Feb 16, 2012

How 'Bout Them Reads: The Longest Winter

I know what you all are thinking - It's about time I read one of those history books I'm always saying I'm reading and love so much. Much more educated reading for a girl with a history degree. Yeah, well don't judge me and my prior reading. But yes, I did decide it was time to crack open one of those history books I have sitting on my book shelf. It had been awhile since I had read one. So my first victim book: The Longest Winter by Alex Kershaw. If you know what my favorite time in history is then you already pretty much know what this book is about. But for those of you who have no idea what period of history I like or had no idea I even had a history degree, I'll fill ya in.

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The Battle of the Bulge. If you know anything about history then you know that this battle was key in WWII. And almost everyone has heard of it. If you haven't then do some reading - a little cold and snow when we walk outside on a December/January/February day is nothing compared to what these guys did in the Ardennes forest. Just putting it in perspective. If you know about this battle then most likely you know most about Bastonge, which key for both sides and definitely a well-known battle. But that alone was not the Battle of the Bulge. Men were stretched out along the Ardennes forest during one of the coldest winters that they have had in that area. They had barely any winter gear if they had any at all. They were running low on supplies and spread impossibly thin. What these men survived was amazing.

And this book is about an intelligence platoon that faced a major assault of the German campaign at the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler was at the end of his rope. Nobody believed that the Germans would come out victorious from this war, but he had this one last idea to give everything they had and push through to Antwerp. It was one of the best kept secrets and one of the biggest surprises for the Allied forces that had no idea what was coming.

These eighteen men trained for intelligence operations. They were trained to be unseen and be ghosts, crossing into enemy lines and collecting information. But they were asked to fill in the line at Lanzerath. They took to foxholes and waited. December 15, 1944 they started hearing what sounded like tanks and lots of them moving around them. Hitler's plan was to begin early on December 16, and all these men who were not infantry men and did not the firepower to be able to hold off the enemy for long had no idea that they were about to become a major story in the Battle of the Bulge.

The attack begun on December 16, 1944, just as planned. The Germans headed straight for the town and the I&R platoon was hidden from sight and picking their targets when a young girl ran out and warned the Germans of their position. As the Germans turned, the platoon opened fire. The Germans just kept coming by the hundreds and the platoon just kept shooting them down. This went on for quite a while until the Germans asked for a break to pick up their dead and wounded. The Americans took this opportunity to also assess. The fighting began again and the Americans were running out of ammunition quickly. Their biggest weapon was already out of commission and then a sniper took out Lt. Bouck's radio, leaving them completely cut off.

They continued to fight until they were out of ammunition. They destroyed anything and everything they thought the Germans would want or use and slowly they were forced to surrender. Three men were badly injured. One had taken several bullets to the face, one had a grenade in his face, and another had his shoulder ripped apart. The rest were forced to help clear up the wounded and then they were all taken to the cafe and town where it served as both a command post and an aid station. And this was the beginning of their lives as POWs during WWII. They fought hard to stay alive, each going through a different battle during their lives as prisoners. But somehow at war's end, they all made it out alive. They were worst for wear, but all alive. And it wouldn't be until thirty-some years later that they would be recognized for their actions that kept the Germans at bay during the Battle of the Bulge.

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Honestly, I can talk about these kinds of subjects all day. This book was actually really good. I enjoyed it a lot. And I learned a lot. A lot of information that I didn't know. The author was easy to read and the story was just amazing. But that's always what I liked about history. I know the where, what, when are all important, but I'm interested in the who. I like to hear the stories of what people went through. And my favorite time during is this period. What these men did and all the men during the war is just amazing. If you're looking for a good, informational, interesting, untold story try this one. It's worth it.

12/52




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