Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble
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From the bestselling author of Stalingrad, Berlin and D-Day, Antony Beevor's Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble tells the story of the German's ill-fated final stand.
On 16 December, 1944, Hitler launched his 'last gamble' in the snow-covered forests and gorges of the Ardennes. He believed he could split the Allies by driving all the way to Antwerp, then force the Canadians and the British out of the war. Although his generals were doubtful of success, younger officers and NCOs were desperate to believe that their homes and families could be saved from the vengeful Red Army approaching from the east. Many were exultant at the prospect of striking back.
The Ardennes offensive, with more than a million men involved, became the greatest battle of the war in western Europe. American troops, taken by surprise, found themselves fighting two panzer armies. Belgian civilians fled, justifiably afraid of German revenge. Panic spread even to Paris. While many American soldiers fled or surrendered, others held on heroically, creating breakwaters which slowed the German advance.
The harsh winter conditions and the savagery of the battle became comparable to the eastern front. And after massacres by the Waffen-SS, even American generals approved when their men shot down surrendering Germans. The Ardennes was the battle which finally broke the back of the Wehrmacht.
'Revealing, profound and thoroughly unputdownable, Stalingrad is an extraordinary achievement which transcends its genre' Vitali Vitaliev, Daily Telegraph (on Stalingrad)
'This brilliant storyteller. . . makes us feel the chaos and the fear as if every drop of blood was our own: that is his gift. It is much more than just a humane account; it is compellingly readable, deeply researched and beautifully written' Simon Sebag Montefiore, Spectator (on Berlin)
'This is a terrific, inspiring, heart-breaking book. It makes the argument all over again that the world would be an infinitely better place if it didn't keep producing subject matter for military historians: but as long as it does, we can rejoice that at the top of that profession is Antony Beevor' Sam Leith, Daily Mail (on D-Day)
'His book is the definitive history. This is World War II as Tolstoy would have described it - the great and the small' Gerard DeGroot, Washington Post (on The Second World War)
Antony Beevor is the renowned author of Stalingrad, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature, and Berlin, which received the first Longman-History Today Trustees' Award. His books have appeared in thirty foreign editions and sold over six million copies.
Marche-en-Famenne. ‘The fog was sitting right on the tree tops,’ he recorded later. There he found Brigadier General Alex Bolling, the commander of the 84th Infantry Division, who had pushed out reconnaissance forces to identify the enemy’s line of approach. He was reassured to find Bolling ‘very calm’, but their conversation convinced him that Bradley was wrong to believe that his entire corps should be held back for a counter-attack. VII Corps was about to be ‘engaged in a
than 1,100 motor vehicles destroyed and another 536 damaged. But such estimates were not confirmed by research later. ‘The three tactical air forces claimed the destruction of a total of 413 enemy armoured vehicles,’ the British official report stated. ‘From a subsequent ground check carried out it appears that this figure is at least ten times too large.’ The real contribution of Allied aircraft, it stated, came from ‘the strafing and bombing of the supply-routes which
…’, CMH SC, 292 ‘dagger-thrust …’, Patton diary, PP, 550 ‘The problem was …’, Buckley, 203 ‘overwhelming egotism’, Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Organizer of Victory, New York, 1973, 475, quoted Atkinson, 304 ‘If you, as the …’, ‘You will hear … ’, PDDE, iii, 2224 ‘We took enough prisoners’, XX Corps, NARA RG 498 290/56/2/3, Box 1465 ‘kept breaking down …’, Obersturmbannführer Loenholdt, 17 SS PzGr-Div, CSDIC, TNA WO 208/4140 SRM 1254 ‘Relations
would come …’, J. Lawton Collins, SOOHP, Box 1, USAMHI Hasbrouck and Clarke on Ridgway, Jonathan M. Soffer, General Matthew B. Ridgway, Westport, CN, 1998, 71 ‘dread Panzerfaust’, etc., Major Donald P. Boyer Jr, RWHP, Box 1 ‘would prove to be …’, ibid. ‘Huge gashes …’, etc., ibid. ‘Reform. Save what vehicles …’, RWHP, Box 1 St Vith and the St Josef Kloster; ‘He took a chalice …’, Schrijvers, Unknown Dead, 169 I&R Platoon, 423rd Infantry, 106th Division,
seldom stretched beyond seventy-five yards, making it very difficult for snipers on the ground. The Germans also made use of a flak battery of 88mm guns south-west of Mariaweiler, which fired at Allied bombers on their way to German cities. At the same time, a forward observation post could warn them if their guns needed to be switched to an anti-tank role. Schmidt’s officers could rely on local foresters for much of their intelligence in the area, which gave them a great