The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon

The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon On A Cold Morning In December Deep In The Ardennes Forest, A Platoon Of Eighteen Men Under The Command Of Twenty Year Old Lieutenant Lyle Bouck Were Huddled In Their Foxholes Trying Desperately To Keep Warm Suddenly, The Early Morning Silence Was Broken By The Roar Of A Huge Artillery Bombardment And The Dreadful Sound Of Approaching Tanks Hitler Had Launched His Bold And Risky Offensive Against The Allies His Last Gamble And The Small American Platoon Was Facing The Main Thrust Of The Entire German Assault Vastly Outnumbered, They Repulsed Three German Assaults In A Fierce Day Long Battle, Killing Over Five Hundred German Soldiers And Defending A Strategically Vital Hill Only When Bouck S Men Had Run Out Of Ammunition Did They Surrender To The EnemyAs POWs, Bouck S Platoon Began An Ordeal Far Worse Than Combat Survive In Captivity Under Trigger Happy German Guards, Allied Bombing Raids, And A Daily Ration Of Only Thin Soup In German POW Camps, Hundreds Of Captured Americans Were Either Killed Or Died Of Disease, And Most Lost All Hope But The Men Of Bouck S Platoon Survived Miraculously, All Of ThemOnce Again In Vivid, Dramatic Prose, Alex Kershaw Brings To Life The Story Of Some Of America S Little Known Heroes The Story Of America S Most Decorated Small Unit, An Epic Story Of Courage And Survival In World War II, And One Of The Most Inspiring Stories In American History

Alex Kershaw is the author of the widely acclaimed best sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, The Liberator, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg and Robert Capa His latest book is The First Wave The D Day Warriors Who Led The Way to Victory in WWII He lives in Savannah.

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  • Hardcover
  • 344 pages
  • The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon
  • Alex Kershaw
  • English
  • 14 February 2018
  • 9780306813047

10 thoughts on “The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon

  1. says:

    Don t be misled by the titlethis is not an overall history of the Battle of the Bulge but instead, it concentrates on a reconnaissance intelligence platoon, the 394, whose bravery led to their place of honor as the most decorated platoon in WWII It is the winter of 1944 and Hitler is placing all his bets on one last battle through the Ardennes Forest and on to Antwerp The war is already basically lost but Hitler will not recognize this and is convinced that his army can surprise the Allies and turn the tide of battle The 394th digs in on a ridge above the town of Lanzerath in order to report the enemy activity in the area There are only 18 men, led by 20 year old, Lt Lyle Bouke, with limited fire power and not much else.Thus begins the tale of almost unbelievable courage as the 394th is surrounded by Germans, yet fight on for a number of days against overpowering odds Eventually, they are captured and sent to a POW camp The author follows the lives of each member of the platoon throughout their ordeal in action and into captivity and interviewed many of them who were still living at the time of publication 2004 The narrative is fascinating and keeps the reader engrossed through the last page.More than 30 years later, President Jimmy Carter, recognized the unit s extraordinary heroism and awarded combat medals to all 18 men It is an inspiring book which is beautifully written and highly recommended.

  2. says:

    Kershaw s account is that of an overlooked and belatedly heralded action by one platoon in the first stages of World War II s Battle of the Bulge The stand of eighteen untested soldiers against a German paratrooper regiment at a key crossroads was instrumental in slowing down the advance of the German forces and giving the allied army the time to adjust to an attack that had taken it by complete surprise and left it reeling in disarray The army was then able to regroup and initiate the counterattack that eventually resulted in victory.All of the members of the platoon that were engaged in the battle miraculously survived, although a number of them were wounded, two very seriously But all were captured and spent the remaining six months of the war contending with horrifying and terrifying conditions in a series of POW camps The young lieutenant who commanded the platoon turned twenty one while being detained in one of those camps For many years nothing was written about the courageous stand of the platoon because only those who had fought there knew what had happened and since they were captives they were unable to write up after action reports about the battle Finally, thirty five years after the Battle of the Bulge was fought, the platoon received due recognition and the medals that were awarded to its members made it what is generally thought to be the most decorated American platoon for a single action of the entire Second World War I wavered between four and five stars There is no doubt that the book is thoroughly researched and the story is an important one that needed to be told, but at times I didn t feel that the narrative flowed as smoothly as it might have and that there seemed to be digressions than were necessary.Nevertheless, it is a book that deserves a wide reading in order to shine a light on a little known story of heroic courage and valor and sacrifice.

