The Battle of the Bulge-70 years later.

As many Americans go about doing their Christmas shopping...signing up for Obamacare...and wondering if they can now go to their corner coffee shop without some Islamic whackjob taking them hostage, it is time to mark the 70th Anniversary of the biggest battle the US Army ever fought...the German Ardennes offensive of 1944...popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Since this is the 70th anniversary there have been many ceremonies, particularly in Belgium, and there have even been some interesting articles written.  And it is fitting that the world should mark this occasion, the last gasp of the Third Reich and the biggest victory in the US Army's history.

The magnitude of the battle is pretty hard to comprehend for modern Americans, especially those educated in the mish-mash social studies world of the American secondary and college education systems, where I'm sure it receives all of 10 minutes worth of attention...mentioned somewhere between the New Deal and the Great Society, no doubt.

But let's review---in this battle, About 19,000 U.S. soldiers died, and 47,500 were wounded and more than 23,000 missing...that means the of all US combat deaths in World War 2, 10% of them occurred in this single battle.

That is a staggering number.  In addition, nearly two full US infantry regiments were surrounded and captured by the Germans at the start of the battle...almost 6,000 US troops, the largest US mass surrender since Bataan in 1942.

However, at the end of the battle, the German Wehrmacht had suffered 100,000 casualties, and Hitler's last strategic reserve was destroyed.

Most American's today couldn't comprehend the staggering level of slaughter...we rightly mourn the loss of every service member in combat, but seem to come unglued at the fact that war involves death and destruction on an unimaginable scale...war is no video game.

Unfortunately, most of those old vets are gone, along with the valor and stories of sacrifice, hardship, and a mutual cause that united all Americans.  Their generation will be missed.  My godfather was one of them, and I have previously written about his service in the 82nd Airborne Division.  He never talked about the war or his service and I wish I had been aware of his service earlier to maybe get some hint of what he did in the war. 

And, of course, no Grouchy Historian blog post would be complete with books to go with the snark
and insightful observations.  I saw this book on Amazon a few months ago and decided to pre-order it.  I have read most of the classic accounts of the battle...John Toland, Charles MacDonald, and John McManus.  I was a little skeptical what else there was to know. 

Hmmm, well, guess again.  Dr. Caddick-Adams, a Brit no less, has written what could only be described as a revisionist history of the battle.  Now normally, this would make me CRINGE, but his narrative, thesis, and supporting research are hard to resist.  He debunks many myths and spears many sacred cows in the book--from the role of Ultra within the overall Allied intelligence failure, to the real reason Hitler launched the attack and why he chose the's not the reason you think, Hitler was even more crazy than I thought.

This is truly a fresh look at this battle, well written, with excellent maps and illustrations.  What I really liked about this book was...well--the epilogue, where Dr. Caddick-Adams reviews the multitude of histories of the war, from the US Army official version (one of the so-called Green Books, written before the existence of Ultra was revealed) to the recent microhistories written by John McManus and others.  This was very interesting as he picks apart, in detail and with academic detachment, the good and bad part of each previous history and why he researched and wrote his history in the manner he did.

I do enjoy books that reexamine history and offer new insights, especially if they can do it without wandering into useless rabbit holes of gender, racial, social justice or some other prism of modern PC crap.  Sadly, even military history is not immune from this horrible virus.

Fortunately this book is still traditional military history, enriched with just a touch of psychology (Hitler-whackjob) and personalities (oyyy..Monty) to explain how the valor of the GI and Landsers still is worth telling.  I highly recommend it.