Crossing the Rhine: Breaking into Nazi Germany 1944 and 1945—The Greatest Airborne Battles in History

Lloyd Clark, Author . Atlantic $25 (415p) ISBN 978-0-87113-989-4

Two battles anchor this narrative of Allied efforts to cross the Rhine at WWII's climax. The first is the famous Operation Market-Garden, during which British paratroopers seized a Rhine bridge and were virtually wiped out by German counterattacks. The second is Operation Plunder-Varsity, a set piece crossing by a huge Allied force, including a superfluous airborne attack, that bulldozed through flimsy German defenses in the war's closing days. Although Plunder-Varsity lacked Market-Garden's drama, British military historian Clark (Anzio ) tells both sagas well, including planning meetings, harrowing parachute descents and foxhole firefights; he sets the battles in the context of the bitter strategic debates between British and American generals. Less convincing is his rehabilitation of British general Bernard Montgomery's oft-criticized handling of the engagements. Clark describes Market-Garden as both “strategically and operationally sound” and, contradictorily, as “a plan too flawed to be a success.” His appreciation of Plunder-Varsity—both “an outrageous success” and “a conservative operation” against “a terminally weak enemy”—is similarly halfhearted. But the courage and resourcefulness of ordinary soldiers, though not of their commander, comes through in this vivid war story. Maps. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 415 pages - 978-0-8021-4430-0
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