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January 2016 Book Reviews

Monday, December 14, 2015

Man Behind the Scope Sees More Than Crosshairs

The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers. Nicholas Irving with Gary Brozek. St. Martin’s Press. 320 pages. $27.99.

By Kelly S. Kennedy

Do not expect to find Chris Kyle’s American Sniper reincarnated in former Sgt. Nicholas Irving’s The Reaper. There are no jarring statements of a love for killing, no back-home bragging of civilians killed, and no need to think of an entire people as the enemy. The lack of braggadocio pushes forward an almost impossibly earnest telling of a similar situation: the need to kill the enemy before the enemy killed Irving’s battle buddies.

That doesn’t mean Irving didn’t feel capable in his skills. He had trained his whole life to become exactly what he was—focusing on target practice, getting back on track in school so he could join the military, and pushing hard to go to Ranger School.

Nor is this a story of struggle to be the first African-American sniper in his battalion, the Army’s Special Operations 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. In fact, Irving never mentions this himself. In his world, he was just one of the guys. But he and the guys were in the Army, in which African-American infantry soldiers—and officers—are rarities. For example, in 2012, only seven African-American cadets were commissioned as infantry officers. This is key because it’s hard for soldiers to make the general officer ranks without an infantry background—an issue women serving in the military also face.

In other words, Irving’s story could have been a call to arms, so to speak, for soldiers who in the past had chosen military fields with skills like combat service support that could have led to civilian careers in ways an 11B MOS can’t. After a brief period in the Vietnam War when African-Americans were sent to the front to die in greater numbers than other ethnic groups, parents steered their children clear of combat arms.

But as simply a soldier story, it’s a tale of friends lost, problems solved, and thoughtful questions about the point of it all. Irving’s first kill left him feeling “queasy, with that stomach-sinking feeling you get when somebody gives you some bad news.” Still, he said, the rush of combat was unlike anything else he had experienced. Later, after a particularly gory shot, “I didn’t want to deal with my thoughts about what I’d just done,” he wrote, so he simply moved on to something else.

He writes about his mistakes, too, including his fear of jumping from airplanes that led to a bad landing; and also of starting out as an angry kid, but not a kid who loved to kill animals. When he hunted, he was “squeamish” about handling the rabbits and squirrels he shot, but he mastered emotional and mental discipline on the range with his dad. Soon, he was studying the dynamics behind hitting a target on a windy day and at different distances. And that made him realize he needed to pay more attention to his math skills.

Part of the debate over American Sniper focused on the nature of being a sniper. Some see it as a brave and expected part of combat, while others see hiding to take a shot as cowardly. Irving wrote of his encounter with an enemy sniper: “What I experienced was personal. Seeing sniper action from the other side made me realize how calculating the act was.”

He obviously feels respect for the enemy. He displays compassion in trying to imagine who he would be if he had grown up in a village in Afghanistan that had never seen peace, and who had a “limited understanding” of his “war on terror.” He recalled his thoughts while preparing for a mission: “What bothered me as I sat loading my weapon before we left was realizing that I might have to fire these live rounds at another human being.”

Irving’s coming-home story also differs from a typical hero story. Rather than continue in a job in which he had proven his performance to almost legendary proportions—there’s a reason the book is called The Reaper—and instead of resting on his laurels to move up the ranks, he paid attention to his concerns about nightmares as well as his anger when his wife rearranged the furniture. He talked with his wife. He looked at re-enlisting. He thought about what he could do on the outside.

“Going out intact and on top was as good a way as any to end things,” he wrote.

Instead of pushing through the pain, Irving chose to stay back and heal.

Kelly S. Kennedy served as an Army communications specialist during Operation Desert Storm and is the author of They Fought for Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq.

History Recounted Through Eyes of Young Soldier

Airborne: The Combat Story of Ed Shames of Easy CompanyIan

Gardner. Osprey Publishing. 304 pages. $25.95.

By Nancy Barclay Graves

Ian Gardner is the author of several previous books about the 101st Airborne Division. In his latest book, he focuses on one young soldier who was with the 101st as it spearheaded battles across Europe in World War II. Most accounts of war are written from the top down, so to speak, with maneuvers described like a chess game. Airborne: The Combat Story of Ed Shames of Easy Company describes these historic events from the soldier’s vantage point: personal accounts of the training, fellow soldiers, day-to-day living conditions, confusion when airdrops do not put the soldiers on their exact targets, and soldiers’ ingenuity and fortitude to regroup. Here, Gardner recounts the hardships of close fighting, wounds and death, and the few respites between battles.

