The bitter fighting along the German frontier in the autumn of 1944 may lack the drama of D-Day or the Bulge, but for all that was just as hard and lethal Here, Joseph Balkoski has brought one division's part of these battles out of the shadows.
These battles were where the US Army realized that it was not going to be over by Christmas, 1944. This is an excellent telling of the story making full use of the opportunities for continuity provided by its multi-volume format to present clear black and white operational and tactical maps, and vivid and exciting descriptions of specific tactical situations. A It also demonstrates a greater awareness of the history, both in the headquarters and in the foxholes, than that reflected in the US Army's "Green Book" official history treatment or other books from an earlier generation.
Balkoski is an objective but powerful historian. He brings both the grand strategy that determined how and why his GIs fought, but also the details. Here are the distilled impressions of contemporaneous records and veterans alike, of parties out of the line, headquarters in combat, and waterlogged foxholes. Balkoski aims to present not just one "face of battle", but to show what the many thousand of soldiers that made up the division - a living, fighting, community - saw and experienced as they fought through those bitter months.
This is the fourth (and penultimate) volume of Joseph Balkoski's history of the 29th Infantry Division in the Second World War. No other US division in that conflict - not the Big Red One, or the 82nd, or even the 1st Marines - has had a five-volume history. Nor is any other division likely to receive this treatment. The 29th, from its mobilization in 1940, through its most famous day of combat on Omaha Beach in D-Day, and, in this volume, into the Rhineland, was both typical of the US Army yet exceptional.
The author has, in the previous volumes, made excellent use of the broad canvas this affords him. Indeed, because of its scope and because it came decades after most US divisional histories, this divisional history has been part of a revision of how history sees the US Army in the ETO. These books show a resilient force, capable of learning under fire, and in the final analysis more able to evolve on the battlefields than its highly-capable opponents.