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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway: A Brothers in Arms Novel (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 29. Juli 2008

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

John Antal, U.S. Army (retired), served thirty years in the military and earned the rank of colonel. He is an airborne ranger and served as a tank officer in combat units around the world. A prolific writer of military history and military historical fiction, he has published more than two hundred articles and eight books, and he is the historical director for Gearbox Software’s mega-selling Brothers in Arms video games. Send any comments you have concerning Hell’s Highway to Colonel Antal at

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

1: The Canal

Out of every 100 men, ten shouldn’t even be there. / Eighty are just targets. / Nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. / Ah, but the one, / One is a warrior, / And he will bring the others back. /

—Heraclitus, circa 500 BC

Monday, 0140 hours, September 25, 1944.

Cold, wet, tired, and scared. Why, Baker thought, is war always this way?

The air was heavy with moisture, and a thick fog blanketed the flat, marshy land.

“Let’s get on with it,” Staff Sergeant Matt Baker announced with a grim smile that was more a measure of determination than anything else. Baker stood five feet, eleven inches with the build of a Notre Dame linebacker. His closely cropped brown hair and blue eyes made him look older than his twenty-one years. His youth and confidence belied the fact that he was a veteran of many skirmishes and battles. Now, he was the leader of a small, forlorn group of soldiers facing an impossible task.

“A helluva way to fight a war,” Corporal Tom Zanovitch answered. “But you’ll do okay. Both of you. I know you will.”

Baker took off his helmet and handed it to Zanovitch. The helmet was emblazoned with a white “R” painted on both sides, designating that Baker was a member of the elite Reconnaissance Platoon of the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles.

The rumble of distant artillery interrupted the moment, reminding everyone that there was a bigger war going on than just their personal battle in this small section of Holland.

“We’ll only need our pistols for this mission,” Baker added, and gave his submachine gun to Zanovitch.

Zanovitch took Baker’s helmet and weapon and placed them in the jeep. At the same time, Private First Class Johnny Swanson, a tough New Yorker from the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, took off his helmet and weapon and laid them in the jeep.

War changes you, Baker thought as he reflected on his short twenty-one years of existence. It compresses time and experience.

Two years ago, he was a civilian. A year ago he was a recruit. A little more than three months ago he was a rookie soldier, jumping into the dark night on D-day. As a squad leader he fought his way across the Normandy hedgerows to Carentan, leading his paratroopers with distinction but unable to save them all. He had earned a Bronze Star for valor for his leadership in the Normandy operation and lost some good friends. He had aged a lifetime in the process.

Baker drew a .45 caliber pistol from the brown leather holster at his side. He carefully looked at the pistol for a moment, read the inscription on its side, and then pulled back the slide and let it jump forward. A .45 caliber round was now loaded in the chamber.

“That pistol has come a long way. The colonel would be proud. Honor and courage,” Zanovitch offered.

Baker looked at Corporal Zanovitch for one protracted moment, searching the eyes of his fellow soldier, looking for a meaning behind the comment. Like a flare in the night, Baker’s glance seemed to say: “Not now—don’t burden me with this now.”

“Well, in any case, good luck,” Zanovitch offered, looking straight at his sergeant’s face. “If it can be done, you and Swanson can do it.”

Baker didn’t answer. He pushed the thumb safety up on the pistol, holstered the weapon, then turned to Private Swanson. “Let’s move out.”

“I’m ready,” Swanson answered.

Swanson, also armed only with a pistol, slung two satchel charges over his left shoulder as he handed two demolition packs to Baker.

Baker took the charges, nodded to Zanovitch. “Be ready with your bazooka, just in case.”

Zanovitch smiled. “No problem. You know I never miss.”

The two men walked away in the dense fog. They moved silently through the cobblestone streets of the village to the fields. The ground was soggy and the movement cross-country was difficult as the mud clung to their boots. They headed east toward the canal.

Baker looked back to see that Swanson was behind him, then stopped to check his compass. He identified an east-southeast heading and quietly moved out on that bearing, hoping they would not accidentally stumble into a German outpost.

The boom of shells, detonating somewhere far to the north, was testimony that the battle for Hell’s Highway was still under way. Maybe there was still a chance for the beleaguered British 1st Airborne and the Polish Brigade at Arnhem? The British 1st Airborne, the Red Devils, had been told to seize the bridge at Arnhem and hold on for two days—three at the most. Now it was already nine days and the tanks of the British XXX Corps had yet to reach them.