Gardner states in his foreword that he wrote this book as a reaction to what he believed were inaccuracies in Stephen Ambrose’s acclaimed book Band of Brothers. He chose Shames to personalize these events because he was very much a part of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 101st’s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

In 2002, Gardner met Shames, who had retired from the Army as a colonel. Even at 80 years old, Shames’ memory was still clear. In an interesting format, Gardner uses Shames’ own words, separated from Gardner’s text by the use of smaller print. The book becomes almost an autobiography.

Gardner covers Shames starting from his enlistment as a 20-year-old raw recruit. Training at Camp Toccoa, Ga., as described by Shames and Gardner, was rigorous. It was intended to cull those who would not be able to withstand either further training or the severity of combat. It did. A sleek, well-trained unit set off for England between Sept. 5 and 6, 1943. The descriptions of the lives of the soldiers who were quartered in British homes from their own viewpoint, and from the wary residents in whose homes they were billeted, give a personal picture often omitted in histories. The training continued until just before midnight on June 5, 1944, when the soldiers took off for France.

The drop into Normandy, aimed for Utah Beach, is vividly described. The landings were scattered, and Shames’ description of how he got out of the milk factory where he had landed to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, his target, is clearly detailed. So are the soldiers’ injuries and deaths, and the unbelievable skill and bravery of the medics who were seemingly everywhere.

Gardner, with Shames’ personal descriptions, details the next month of fighting, which cleared the area of the German units with their omnipresent tanks among the hedgerows. For his heroism, Shames was nominated for a battlefield commission.

By early July, the 506th returned to Ramsbury, England, where they had spent the previous winter. The cost of the six weeks in Normandy had been high: Of 575 men who jumped with the 506th, 93 were killed. Back in Ramsbury, Shames’ commission came through. He transferred from the 3rd Battalion to the 2nd, where he spent the rest of his time in Europe.

In mid-September 1944, orders came for the next big mission: Operation Market Garden, the effort to take vital roads and territory in the Netherlands and push on to Berlin. Personal descriptions from the vantage point of Shames and other soldiers—of the drop, close fighting, the linkage with the Dutch underground, the back and forth of the troops and the final breakthrough—are vivid and engrossing.

Included in their activities was Operation Pegasus, an amazing rescue of 130 British paratroopers along with seven American airmen who had escaped German imprisonment. At last, in late November after 71 days of fighting and a loss of around 60 percent, including 17 commissioned men during Operation Market Garden, the 506th was relocated for rest in France, near Reims. But they were not able to rest and relax for long. On Dec. 19, the regiment was trucked to a village 3 miles northwest of Bastogne.

The result of the Battle of the Bulge is well-known, but Gardner vividly narrates the personalities, the suffering, uncertainty and ultimate success—including not only of the 506th but of the other units involved. The battle for the town of Foy is described in detail, so important was it in breaking the siege at Bastogne.

The Battle of the Bulge “was arguably one of the most important events of World War II,” Gardner writes, and certainly the last big hurrah for the beleaguered German army, although fighting continued until the surrender in May 1945.

On March 15, 1945, the 101st Airborne received a distinguished unit citation for their actions in Bastogne, the first complete unit to be so recognized. Soldiers from the division also liberated the Dachau concentration camp, and the operation is traced here in horrible detail. Chapter 13, “Last Stand,” follows the men of the 506th as they opened Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s opulent mountain lair at Berchtesgaden.

Forty-four pages of snapshots make this an intimate journal in which the reader meets many of the men involved. However, the lack of any line maps of the various engagements during the war is a serious omission.

Gardner has written Shames’ personal epilogue reviewing his three years with the 101st Airborne. This makes a fitting summary for the division’s role in Europe. As we rethink the events of 70 years ago, this book is a recommended portrayal of a segment of that time.

Nancy Barclay Graves is an Army wife and freelance writer who lives in Arlington, Va.

