A TIME FOR TRUMPETS: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge by Charles B. MacDonald

A TIME FOR TRUMPETS: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""untold story"" of the Battle of the Bulge, also billed as ""the US Army's most abysmal battlefield intelligence failure,"" is old news inflated--with the addition of Ultra transcripts. In December 1944, when Hitler launched a counter-offensive in the Ardennes, the Allies were caught by surprise: the Germans were up to something, they knew, but no one expected Hitler's desperate gamble; and in preparation for drives to the north and south, the line in the Ardennes was weak. MacDonald (Company Commander) now presents the Ultra transcripts of troop movements--the Germans maintained radio silence about the actual offensive--to suggest that, ""properly interpreted and mixed with other material, [they] should have told Eisenhower, Bradley, Hedges, Middleton, and Gerow what was about to hit them."" But as he goes on to say, the commanders had come to expect Ultra to provide more specific word; and as he says further, ""the basic failure"" lay in not looking beyond the state of the German army, and its commanders (all of whom opposed the offensive), to ""the desperation that motivated the FÃœhrer."" What he doesn't acknowledge, further, is how often Ultra intelligence had been ignored or misinterpreted. Otherwise this massive book (640 pp.) is orthodox military history, on the battalion level, tonelessly, colorlessly, and not always clearly related. (""Taking command of the little force--less than a full-strength platoon--Duffin led the men up the trail, soon to find Company C's command post under attack. Fixing bayonets, the men charged. They killed twenty-eight Germans, and the rest fell back to the foxholes they had captured earlier."") The epic battles among the commanders--Eisenhower's decision to give Montgomery temporary command of Bradley's First and Ninth Armies (north of the Ardennes), his fury at Monty's delay in attacking--are almost a sideshow in this context. And some aspects of the larger story--like Ike's call for black volunteers, his (aborted) intention to integrate them with white troops--have no place at all. It's the trees we see, rather than the forest. This does accord with MacDonald's second major purpose: to demonstrate the valor of American troops and rebut the contention that ""some fled in disarray."" In contrast with other 40th anniversary histories, this has an old-fashioned patriotic ring--and that, plus the detail on individual engagements, will attract some buffs. The general reader will find much more drama in John Toland's Battle: The Story of the Bulge.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow