A first-rate appraisal of the less-than-brilliant Rhineland offensive that inaugurated the final phase of WW II in the...


RHINELAND: The Battle to End the War

A first-rate appraisal of the less-than-brilliant Rhineland offensive that inaugurated the final phase of WW II in the European theater. Whitaker (who participated in the six-week campaign with the Canadians) and his wife spent four years researching the endgame assault on a 20-mile stretch of frontier territory, which cost the Allies more time and blood than the subsequent 200-mile drive into the heart of Nazi Germany. Drawing on interviews with scores of surviving veterans from both sides, and on archival sources, the Toronto-based authors leave little doubt that grand designs to clear the west bank of the Rhine and to cross it were flawed in important respects. Senior commanders, they charge, had lost touch with battlefield realities. By way of example, the Whitakers cite Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's hesitancy, which delayed the operation's launch until February, meaning that men and machines had to fight their way through spring mud instead of over hard winter ground. In like vein, the authors note that air strategists' refusal to knock out Rhine bridges allowed the Germans to withdraw artillery that later took a heavy toll among airborne as well as ground troops. Despite adverse weather conditions, unexpectedly stiff enemy resistance, and internal conflicts, the Whitakers recount, the Rhineland was won. In their book, though, major credit for the stepping-stone victory goes to American, British, and Canadian soldiers who carried out ""ill-conceived plans"" with uncommon valor and brilliance. All told, Allied forces suffered nearly 27,000 casualties on their grinding way to the river that has proved a formidable barrier to would-be invaders since the days of Julius Caesar. A comprehensive and accessible appreciation of a turning-point engagement, which effectively combines big-picture perspectives with vivid accounts of pivotal tactical actions. Without overstating the case, moreover, the authors provide a rundown on the largely unheralded contributions of Canadian units serving under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. The text (published earlier this year in Canada) has 16 pages of well-chosen photographs, plus 12 helpful maps.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 1989


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989