Custer Tome More a Well-Told Than Untold Story of Battle 

The Last Days of George Armstrong Custer. Thom Hatch. St. Martin’s Press. 366 pages. $29.99.

By Col. Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army retired

Few battles have captured the public imagination as the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Sioux and Cheyenne victory over Lt. Col. George A. Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry on June 25, 1876, was a watershed event in American military history. Not only was the engagement “Custer’s Last Stand,” but the battle also marked the last stand of the Indian tribes that had assembled in 1876 and defeated Custer.

Thom Hatch is a premier Western historian with 10 books to his credit. He has made a career of examining the life of Custer, with titles including The Custer Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Campaigns of George Armstrong CusterClashes of Cavalry: The Civil War Careers of George Armstrong Custer and Jeb Stuart; and Glorious War: The Civil War Adventures of George Armstrong Custer.

“Brace yourself for the unthinkable,” Hatch urges readers of his most recent book, The Last Days of George Armstrong Custer. “You are now hot on the trail of the holy grail of American history.” He also says reading Last Days is “the next best thing to having been there.”

Unfortunately, the book does not live up to the author’s billing. Hatch plows familiar ground that was recently examined by authors James Donovan (A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn, the Last Great Battle of the American West) and Nathaniel Philbrick (The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn). Both of these books are arguably definitive works in the field of Custer historiography.

Hatch begins his narrative by examining the events in the life of Custer and the mood of the U.S. as the nation approached its centennial. To fully understand Custer the soldier, Hatch states emphatically that people who wish to comment on the Little Bighorn “would be well-served to learn those battlefield strategies and tendencies that made Custer a national hero.”

In this regard, Hatch stands in the forefront of Custer apologists. “By the same token, this battle against the Sioux must be examined through the eyes of 1876,” he writes, and not from 21st century standards “by people who tend to ignore necessary truisms of that distant time and replace them with societal rules today.”

Hatch is at his best when challenging the traditional interpretations of what actually occurred on that June 1876 day in the valley of the Little Bighorn. Hatch’s Custer was not a “bumbling tactician” or “some sort of rogue commander who was free to pillage, plunder and kill his way through the West,” Hatch writes. Rather, Custer’s tactics were “in fact well thought out and logical and could have—should have—succeeded.”

Hatch dismisses modern scholars who opine that Custer’s battle plan was “hastily devised, reckless, and destined to fail.” On the contrary, Hatch posits that Custer’s tactics were “nothing less than brilliant, especially given the terrain.”

If there is a villain in Hatch’s narrative, it is Custer’s second-in-command, Maj. Marcus A. Reno. While Custer was riding toward the opposite end of the Indian encampment in the valley of the Little Bighorn, Reno willfully disobeyed Custer’s orders and “lost control of his senses and perceptions, which would not be expected of a competent Army officer at such a crucial time.” Hatch describes Reno as “no longer rational, not knowing whether to stand his ground or change his position.”

Hatch’s history would have more merit if he stuck to the facts and described the battle in the exemplary manner he has done in previous works. After expending an inordinate amount of time examining the military clauses of the U.S. Constitution and Article 9 of the Articles of War prohibiting any officer or soldier from disobeying a lawful order of his superior officer, Hatch directs his wrath against a “disgraceful school of alleged scholars and pseudo-revisionists” who “have desperately searched for any way to place the blame for this devastating defeat on George Armstrong Custer.” Such invectives serve little purpose and detract from the book.

On the positive side, Hatch’s analysis of the fight at the Little Bighorn has much to commend it to ARMY readers. Hatch competently addresses the mysteries, myths and legends surrounding the battle. In addition to an extensive bibliography, he provides annotated notes on his sources. These annotations, coupled with an appendix that outlines the table of organization and casualty report of the 7th Cavalry’s Little Bighorn campaign, make this book worth the price of purchase. Moreover, Hatch’s maps are clearly understandable and aid the reader’s comprehension of the Little Bighorn campaign.

 In short, The Last Days of George Armstrong Custer may not be the untold story of what occurred at the Battle of the Little Bighorn as much as it is a well-told narrative. Hatch’s approach to understanding one of this country’s legacy battles may be controversial, but he forces current scholars to continue the dialogue between past and present.

Col. Cole C. Kingseed, USA Ret., Ph.D., a former professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy, is a writer and consultant.

