Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble by Antony Beevor

Ardennes

With the Allies closing in on the Western Front and the humongous mass of the Red Army making dangerous inroads into the Eastern Front, a delusional Hitler orders a final suicidal gamble ordering a mind numbing counter attacking offensive against the Allies from the Ardennes. Going against both conventional military wisdom and every grain of common sense the Nazi dictator overrides every plea of sanity put forth by his military commanders to launch a blitzkrieg offensive against the Allies. Antony Beevor in a gripping fashion lays out the macabre details of the bloodiest battle ever fought by the Americans in the entire World War II.

Antony Beevor, the undisputed chronicler of war, punches even beyond his formidable weight and rises above his embellished reputation by producing a rare gem. Employing a bottom up approach he captures the saga of Ardennes – sordid in its enactment and sweeping in its wake – from the view point of the hapless soldiers forced to sacrifice their precious lives in the capacity of helpless pawns directed by forces beyond their control. In addition to describing in unsparing and critical detail the key battles fought at each strategic location, Beevor also highlights the startling and acrimonious relationships tarnishing the alliance of the Allied forces. The indecisiveness of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight Eisenhower, the intransigence of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and the impetuousness of the commanding Patton makes one wonder about the cohesiveness and camaraderie of the joint forces attacking their Axis enemies.

Mindless massacres that cock a snook at the Geneva Convention by the Nazis, retaliatory acts of infamy by the American forces, isolated instances of undiluted courage and patriotism by combatants in both the warring factions all make “Ardennes 1944” a book to be read and re-read. Of especial interest is the defense of the strategic location of Bastogne by the battered yet belligerent and bold 101st Airborne Division who in spite of a depleted strength fended wave after wave of fanatical German offensive. Beevor’s genius lies in unearthing the minutest of details which, although at the outset seem to be of mere peripheral importance to the whole picture, constitute a vital piece in a complicated jigsaw puzzle.

Hitler was of the firm conviction that Ardennes would be the German Phoenix that would rise like a colossus from the Ashes to crush everything in its wake before proceeding to rule the world with an iron fist. As Beevor explains in chilling detail, his ambitions were more a dangerous and spontaneously concocted illusion than a reasoned objective. An illusion which not only put paid to the hopes of a zealously fanatical nation gripped in the fervour of fascism, but also led to the needless butchery of thousands of innocent and young lives.

Ardennes 1944: Beevor’s Crowning Glory

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