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The Battle of Hurtgen Forest: The Untold Story of a Disastrous Campaign Hardcover – 1 Jun 1989

4.2 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Jun 1989
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Pub; 1 edition (Jun. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517566753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517566756
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,258,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Charles Whiting served with a reconnaisance outfit in WWII and has since become one of the premier historians of the war. Among his many best-selling works are Patton, The Last Assault, and Death on a Distant Frontier. He currently lives in York, England. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What a book, my friends pestered for years to read this and boy do I wish I had read it sooner. The information in this book shows the utter waste of war and poor judgment of the commanding generals. The Germans showed how poorly the allied division were able to cope with being at the 'sharp end' without aircover and in a harsh environment without proper supplies. The book shows the allies doing what they do best 'sheer brute force' to achieve there aims in taking the forest and the aims set by those in rear; who had no idea and did not wish to know how the 'poor bloody infantry' lived and died. A meat grinder of book is what the book shows, not for the faint hearted.
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Format: Hardcover
The late Charles Whiting (died 2007) was a prolific writer of military history and fiction (e.g. as Leo Kessler). This book published in 1989 describes the battle US forces fought in the autumn/winter of 1944/45 on the western borders of Germany in forested and hilly terrain where the advantage was with the defender.

Whiting's argument is that this was an unnecessary battle that was continued for reasons of prestige as senior officers did not want to lose face and continued to feed in new units and replacements to take ground that had little strategic value and which the advantages that the US forces had e.g. close air support and ample artillery were nullified by the terrain so it became an infantry slugfest with severe casualties among the front-line infantry battalions and support troops (tank and engineer) who were rotated into the battle.

I first read this book shortly after publication and without the ease of research that is now available on-line and my own limited reading at the time I tended to accept his rationale. On re-reading his book today, however I find that I am far less trusting given my ability to read alternative accounts of the battle on-line and have acquired a more critical outlook.

For example, Whiting uses few primary sources e.g. no official documents to support his case although there are references to interviews and letters. His footnotes refer mainly to memoirs and secondary works but are incomplete as there are no page numbers for works cited and no separate bibliography either.

In his Introduction on page x, Whiting quotes Charles B.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr Howells has provided a very detailed synopsis of the battle, so I won't labour that point. I have to say, I was blissfully unaware of this particular battle until I fell on the book here on the Amazon web site. I finally read it and I did find the book quite absorbing. The descriptions of the horrors experienced by the poor bloody infantry (and the tank crews, artillery men, etc) are well-represented. That the battle was largely pointless, leading to casualties numbering in the tens of thousands for the US army (and, indeed for the Germans) to try and take 50 square miles of forest is well made by the author, Charles Whiting (noms de plume: Leo Kessler, Duncan Harding and John Kerrigan, and writer of some 250 books, many of which were novels.) It's a hard read, as chapter after chapter describes further unsuccessful attempts to overrun the German positions - inevitably with the same result - massive casualty numbers for little gain. Huertgen was unarguably a bitterly fought battle.

So, this is an important, but little known, battle, if only to demonstrate that the rush from Brittany to Germany was not without its difficulties and that the Germans fought a hard campaign of attrition on the Allies.

What I had more difficulty with is Mr Whiting's style. It struck me right from the start with his constant references to the commanders (general level) as the 'Top Brass', an expression you don't hear frequently these days. Mr Whiting served during the war (52nd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in NW Europe) and I don't know if he had some bad experiences with generals, but he certainly has little time for them.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First a precis (feel free to skip if you already know the background):

The Battle of Hürtgen was undertaken by US commanders trying to pin down German forces in the area to keep them from reinforcing front lines further north (Battle of Aachen, where the Allies were fighting a trench war between a network of fortified industrial towns and villages speckled with pillboxes, tank traps and minefields).

Believing the German units were under strength, their fighting spirit collapsed under the stress of the Normandy breakout and the reduction of the Falaise Pocket. What they failed to appreciate was that the German commander (Model) knew the Arnhem assault had foundered, that Hürtgen would served as a staging area for what would soon be known as the Battle of the Bulge and the mountains that commanded access to the Rur Dam, which if used to flood low-lying areas would prevent German forces crossing the river.

The ground was well-chosen and near perfect for a defensive battle: American commanders misunderstood how the dense forest favoured the defender by reducing the effectiveness of artillery; made air support impracticable; gave ample scope for ambushes; and demonstrated how defensive techniques such as widespread use of snipers and 'shoe mines' could swiftly bring advances to a standstill... which allowed the environment itself to cause casualties: exposure; trench foot; fatigue; all compounded the oppressive atmosphere and provoked a deterioration of morale and psychological damage for men and officers alike.

What is astonishing was the battle was not fought as part of a strategic effort but tactically rather than in the interests of achieving particular objectives rather than bypassing them.
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