In the closing days of World War II, Patton dispatched a 294-man column into the heart of Germany to liberate American officers in the Hammelburg POW Camp--one of whom happened to be his son-in-law. The mission was both unrealistic and poorly mounted: the ""liberators"" had neither transport, food, nor arms for the thousands of American, and Allied, officers at Hammelburg. But Baum, task force commander, and Baron, one of the prisoners, skip post-mortems and plunge right into the action--from the column's smashing entry into German lines on March 26, 1945, with heavy artillery and infantry support. That was the start of a 60-mile drive behind enemy lines which featured, among other unexpectables, a running fight with an armed train (at 20 miles an hour) and an unfortunate encounter with an anti-aircraft column ""manned"" entirely by women. And just when ""Task Force Baum"" was preparing to return to American lines carrying whichever of the prisoners it could, the Germans ambushed the group-catastrophically. The story's focus shifts throughout, from task-force members, to prisoners, and even to enemy personnel. Patton, Creighton Abrams, and others not directly involved put in an appearance too--providing some offbeat anecdotes and insights. Thus, we learn that Patton had a predilection for Jewish staff officers: since Jews were good business managers, why shouldn't they be good at managing war? We also glimpse Patton personally inspecting a colonel's hemorrhoids, to see if he's fit to go on the mission--and hear Abrams protest that the task force is too small for the mission, then obey orders regardless. The result was a debacle--ten percent of the ""liberators"" dead, 90 percent taken prisoner--but the operation did, willy-nilly, disrupt German rear-areas and facilitate the Third Army's advance. The story hasn't been told before--and taken on its own, non-judgmental terms, it doesn't slacken for a moment here.