11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944

Stanley Weintraub, Author . Free Press $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8710-4

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 . (Nov. 28)

Reviewed on: 09/18/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
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