It seemed hard to believe that only nine days ago Baker and his men had been safe in England. More poignantly, only a few days ago, all those who had died in battle in the past few days in the towns and fields near Son, Eindhoven, St. Oedenrode, and Veghel were still alive.

Only nine days ago.

That was the funny thing about time, he thought. Whether it was nine days or ninety years, dead was dead.

It began nine days ago. September 17, 1944, was the 101st Airborne Division’s second D-Day, and Baker was a part of it. The greatest airborne fleet ever massed for an operation, 35,000 Allied paratroopers, roared across the skies from the United Kingdom and spanned the Channel waters in what was being called Operation Market Garden. The air armada was so large that while the first planes were spewing forth parachutists on drop zones (DZs) and gliders were crash-landing on landing zones (LZs), planes and gliders transporting the division were still taking off from British airfields.

Some genius had decided that this airborne assault would occur in broad daylight, and the German anti- aircraft gunners had a field day. German flak, a term derived from the German acronym for antiaircraft cannon, met the invaders en route, hot and heavy, bursting in bright flashes of orange and red and remaining as black puffs in the sky, but the huge armada droned steadily on. Formations of slow-flying, two-engined C-47 Skytrain aircraft held firm despite the enemy’s fire. Pilots of burning planes struggled with controls as they flew to their designated DZs, but stayed on course as paratroopers jumped from the aircraft and plummeted earthward.

The invasion of Holland had begun with the Screaming Eagles dropped behind German lines as the base of the airborne penetration. Surprise was complete and the Germans were initially caught off-guard. Allied aircraft, parachutes, and gliders filled the skies. On the first day, there was little opposition from the Germans, and Baker began to believe that the intelligence reports might be correct—that they would only be up against old men and Hitler youth. The veteran paratroopers of the Screaming Eagles quickly assembled and marched on their objectives. They had eleven bridges to take in their portion of the Market Garden plan, and the men of the 101st Airborne always took their objectives.

The mission of the 101st Airborne Division was to capture Eindhoven and to seize the bridges over canals and rivers at Veghel, St. Oedenrode, and Son. To attain these objectives the paratroopers of the Screaming Eagles had to seize and hold a portion of the main highway extending over a twenty-five-mile area. Commanders realized that their units would be strung out on both sides of the single road that ran from Veghel to Eindhoven. In-depth security would be sacrificed, and the paratroopers would have to march and countermarch to stop the Germans from blocking the...

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The Exploding Barrel's Review 15. Oktober 2008
Von Perfect Consumer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
From TheExplodingBarrel's Review of Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway: A Brothers in Arms Novel

We don't normally write about books here at the ole' Barrel, but since Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is a book based on a video game, I figured I'd make an exception. Although I didn't know it until picking up the 300 page novel, Col. John Antal [retired] (who has served as Gearbox's military advisor for many years) also happens to be a prolific writer who has published 80 articles and a half dozen military books prior to writing Hell's Highway. In his latest effort, Antal blends fact with fiction as he intertwines the struggles of series mainstay Sargent Matt Baker, the British XXX Corps, the German army (both SS and Wehrmacht), and members of the Dutch Resistance during Operation Market Garden. Hell's Highway illustrates the Allies' attempt to put an end to fighting in the European Theater of operations by reclaiming Holland and crossing into Germany in full force. It was the largest air-drop operation in American history, and the last major victory the Germans were able to muster.

Initially, I was concerned that Antal's fictitious narrative could never provide the same level of authenticity and historical accuracy one would expect from strictly non-fiction accounts of the 101st Airborne. Still, my love for the Brothers series, and WW2 history in general, compelled me to give it a read regardless of my trepidation. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that by writing historical fiction, Antal capitalizes upon his artistic liberty to convey the inner worlds of his characters in a more personal light than other popular accounts of this conflict. For instance, protagonist Baker's post-traumatic stress disorder is explored with a level of sophistication and depth that strict non-fiction seldom approaches. Never does the story venture beyond the boundaries of the credible, and one gets the feeling while reading Brothers in Arms that the plot progression always has one foot firmly planted in actual history, which is the result of many years of research on the author's part.

