Monday, May 17, 2010

War Stories of the Battle of the Bulge by Michael Green and James D. Brown

Michael Green and James D. Brown have put together a fascinating book titled “War Stories of the Battle of the Bulge.”  If you are looking for a definitive book on The Battle of the Bulge this is not it.  If you want a powerful account of the battle from the mouths of those who were there, this is it.  The authors do a great job of telling the the story with first-person accounts from the American soldiers, both officers and enlisted. Their stories are spellbinding. You will keep turning the pages.

The book is divided into four sections: The Germans Attack, The Americans Fight Back, Christmas in the Ardennes, and Closing the Gap. The book's structure follows the ebb and flow of the battle.  The source material is drawn for the 'Bulge Bugle”, the quarterly newsletter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Association, first person accounts from members of the association, and the files of the U.S. Army Military Historical Institute.  We learn of the failure of higher command to realize this area of the Ardennes (Losheim Gap) had three times previously in history been used as an attack route.  The fact it was so poorly defended is nearly criminal.

The cold weather of the battle was mentioned by almost everyone in their accounts.  Cold, tired, miserable, under equipped, were comments included in almost every story.  I knew the 106th Infantry Division had lost two regiments, but had not realized they had over 6,500 taken POWs during the battle. We are reminded again and again that the individual heroism of the soldier made the difference over the course of the battle.

One of my favorite stories was found from pages 40 - 72 “Charles Haug, B Company, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division”. It was from  the files of the U.S. Army Military Historical Institute.  The story is a breath taking account of being pushed back by the Germans.   James A. Steinhaufel of C Company, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division tells the tale of his units chilling encounter with the much feared German Tiger Tank. His story leaves you feeling you were there.

I highly recommend the book.  It is one you will want to read from cover to cover.  The stories are generally only a few pages long.  This would be a excellent resource for any public library to add to its collection. It is also a great way to get a feel for what you father or grand father went through if he was one of the men that confronted the 250,000 German soldiers as they made their last major attack against the Allied Forces.  Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler May 2010.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Sweepstakes - All American, All the Way

There is a book sweepstakes running on the Zenith Press blog for a couple sets of Phil Nordyke’s All American, All the Way books. Click on the article title to link to the sweepstakes or click Book Sweepstakes - All American, All the Way (Deadline for entries is 11:59 pm CST on Thursday, May 13, 2010. They will pick the winners on May 14, 2010.):

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht by Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones

Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones'"Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht" allows you to journey with the 365th Fighter Group from its inception through its training in Richmond, Virginia and Millville, New Jersey across the Atlantic Ocean with on the Queen Elizabeth with 15,000 other soldiers to England where they trained and were based during the invasion. We move to their base in France and experience the close air to ground combat with them as the move across France and ultimately into Germany with a series of bases that that keep them in close support of the ground troops. It tells the story of the air to ground battle. The book is well-researched. Nearly 200 interviews of 365th FG veterans and other combat veterans, plus interviews with family are the fodder for this well written and organized book. I was shocked to learn while reading the book that 15,000 Americans died in aircraft crashes during training and forty percent of the student pilots washed out during training.

The book tells the story of death from above. It is filled with the details of the daily combat and struggles of the "Hell Hawks!" As you read the book you will encounter the people who made up the 365th Fighter Group. I might suggest you begin the book by reading the appendix "What Happened to Them?" It gives a great overview of the key people in the book. Dorr and Jones do a marvelous job of painting the picture of the life and death fighting these young men engaged in on an almost daily basis. I loved the story of George Brooking who later commanded the fighter group. He arrived as a "senior" Captain and experienced fighter pilot having served in the Aleutians. He was shot down on his first mission, survive spending time with the Luxembourg resistance and then returning to take over the Fighter Group. I smiled when I read of Paris in August of 1944 and how few men spent much time on their feet while there. We continue to move up with the troops, survive the Battle of the Bulge, move into Germany and fight Jet airplanes. The group took a large number of causalities before their last combat mission on May 8, 1945.

"Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht" is both an excellent military history, great book for anyone who enjoys flying and aviation writing, and maybe most importantly provides the best story of the air to ground battle. The book forcefully makes the point that the Hell Hawks with their P-47 Thunderbolts were as responsible as any other aircraft in winning the war. I highly recommend Hell Hawks! The further I got into the book the more spellbound I became. I had studied and read of the ground operations (which included the air to combat battle in the Falaise Gap) and knew the story of the B-17s and the B-24s, but was ignorant of the overall air to ground combat battle that took place across the European Theater.

Buy the book. Read it. You will love it and learn something along the way. I highly recommend the book. Thank you Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones for a needed work on a neglected subject.

Read by and Reviewed on May 4, 2010 by Jimmie A. Kepler