  3. says:

    Probably my favorite book so far this year The Longest Winter tells the story of an intelligence reconnaissance platoon Although they weren t trained for defending fixed positions, they got stuck with that duty, and happened to be manning foxholes when the big German offensive came December 16, 1944 Twenty two men held off hundreds of attacking German troops before running out of ammunition and being captured They managed to stall part of the German advance for roughly a day, giving vital time to other units and contributing significantly to an eventual Allied victory.The battle of Lanzerath, however, was only the beginning of the war for these men They spend months combating filth, lice, disease, starvation, and depression as POWs in Nazi Germany Several of them were also healing from wounds received during the battle They relied on friendship and faith to make it through.I liked Kershaw s approach to this book It focuses on one relatively small group of people, but also highlights other major events from the Battle of the Bulge until the end of the war Lt Lyle Bouck, the leader of the 394th IR platoon, came across as an amazing man he was young, good, and brave, and he cared about his men His men included a diverse, admirable group of Americans, and their stories are well worth the time it takes to read this compelling account.

  4. says:

    This is the book that Band of Brothers should ve been This is one of the best reconstructions of the sheer terror of the opening offensive in the Ardennes ever written It is also required reading for all the fans of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.While most of the individual characterising of our ASTP grunts occurs in the first chapters, during the stateside training, it takes hold We are able to form a mental picture of the German Jew that zealously exchanged his Wehrmacht uniform for the U.S , the Greek whose tongue twisting name necessitates a moniker or the Mexican with the ambition to become a doctor The photo section shows our mental image of them to be on the mark amidst that parade of wiry country boys molded by youthful hardship during the Depression This is not, strictly speaking, that Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon s poetry of war The entire 394th regiment comes into view once the 6th Panzerarmee unleashes one of the war s most saturating artillery bombardments on the thinly held ground of the 99th Checkerboard Division The intimacy of battle is felt in all its terror as the focus shrinks to the size of a football field M 1 s score successive headshots, grenade blasts illuminate the scarce yards between lines, men whose seasickness we felt as their Atlantic transport was surrounded by waves 20 ft high a chapter ago are wounded As the copious footnotes based on Kershaw s interviews with the survivors mark, not all will survive even the trip to the forward hospital The book takes an odd turn as we follow survivors of the 394th into captivity The disease ridden passivity of the Stalags, the morbid irony of being straffed in a French 40 and 8 car by American Jabos and the apocalyptic aftermath of destruction they witness in Koblenz before the company rails into Dresden in time for the inferno that inspired Vonnegut to write his surreal anti war classic Slaughterhouse Five Some historiographic discours is included in the appendices Next, Patton s attempt to rescue his son in law a hundred km behind enemy lines as soon as the 4th Armoured crosses the Rhine is painted as the egocentric farce that it was.Peace and rememberance mirror the mis fortunes of war one profited from the GI Bill to launch a new career or fullfill that dream of becoming an MD in El Paso, another become a soft spoken bus driver with only a shredded coat and a medal tucked away at home as a souvenir, yet another slowly drowned in the loneliness of alcohol, his demons swimming around him Those embracing their war experience were at hand to recount to John D Eisenhower about their time One thing they agreed on war is a young man s game for a reason Only at 20 are you stupid enough to stand and fight against such odds the enormity of which only became clear after the war They also ran into a few of their favorite erstwhile adversaries that Volksgrenadier who didn t shoot them when he could, or a camp guard that left some good things unpillaged in their Red Cross parcel The Bitter Woods by John S.D Eisenhower