Women at WarEdited by Elspeth Cameron Ritchie and Anne L. Naclerio. Oxford University Press. 392 pages. $85.

By Kayla Williams

When women began serving in the U.S. military during the Revolutionary War, they did so disguised as men. Today, they represent approximately 15 percent of the force. Despite the continual expansion of women’s roles in the military and the increasing number of female veterans, research on their specific physical and psychological health issues has remained relatively sparse. Women at War attempts to change that. The co-editors are medical doctors. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie is a retired Army colonel; Col. Anne L. Naclerio is deputy surgeon, U.S. Army Europe.

The volume covers not only women at war but also their return home from war, the psychological issues of active-duty women, and the experiences of female veterans. The chapters—written by 40 authors with vast experience within DoD, VA and beyond—cover a range of topics, including reproductive health, psychological health, suicide, intimate partner violence and military sexual trauma. (Full disclosure: I have presented on panels and professionally collaborated with co-authors of several of the chapters.)

The authors approach their subjects with varying degrees of clinical specificity. The chapter “Issues in the Prevention of Malaria Among Women at War,” for example, narrowly focuses on its topic in a highly technical way. “Traumatic Brain Injury: Implications for Women in the Military” contains information on blast-induced and repeat traumatic brain injury, medical and neurobehavioral outcomes, and the possible protective factor of female endogenous hormones.

Conversely, the chapter “Building the Framework for Successful Deployment Reunions” is a much more personal account of experiences and lessons learned as the author and her husband took turns deploying to and returning home from war zones. Similarly, “Women, Ships, Submarines, and the U.S. Navy” includes an abundance of personal anecdotes and “clinical pearls” of wisdom for doctors serving on Navy ships.

A few chapters focus on narrow populations and time frames, such as “Female Combat Medics,” which describes a recent longitudinal study of behavioral health among U.S. Army combat medics. Others are broader and more wide-ranging, including “Compensation, Pension, and Other Benefits for Women Veterans with Disabilities,” which delves into the history of disability compensation and pensions given to women who have served in or with the military from 1775 to the present.

For those who choose to read the book front to back rather than focusing on specific chapters of interest, some weaknesses become clear. Because different authors wrote the 19 chapters, many cover the same ground, often opening with a brief history of women in the military. This becomes tedious. Various authors also either repeatedly cite the same statistics or different statistics about the same topic, leading to confusion about which may be more accurate. Occasional inaccuracies jump out, such as the assertion in “Female Soldiers and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” that “Brigade Combat Teams … are combat troops and therefore male.” These teams include engineer, signal and military intelligence companies—with, of course, women.

There are also discrepancies in how each chapter characterizes recent developments. Some correctly refer to DoD rescinding the policy banning women from direct ground combat, while others refer to a combat exclusion law being repealed. Although that may seem like a minor quibble, such inaccuracies could make a reader question the veracity of more important clinical aspects of the work.

Given that musculoskeletal injuries are among the top reasons veterans separate from the military, there is a surprising dearth of information on women-specific issues in that area. Other acknowledged weaknesses of the volume are the lack of broader comparative international perspectives (only Australia is represented), and no presentation on the experience of gay women service members.

Women at War is aimed at health care providers who care for female service members, and they will likely derive the most benefit from clinical recommendations. However, the information will also be useful to providers who care for female veterans and military family members, as well as nonprofits and advocacy organizations that work with these communities. Students and researchers looking for new avenues of study will find many areas identified as ripe for further research. The chapter “Human Sexuality and Women in the Area of Operations,” for example, points out significant gaps in the literature.

The book is rich with history, data and anecdotes regarding female military and veteran issues, making it a valuable addition to the collection of anyone who works or holds deep interest in these issues. The $85 suggested retail price, however, may make it more suitable for institutional rather than individual libraries.

Kayla Williams, a former Army sergeant and Arab linguist, is a senior project associate at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corp. and the author of Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War.

Fierce Battle of the Tenaru As Seen From Both Sides 

Victory Fever on Guadalcanal: Japan’s First Land Defeat of WWII. William H. Bartsch. Texas A&M University Press. 339 pages. $35.

