The Battle of the Bulge by the Men Who Fought It
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 Vivid account of the Wehrmacht's final offensive, by Astor (The Last Nazi, 1985, etc.). Exhaustively researched, much of it narrated by participants, this is a chronicle in the style of the new military history, conveying an experience as well as a report on a military action. The immediacy and clarity of enlisted men's accounts form the core reality here, giving a palpable sense of infantry and tank warfare. Comparisons with George Feifer's Tennozan (p. 368) are inevitable, but Astor is less culturally concerned, more closely focused on this final, deadly spasm of Hitler's inspiration. The German leadership is unforgettable--flamboyant Otto Skorzeny (who arranged for Germans to masquerade as Americans); alcoholic Sepp Deitrich, Hitler's old buddy, now an incompetent general; and, above all, the cunning, sinister SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, already associated with Russian front atrocities. Astor begins with a grim military comedy of errors: Deitrich's refusal to supplement radios with carrier pigeons, German soldiers who can't speak English, and a nightmare parachute drop in a gale. The Allies oblige, refusing to believe tanks can be used in the Ardennes, failing to grasp the reality when it's upon them, losing crucial information and bickering. The progress of Kampfgruppe Peiper is a black thread of terror running through the narrative. As its tanks grind forward, tiny US units sacrifice themselves. A cook covers the retreat of his unit with a machine gun, then is captured and killed; the SS massacres inconvenient prisoners; Pfc. Mel Biddle is sent on a mission during which he kills 17 Germans and takes out a machine gun with his M-1. Eventually, the 101st Airborne holes up in Bastogne and will not be dislodged, and Kampfgruppe Peiper meets a flaming GîtterdÑmmerung, its men escaping on foot in the snow. Strong narrative, sound history, and a good read. (Photos and maps--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 27th, 1992
ISBN: 1-55611-281-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992


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