Award-winning military historian Beevor (The Second World War, 2012, etc.) examines the Battle of the Bulge in-depth, with a detailed order of battle for all the combatants, a full array of maps, and extensive quotations from original sources, including secretly taped comments by German officers in British POW camps.
The result is a panoramic and remarkably frank treatment of the German attack, ordered by Hitler as a last-ditch attempt to reverse the momentum of battle in Western Europe. The Allied armies had made significant progress since the D-Day invasion in June, pushing the German armies out of France and most of the Netherlands and Belgium. Pulling tanks and troops off the eastern front, where the Red Army was pushing hard, the Germans put everything into an attempt to split the Allies and force the British out of the war. The attack, launched in December, caught the Allies off guard—caused partly by squabbles that distracted the Allied generals. British commanding general Sir Bernard Montgomery was clearly jealous of the American commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and kept pushing to be given more independence. American generals George Patton and Omar Bradley, among others, detested Montgomery and blamed him for not securing the port of Antwerp. Meanwhile, one of the worst winters on record made for nearly impossible fighting conditions, punishing soldiers and ruining their equipment until the Allies finally prevailed. Beevor skewers the pretensions and weaknesses of generals and details atrocities and mistreatment of both civilians and surrendering enemies by both sides. The author takes for granted more knowledge of the battle, the terrain, and the German language than general readers may possess, and he occasionally repeats information attentive readers will recall from previous mentions. But these are small quibbles. On the whole, this is a treasure of memorable portraits, striking details, fascinating revelations, and broad insights—likely to be the definitive account of the battle for years to come.
Essential reading for anyone interested in World War II.