By Col. Stanley L. Falk, Army of the United States retired

Japan’s twin defeats on Guadalcanal and in Papua, New Guinea, at the beginning of 1943 marked the crushing end of the Japanese strategic offensive that had swept triumphantly through the Pacific during the first six months of the war. They also signaled the beginning of a major Allied counteroffensive to halt and throw back Japanese advances.

In his latest book, Victory Fever on Guadalcanal, William H. Bartsch concentrates on one tiny yet vital fight during the early weeks on Guadalcanal: the Battle of the Tenaru. Bartsch’s detailed examination of this fierce encounter adds revealing new material about the personal behavior, feelings, fears and life-and-death experiences of individual combatants.

By the end of May 1942, Japan had seized and consolidated its initial strategic objectives, and its military forces had undertaken a secondary push to isolate Australia by interdicting lines of communication to the U.S. In July, Japanese troops had landed in Papua and, more importantly, pushed down the Solomon Islands to Guadalcanal. There, a small force of construction units began building an airstrip from which Japanese planes would be able to dominate Allied air and sea routes to Australia.

To counter this move, on Aug. 7, American forces began landing on Guadalcanal. The Americans quickly seized the almost completed airstrip and established a large defensive perimeter around it. Thus began a bitter half-year struggle to control the island, during which both sides brought in major ground, air and naval reinforcements. Their fierce engagement on the ground was matched by intense sea and air battles.

Japan and the U.S. both committed far smaller forces to Papua. Indeed, as the Japanese were increasingly hard-pressed to reinforce their troops on Guadalcanal, they all but abandoned their effort in Papua. So by January 1943, Australian and American forces in New Guinea were able to gain a difficult bloody victory over the stubborn Japanese. Meanwhile, early February saw the hard-fought defeat of the Japanese on Guadalcanal.

 The Battle of the Tenaru was a small-unit action between Allied and Japanese forces on Aug. 20–21, 1942. It took place inevitably as the result of Japanese hubris and overconfidence. Easy victories before this battle had infected Japanese military leaders with what Bartsch calls “victory fever” (“victory disease” in the original Japanese). So sure were they of their military superiority that they expected to meet no real Allied resistance until late 1943. They thus assumed that the U.S. landing on Aug. 7 was no more than a weak reconnaissance force that could easily be eliminated.

Still, it would have to be destroyed right away. The only unit immediately available was the so-called Ichiki Detachment, about 2,000 men in two battalions of the 28th Infantry Regiment under Col. Kiyonao Ichiki, the regimental commander. Originally scheduled for the abortive invasion of Midway, the detachment was readily available for speedy transfer to Guadalcanal. A “spearhead unit” of about 900 men would be sent to Guadalcanal at once, with the remaining troops following a few days later as a second echelon.

Bartsch’s vivid account describes the personal experiences of hundreds of the men who fought and died on both sides on those two bloody days. Based primarily on extensive interviews, diaries, memoirs and correspondence with both Japanese and Americans, it offers what he describes elsewhere as the “bottoms up” approach to history. His full exploitation of Japanese sources, many of them heretofore unseen by other American historians, allows him to intersperse Japanese and American actions throughout his combat narrative. Yet in the absence of adequate maps, the course of battle is often hard to follow and the detailed confusion of individual efforts masks the underlying pattern of the fight. Still, the enormity of the lethal trials experienced by men on both sides is starkly evident.

The Battle of the Tenaru set the pattern of combat for the rest of the war in the Pacific. It demonstrated the fierce determination of the Japanese to fight to the end, take their own lives rather than surrender, and cling to a belief in their own invincibility that led them to persist in desperate attacks that even they realized had no chance of success.

Bartsch, who previously authored three excellent books about World War II, has written a dramatic and compelling account of ground combat on Guadalcanal. It adds considerably to our knowledge of that key struggle in the first year of the war in the Pacific.

Col. Stanley L. Falk, AUS Ret., Ph.D., is a military historian and author of books and articles on World War II in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

How Once-Surprised Allies Bested Germans

Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge. Antony Beevor. Viking. 480 pages. $35.

By Col. Richard Swain, U.S. Army retired

There is a groaning bookshelf of books about the Battle of the Bulge, and many are excellent. Most, however, are still a gloss on Hugh Cole’s 1965 Army Green Book, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. Its maps alone make it the irreplaceable basis for serious study. Antony Beevor, who achieved celebrity status with his books on the war on the Eastern Front—Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942–1943 and The Fall of Berlin 1945—has now followed subsequent books on D-Day and World War II with a very good study of the German offensive from December 1944 to January 1945.

