The Ardennes offensive (as Europeans call it) was the last German victory, the first American debacle, and an episode with greater political interest than any other single operation of the war, according to M. Nobecourt. He covers every dimension of the battle, which began in December 1944 when von Rundstedt broke through the Western Front into a liberated Europe and its hopes for a quick end to the war. The hero of the piece is Eisenhower, whose reputation was at stake both then (because of his unpopular desire to integrate the Allied armies) and now (owing to accusations from Montgomery and MacArthur). The author casts a keen Gallic eye on the prickles of Anglo-American relations, and his portraits of Churchill, Patton, and other leaders merit attention--to say nothing of the detailed accounts of Hitler as he tried to exploit his psychological advantage, overruled his generals, exaggerated WWI parallels. Bastogne and MacAuliffe's ""Nuts!"" were soon followed by Yalta; Nobecourt concludes that Eisenhower did not significantly prolong the war or add to the Russians' bargaining edge. A consistently engrossing book which will convert new WWII buffs and reward serious students.