Battle Of Hurtgen Forest (West Wall) Hardcover – 22 Nov 2000
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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.
Top customer reviews
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. MacDonald the author of the US Official History 'The Siegfried Line', accusing him of glossing over the US "defeat" by stating "[the Americans] had conquered a formidable forest barrier by frontal assault.". Whiting does not explain that this is a selective quotation from the work (p. 493) as MacDonald goes on to say "... the fight in the forest had achieved little in the way of positive advantages-no German industry, limited roads. The basic truth was that the fight for the Huertgen Forest was predicated on the purely negative reason of denying the Germans use of the forest as a base for thwarting an American drive to the Rhine." MacDonald does ask the question why the campaign was continued for so long given the lack of success even if one is not necessarily convinced by the answers. Part V of his book (pp. 377-493) is concerned wholly with the battle - so hardly being "...neatly swept under the carpet and forgotten." as Whiting would have it.
Whiting is best when he describes the unique horrors of combat in the forest and trails; the shell bursts at height and the fate of the wounded, the feelings of helplessness, battle fatigue and self-harm. He is at his worst when he alleges conspiracy and fails to contextualise. Given the example of his selective quotation above I am now far less trusting of his unsupported allegations and would advise readers interested in an academic study of the battle to read Edward G Miller's 'A Dark and Bloody Ground' (1995).
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Most recent customer reviews
that time. Out touch with reality
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