11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944

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9780451223173: 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944

It was truly a white Christmas in the Ardennes Forest in 1944, but that was cold comfort to the Allied soldiers trying to stop the Nazis from retaking Belgium in one of the most decisive battles of World War II. While a German loudspeaker taunted, ?How would you like to die for Christmas?? the Allied forces dug in, despite freezing conditions. They needed a miracle.

In a medieval chapel, General Patton, who needed clear skies to allow airborne reinforcements to reach his trapped men, uttered what would become a famous prayer: ?Sir, whose side are you on?? His soldiers wouldn?t be home for Christmas, but as the skies cleared, they went on to win a battle? and a war.

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About the Author:

Stanley Weintraub is Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, and the author of numerous histories and biographies, including Silent Night (available from Plume).

From Publishers Weekly:

The Battle of the Bulge doesn't quite fit the epic mold it's often cast in—bloody, yes, but lacking in strategic consequence, with no one but Hitler doubting the Allied victory. That the carnage spoiled Christmas time is the slender irony anchoring this aimless retelling by military historian Weintraub (Silent Night: The Story of the 1914 Christmas Truce). Noting American complacency about the German buildup, and strategic and personal squabbles among the Allied commanders, he trumps up Patton's prayer for good killing weather into a dramatic turning point. Mainly, though, the book is a kaleidoscope of anecdotes, combat scenes alternating incoherently with foxhole doldrums and frontline picaresque. There's pluck and defiance—" 'They've got us surrounded, the poor bastards,' " quips a jaunty GI—and death and despair. There are celebrity cameos: correspondent Ernest Hemingway drinks and growls and shoots a few Germans; Marlene Dietrich, on a USO tour, allows a soldier to dust her body with delousing powder. And there are many Christmas celebrations, everywhere from POW camps and Belgian orphanages to Hitler's headquarters. Unfortunately, the reader gleans neither a clear battle narrative nor a sense of pathos—only a period-authentic impatience to get the war over with. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Nov. 28)
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