From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945
A worthy sequel to Ambrose's 1994 D-Day. Bestselling historian Ambrose (Undaunted Courage, 1996) uses firsthand recollections of combat veterans on both sides to flesh out his well-researched narrative. He picks up the epic drama by following, almost step by step, various individuals and outfits among the tens of thousands of young Allied soldiers who broke away from the deadly beaches of Normandy and swept across France to the Ardennes, fought the Battle of the Bulge, captured the famed bridge at Remagen, and crossed the wide Rhine to final victory in Europe. Ambrose observes that the US broke the Nazi war machine with massive aerial bombing, artillery, and the great mobility of attacking tanks and infantry. But, he argues, it was not technology but the valor and character of the young GIs and their European counterparts that ultimately proved too much for the vaunted German forces. While generally approving of Allied military leadership, Ambrose faults Eisenhower and Bradley as too conservative and believes the great human and materiel cost of victory could have been reduced by adopting Patton's more innovative and bolder knockout movements. He deplores the sending of inadequately trained 18-year-olds as replacements on the front lines, where they suffered much higher casualty rates than the foxhole-wise GI veterans. The troops fought under the worst possible conditions in the Ardennes, during the worst winter in 40 years; Ambrose describes the long, freezing snowy nights; the wounds, frostbite, and trench foot; and the fatigue and the tensions of facing sudden death or maiming. The troops rallied to drive the enemy back to the Rhine and into Germany, but took some 80,000 casualties. With remarkable immediacy and clarity, as though he had trained a telescopic lens on the battlefields, Ambrose offers a stirring portrayal of the terror and courage experienced by men at war.