Leo Barron. Patton at the Battle of the Bulge: How the General’s Tanks Turned the Tide at Bastogne. New York, NY: NAL Caliber, October 28th 2014. 432 pp.
This is another work on the European Theatre of World War Two that I enjoyed in the fall of 2016. In this instance I listened to this book in audiobook format. This book is more operational history and is what probably many who are interested in World War Two battles want to read and hear. It tells us the story of General Patton’s attempt to break the German military stronghold surrounding the US Army 101st Airborne Division in a town called Bastogne from the perspective of one of Patton’s favorite outfit: The Fourth Armored Division.
I love how the author told the story not with just one unit but various kinds of units such as Armored Battalions, infantry, artillery, the intelligence shop of the Third Army and even certain squadrons and wings of the Army Air Corps. It was impressive research. When I looked up who the author was after I finished the audio book I was quite amazed at how young the author was and the fact that he’s an Iraq War veteran. He has definitely master the historical and operational details of war from another generation. Yet with all his historical knowledge the book was never presented in a dry manner. Far from it: Barron shifts from various individual and their perspective of the fighting. You get the perspective of tank commanders, commanding officers of Battalions, pilots and the individual foot soldier. This alone made the book enjoyable but Barron manages to give blow by blow account going back and forth with the German side as well which makes this very impressive. The author focuses mainly on the German Fallschirmjäger units, which were German elite paratroopers. However by this time of the war German Fallschirmjäger were often mixed bag, some of which were composed of former Navy sailors and formerly wounded German Fallschirmjäger non-commissioned officers. One thing I learned from the book is how often the younger German recruits in these units were a lot more zealous than some of the other soldiers because they were much more impressionable by Nazi propaganda. Listening to this book the author gave readers the sense that one should respect the enemy for the fight they put up.
I really enjoyed how this book was operational history. I especially enjoyed the author’s deeper analysis on the different table of organization and equipment between the US Army and the German Army. It was neat to hear the breakdown of how units were organized. It was also neat to hear how different tanks and artillery shell work. What left a deep impression for me is how the German Army might have began with the concept of blitzkrieg with lighting combined arms strike but it was the Americans in the end of the War that perfected it. Small units in the US Army during the Battle of Bastogne were able to communicate much more effectively than their German counterpart did and were able to requests artillery, tank and even air support in ways that even bigger German units were unable to during the battle and for the entire war. I think the ability to coordinate combined arms in combat is one of America’s ability to succeed in pitched battles from World War two onward. I was also struck from listening to this audio book of how the German Army was still relying heavily on horses and rails when my impression has always been that the German Army was a lot more modernized and motorized.
Again an excellent work. Very enjoyable. The audio book is about thirteen hours long and is great to listen during long trips on the road which was when I listened to this during the Holiday Season.