  5. says:

    They were so young, these American soldiers just trying to keep warm and prepare for the push into Germany They paid the price for the intelligence failures of the overconfident generals safe and cozy in Versailles and other chateaus Those at HHQ were certain the Germans could only slow the inevitable defeat Au contraire The Longest Winter The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II s Most Decorated Platoon tells the story of a small platoon caught on the northern spearhead of the German attack The 394th Intelligence and Reconnaissance IR Platoon was only supposed to be in Lanzerath, Belgium for a short period as two divisions changed positions at the front Unfortunately, that coincided with the start of the German offensive in the Ardennes, intended to take Antwerp and split the western Allied forces.The book gives a brief preview of the platoon s origin in Texas and moves quickly to the Battle of the Bulge Along the way we get familiar with the members of this cross section of America with all its warts and highlights In the battle, they will perform magnificently At the start of the battle, it becomes clear the intelligence is wrong, very wrong view spoiler The shells just kept coming At a 99th Division command post to the platoon s rear, a staff officer who had been told the Germans had just two horse drawn artillery pieces in the vicinity shouted, Christ, they sure are working those two poor horses to death hide spoiler

  6. says:

    Written for the average reader Plenty of rich detail from both side s perspectives Lots of action and suspense I ve encountered the story of the Battle of the Bulge any number of times, but this was a whole new angle that was enlightening and entertaining Man, they had a rough go of it.

  7. says:

    In general I am not a big fan of small, or single unit, books Their focus sometimes seems to be that if this unit would have been allowed freedom, men, equipment, etc that this unit could have won a battle or even have turned the tide of action Sometimes actions of singular units can and do change the course of battles, but unless there is a telling of the actions that are going on around this unit it causes a sense of isolation and lack of reality This book avoids that trap and does it in an amazingly admirable fashion If focuses on the individuals of the I R Platoon, not only those that were caught in the battle, but the ones that managed, through luck and promotion to avoid being there for it That isn t the only way it does this, this book does take into account the larger picture Not for the whole of the front that would be the start of the Battle of the Bulge, but for the immediate areas north as south of the position that was held by the I R Platoon The book also looks at the other side of the Hill showing German actions and plans The last thing the book does to avoid the pitfall of super sizing an action it is follows the group after the battle All in all one of the best small unit books I have ever read.

  8. says:

    This is the story of a platoon of men who were trained as Intelligence and Reconnaissance soldiers, but found themselves in a fight for their lives as infantrymen They were out front of the 379th Division, 99th, Infantry Division push into Germany in late fall, 1944 They met what was Hitler s last great secret all out, do or die effort to defeat the Allies in the west, which became to be known as the Battle of the Bulge The platoon s heroic efforts were not recognized by the Army, our government and our nation until January, 1981 This is their story told so well by Alex Kershaw who always amazes with his ability tell about the unsung heroes of WWII.

  9. says:

    I struggled to get into this book and found it hard going.It didn t really hold my attention I d describe it as standard Military History , formulaic, then again what was I expecting It does it s job in describing the defence of Lazerath by a small recce unit well and in detail And the best part of the book is the aftermath of battle and how the soldiers were treated as p.o.w s in Germany in the last months of the war Something that I hadn t read or heard about much before.The way the men are portrayed though is almost as caricatures The Americans all seem to be college boy proto jocks and the Germans war film nazi bad guys Very lazy To describe Otto Skorzeny as Blond, just look at his pictures , and dying of old age in his bed, 67 , is really stretching it A poor man s Band Of Brothers.

  10. says:

    A well written, very readable book about the extraordinary heroism of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon of the 394th Infantry Regiment of the 99th Division at Lanzareth, Belgium A book that should be read by anyone interested in the events of the the Battle of the Bulge and the sacrifices of young men at war.

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