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M. G Watson
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
You can say what you want about Charles Whiting. Not a "credentialed" historian. Prejudiced against Americans. Plays fast and loose with sources and refuses to use anotate his work. Makes assertions which are demonstratably untrue. Recycles his own material like a cow chewing its cud. It's all true to some degree ...but it doesn't quite tell the story, either. Whiting has produced some important and very valuable studies in his long career, and while there are decided brown spots on some of his works, he's of that rare breed of historian - in which I would include John Keegan, Stephen Ambrose, David Irving, Alan Clark, and Richard Payne - who writes history in such a manner that people actually want to read it. That is to say, he has some sense of literary aesthetics and an entertaining prose style (the majority of historians can't write to save their a**).
THE BATTLE OF THE HUERTGEN FOREST is one of his best books, not only compulsively readable, but tackling a part of WW2 very few Americans know about - mainly because it was conveniently edited out of the postwar histories (including Eisenhower's entertaining exercise in selective memory, CRUSADE IN EUROPE.) And after reading Whiting's brutal saga of stupidity and slaughter, it's easy to understand why. For the record, the Huertgen is a fifty square mile triangle of primeval forest, in the border country between Belgium and Germany. In 1944 it was weakly held by the Germans, who quite rightly believed no one would be stupid enough to attack through it, much less the Americans, who had just demonstrated their mastery of mobile, open-country warfare while liberating France. Forget the fortresses of Metz or the "impregnable" Siegfried Line - the forest itself was a nearly impenetrable barrier, one which negated Allied air superiority, made wheeled movement impossible, rendered tanks almost useless, and generally favored the defender in every way. For reasons that have to do with ego, bad judgement and a kind of horrible, bureacratic momentum (a sort of throwing good blood after bad), one American division after another was nevertheless fed into what the GI's referred to starkly as"The Death Factory", a decision which eventually cost the U.S. Army 30,000 men, and which becomes all the more appalling when one takes into account the strategically worthless nature of the forest itself.
Told from both sides, Whiting's book recounts the heroic and often futile attempts by the American army to bludgeon their way through the stubborn German resistance, sparing no detail of misery that the soldiers in question had to endure: the impenetrable darkness of the nights, the mud, the freezing rain, the lice, the dank, stinking dugouts, the artillery blasts that would turn the trees into hailstorms of shrapnel, the screams of wounded or shell-shocked men, the confusion and maddening disorientation. (Whiting points out rather acidly that William Westmoreland was a regimental commander during this fighting, and seems to have learned nothing from the experience). No gruesome or heart-redning detail is spared, and the reader comes away from some of the more violent chapters feeling as if he's been clubbed over the head. While it's true that the Americans "won" the battle, finally gaining control of the forest in the spring of 1945, it's hardly the sort of victory anyone celebrates, and it's certainly not the sort of story most historians want to sell to the public. For that reason alone, I'd recommend it, if only to see the bloody mess Eisenhower left on his editing-room floor.