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11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944by Stanley Weintraub
Synopses & Reviews
In 11 Days In December, master historian and biographer Stanley Weintraub tells the remarkable story of the Battle of the Bulge as it has never been told before, from frozen foxholes to barn shelters to boxcars packed with wretched prisoners of war.
In late December 1944, as the Battle of the Bulge neared its climax, a German loudspeaker challenge was blared across GI lines in the Ardennes: "How would you like to die for Christmas?" In the inhospitable forest straddling Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, only the dense, snow-laden evergreens recalled the season. Most troops hardly knew the calendar day they were trying to live through, or that it was Hitler's last, desperate effort to alter the war's outcome.
Yet the final Christmas season of World War II matched desperation with inspiration. When he was offered an ultimatum to surrender the besieged Belgian town of Bastogne, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe defied the Germans with the memorable one-word response, "Nuts!" And as General Patton prayed for clear skies to allow vital airborne reinforcements to reach his trapped men, he stood in a medieval chapel in Luxembourg and spoke to God as if to a commanding general: "Sir, whose side are you on?" His prayer was answered. The skies cleared, the tide of battle turned, and Allied victory in World War II was assured.
Christmas 1944 proved to be one of the most fateful days in world history. Many men did extraordinary things, and extraordinary things happened to ordinary men. "A clear cold Christmas," Patton told his diary, "lovely weather for killing Germans, which seems a bit queer, seeing whose birthday it is." Peace on earth and good will toward men would have to wait.
11 Days in December is unforgettable.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
The Allied troops huddled and died in mist and mud, trapped in pockets by driving rain and snow. No one had expected Hitler to amass forces secretly and break through the lines of the Ardennes forest, or the fierce fighting that was to be called the Battle of the Bulge, and the Allied troops desperately lacked food, supplies, arms and ammunition. The only way to get supplies was by air. The only way to win was to conduct air strikes. If only the weather would clear. Then George S. Patton strode into a Luxembourg chapel and began a private prayer with "Sir, whose side are you on?" The weather cleared. Weintraub (arts and humanities emeritus, Pennsylvania State U.) takes readers through some of the most harrowing days in history, giving insights from commanders, soldiers, and even prisoners of war like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A perfect complement to Weintraub's popular "Silent Night, 11 Days in December" tells the dramatic story of one of the grimmest points of World War II, and its Christmas Eve turning point toward victory.
Table of Contents
1. No Peace
2. Christmas Gifts
4. The Real Thing
7. Turning About
9. "One more shopping day"
10. Midnight Clear
11. Christmas Day
12. Winding Up
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