The Battle of the Bulge is one of the most legendary actions of WW2. It might not be up there with the D-Day landings, The invasion of Poland, the Siege of Stalingrad or the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it’s definitely in the second tier, and, like all the rest, many misconceptions about it survive. I know I certainly didn’t know all that much about the details–to me it was always just about German Tiger tanks in a snowy forest demolishing numerically superior allied forces.
The truth is more complicated, of course, so we return to WWII to have a look. Now, for those who’ve been following this blog over the years, WWII means film and excerpts from Stacy Danielle Stephens’ excellent novel-in-progress, but today we turn to a nonfiction book that aims to be the definitive record of the Battle of the Bulge.
Now, whenever someone says the phrase “definitive history” in my presence, I’m immediately assaulted by a sense of utter ennui. Definitive means exhaustive and authoritative, and that usually corresponds to boring.
But Anthony Beevor’s book Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge, is anything but boring. It’s a nonfiction book–an exhaustive, authoritative nonfiction book–that reads like a thriller. The real people depicted are shown in much the same light, with their strengths and weaknesses, heroism and foibles, as would be the characters in a novel. The effect it electrifying, and keeps you turning the pages to find out what happened next.
Of course, there is a lot of detail. Anyone reading this will learn a lot that they never knew–or didn’t remember–about these cold days in 1944. You’ll also be reminded that war wasn’t just about soldiers prancing around in armored vehicles–civilians were often caught in the crossfire, and played ambiguous roles as well, both as victims of atrocities and willing or unwilling accomplices to one side or the other.
Finally, the book places the battle of the bulge in strategic context with regards to the rest of the war and explains how events on the Eastern Front, as well as in the Pacific Theater created the conditions for a tremendous battle.
It is a complete book – history and entertainment in one convenient package.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine author. He is the author of Incursion, a novel of interstellar war played out over centuries. You can see the novel here.