At a macro level, the Battle of the Bulge was all about gaining control of the road net through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the ability of the concentrated German forces to pass large bodies of men and vehicles through the narrow valleys faster than the Allies could respond to the surprise the Germans achieved on Dec. 16, 1944. The Germans had been very successful doing this in 1940, and they timed their 1944 offensive to coincide with bad weather that would deprive U.S. defenders of the plentiful air support that might decisively shift the balance of forces at the outset.

Every Army officer basic course teaches that no obstacle has value unless it is covered by fire. The difference between 1940 and 1944 was that the American troops in the Bulge were prepared to fight, even in brutal conditions; and the American command, for the most part—particularly Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force—was remarkably flexible.

Eisenhower recognized what was occurring, began reinforcing then-Maj. Gens. Troy H. Middleton’s and Leonard T. Gerow’s overextended corps on which the attack had fallen, and rapidly reorganized his command to reflect conditions on the ground. Troops on the ground recognized the importance of villages as roadblocks, and defended them fiercely. It is not coincidental, if seldom adequately addressed, that U.S. forces commanded extraordinary transportation assets, which permitted them to reinforce the Bulge faster than the Germans could transit the region and remove logistic stocks to the safe side of the Meuse River.

 Beevor’s account opens with a five-chapter prologue that begins with the liberation of Paris and covers the pursuit across the Seine through the battles for Aachen and the Hurtgen Forest, before turning to critical examination of Adolf Hitler’s decision to attack in the west. Beevor analyzes the Allied intelligence failure that led to the opening difficulties, then describes the defensive battle day by day, with due attention to actions on both sides of the hill. Of course, by now there is little new to report, but Beevor is a very good storyteller—sensitive to the conditions and tribulations at the sharp end. The maps that accompany the text are better than most in similar books.

Beevor is particularly novel when describing in detail the travail of civilians in the battle area. He puts the green dimension among the red and blue, pointing out that while American soldiers were more sympathetic than Germans to villagers in the Bulge, their way of making war with field artillery and bombers was very costly to noncombatants. Indeed, he calls the increase in losses of civilians, consequent to use of massive artillery and bombs to spare infantry, “the terrible irony of twentieth-century warfare.” He uses transcripts of concealed recordings of German prisoner conversations somewhat like a chorus behind the narration of the rise and fall of German operational fortunes, and he gives more attention to the role British forces played in the blunting of the offensive near Dinant than do most American authors.

Beevor is highly critical of then-Lt. Gens. Omar Bradley and Courtney Hodges, not uniquely and not without cause. He examines Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery’s conflict with Eisenhower and Bradley thoroughly, and not at all to Montgomery’s credit. Beevor overstates the consequences of Montgomery’s obstreperousness, attributing subsequent British marginalization largely to his inability to be a good ally. Greater stress might be given to the nature of armies as national manifestations; the shift of predominance of forces deployed within the Western Alliance by December 1944; and the often overlooked fact that by the period of the Bulge, the British government was effectively bankrupt and in the hands of its American creditor.

By December 1944, the U.S. government was well on its way to creating a new postwar world order that would end the age of colonial empires and divide the world into two rival power blocks, whether that was the general intention or not. The Bretton Woods Conference was held in July 1944, and Dumbarton Oaks in August to October of that year. The notion that the U.S. would govern the endgame of the war in the west as an equal, as opposed to acting as a very dominant partner to its rapidly declining coadjutor, was simply not in the cards no matter how urbane and cooperative the Allied commander in the north. Montgomery simply exacerbated what was already a bad hand for a bankrupt empire in sharp decline. He was fortunate to survive.

The only significant shortcoming of the book is the form of the notes. The publisher has dispensed with superscripted notation in the text, but created a significant notes section with oddly structured references organized by page that many will find awkward.

If Ardennes 1944 is not a canonical text, it will not disappoint either the specialist or general reader.

Col. Richard Swain is a retired field artillery officer. A longtime faculty member at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, he was the Third Army historian for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. From 2002–07, he was professor of officership at the William E. Simon Center for Professional Military Ethic at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.