through the bloody eight-day siege from land and air, and through three more weeks of unrelenting fighting even after the siege was broken, events at Bastogne hastened the long-awaited end of WWII.
Schrijvers draws on diaries, memoirs, and other fresh sources to illuminate the experiences not only of Bastogne's 3,000 citizens and their American defenders, but also of German soldiers and commanders desperate for victory.
©2014 Peter Schrijvers (P)2015 Tantor
"Using fresh sources and deft writing, Peter Schrijvers develops a panoramic and compelling boots-on-the-ground illumination of one of the Bulge's most epic battles." (Patrick K. O'Donnell, author of Dog Company)
Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.
I have recently had a bent for learning all I can about WWII, and have read many books on the subject. Naturally I was interested in this one. Even with all my recently acquired knowledge, this book was hard to follow and hard to digest, not through any fault of the author, but because of the scope of the battle and the situations it engendered. It is just a lot to take in. Honestly, I don't know how anyone lived through that battle.
I did learn a lot from the book though, and will read it again somewhere down the road.
A belated but heartfelt thank you to the greatest generation, and to those who held Bastogne and similar places. That would include my Father and my Father-in-law. Thank you for your courage, determination and sacrifice. I am grateful for people like you because if I had been given that responsibility,I probably could not have done it.
John Lee is a masterful narrator. I'm not sure I would have picked him for this particular title, however, just because of personal preference. I like him more as a narrator of fiction. Still, I enjoyed his reading of the book, and especially loved hearing him use an American accent. No matter how hard they try, well educated Brits just can't get that accent down to earth enough.
Overall I think this was a very good book. It is certainly not the book for those who do not like history or those who know nothing about WWII simply because of the massive amount of information it covers. However, if you are a person who enjoys either you'll likely enjoy this book, yet my caveat below may sway your opinion.
The narration was outstanding. I had only listened to John Lee on one previous book, Dam Busters, in which he did an excellent job, but he was better in this book. Lee was a perfect choice, but be warned; he speaks so swiftly at the beginning of the book that I thought I had accidentally hit the 1.75x speed on my iPod. That said, his diction and pronunciations are flawless and he is easily understood. The speed, in my mind, actually conveyed the sense of urgency that the American units must have felt at the onset of the German attack. Lee also has an amazing ability to switch between accents, which will likely bother some listeners, but I found it interesting to break up the drone of the information being explained. His cadence slows further on, but he doesn't abandon the sense of urgency that he starts with.
Now comes the one caveat. At about the halfway point of the book I began thinking back and trying to recall if Schirjvers had mentioned the mass murder of 84 American prisoners in the hamlet of Baugnez on 17 December 1944 at the hands of the Germans; known as the Malmedy massacre. The book does jump around and is not chronological so perhaps I missed it, but from the time I thought about it on I listened with intent to see if the horrific event was mentioned and it never was. This shocked me and, frankly, caused a certain amount of disappointment if not disdain for the author. Yes, the title is "Those Who Hold Bastogne", but Schrijvers mentioned numerous other engagements or actions outside of Bastogne yet he failed to make even a passing mention of one of the most horrific and well documented war crimes of WWII, why? He made mention of several other murders of civilians committed by the Germans and he actually made mention of a few "alleged" killings of German prisoners by American soldiers, none that I've ever heard as properly documented though. While it is very likely that during the fog of battle both sides committed acts that would or could be perceived as a murder or an extrajudicial killing those instances are far different from a planned and organized intention to march 84 unarmed prisoners of war into a field and machine gun them to death.
In all fairness to the author I do plan on listening to this book again just to determine if I missed this point of history during the first half of the book? While that is possible, it is not very probable because I can gloss over some books while listening, but key points typically strike me. If Malmedy wasn't mentioned little could justify the reason other than an author who is a very poor historian and left it out by oversight, which calls into questions all his research, or an author suffering from some twisted sense of political correctness. Either way I can state with absolute certainty that I will never again purchase another book by Peter Shrijvers if he failed to mention Malmedy. And no; I would not accept the excuse that it was too far out of place for the narrative about the battle for Bastogne itself, that would be a lame excuse.
Dare to dream...
Well written. Informative and a good listen. Narration is superb! I have repeatedly listened to this audio book as it holds a Cold Hard View of War.
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