I was also a bit concerned that the novel would ruin the plot of the game, but I've watched practically every bit of Hell's Highway video available on the Internet, and as far as I know, many scenes, characters and set pieces portrayed in the promotional trailers never seem to pop up in the novel. Corrian, the assault team leader who has been in the previous Brothers titles, is present in the cut scenes Gearbox has released, but entirely absent (at least in name) from the text, for example. I may be wrong, but it seems like the novelization of Brothers in Arms is anything but, instead fleshing out the game's ancillary narratives with additional exposition. It's meaty stuff, but it doesn't appear to be the author's intent to spoil the game with a blow by blow account of the game's plot. Instead, much of Brothers focuses on the various soldiers' downtime, combat tactics, and personal thoughts.

One of the book's main strengths was it's ability to humanize the Wehrmacht, delineating the regular German military from the brutal SS soldiers who routinely killed Dutch civilians, and even German soldiers perceived as being unpatriotic. Much of Brothers is told from the perspective of a highly decorated Wehrmacht Fallschirmjäger officer named Graf, who at one point does battle with his Nazi superior over ideological differences. It is an interesting glimpse into how fragile Germany's unity was during those dark days, and Antal provides his readers with fascinating insights into the complex infrastructure of the German war machine that has yet to be tackled in any of the numerous video games set in WWII. I also particularly enjoyed reading the chapters written from the perspective of a 16 year old Dutch girl named Mira, who aided the allies with a small band of child resistance members called `The Bicyclists'. Much like the Call of Duty games have clung to the notion war is a collaborative endeavor, one gets the sense that the game play in Brothers in Arms will depend on the cooperation of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds to a greater extent than previous iterations in the series.

Whenever I buy a book based on a video game, I get feelings of shame one would normally associate with the procurement of pornography. "Are books based on games considered books at all?" I silently ask myself during check-out. In this case, the answer is a resounding, "Hell yes!" With Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, the narrative is the spoonful of sugar the helps the historical medicine go down, and Antal succeeds in entertaining readers while dropping little bombs of knowledge throughout. It isn't just the best book I've ever read that was based on a video game, it's one of the most entertaining books I've read on the subject of the 101st Airborne, and I can whole-heartedly recommend Antal's novel to fans of the games and WWII history buffs with no interest in ever laying hands on a video game controller alike.
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A Superb WWII Action Adventure Novel 29. Juli 2008
Von R. Kim - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Like many others, I am a huge fan of the film, "Saving Private Ryan," and of the HBO series, "Band of Brothers." There is something amazing about stories of heroism during the Second World War that never tires or bores. But Colonel John Antal has managed to do something phenomenal in this setting by writing a fictional story based around historical events.

With "Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway," Colonel Antal captivates and intrigues readers by shaping historical events through the eyes of fictional characters from the Allied forces, the Dutch resistance, as well as the truly fascinating perspective of the German forces.

Without belittling the true story of the Allied heroes that fought in WWII, and without glorifying the evil Nazi regime, BIA:HH exposes the tremendously wide range of emotions soldiers from each side struggled with. The result of this exposure in the moments of victory and defeat the characters face make this novel not only educational, but captivating.

Colonel Antal writes in a action-paced, cliff-hanger driven fashion, jumping from perspectives, ensuring that any reader will be on the edge of his seat. In fact, besides being billed as "the first official companion novel to the thrilling video game," BIA:HH would no doubt be a perfect fit as a feature film for the big screen.
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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway 14. September 2008
Von Shawn F. Graves - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Absolutely the Best book I have read in years. John Antal is not only a Soldier and Leader - he is an insightful writer who places the reader on the terrain and in the action. You have received your orders, briefed your international Team and now the hard part begins. At each step you "feel" what Sergeant Baker feels and experience the exchanges between the Team and their seasoned enemy. John captures the little nuisances that soldiers understand - the hot coffee; the radio communications; the soggy field; the inerdependence between professionals; the pain they experience when a friend is lost and the professional courtesy shared between enemies.
John takes the war away from the global map board and briefing room, and places it where the real war is prosecuted - in the field with Soldiers and their Leaders.
If you are or were a soldier, or if you want to "see" what soldiers do and feel - this book is manditory reading! Sergeant Baker is a Leader and you will understand why his Team follows him through Hell.
I can't wait for the next one.
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Fun military historical novel 3. November 2008
Von Gavin Murphy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
The author is a retired colonel who wrote several military books (a few like a choose your own adventure but as a platoon leader), then was recruited to be an advisor for the makers of the Brothers in Arms computer game series, then he wrote this novel. It's unique in that he develops characters from three armies: American paratrooper, Irish Guards (brits) and German paratroopers and SS, and also Dutch partisans. It covers the action in Operation Market Garden near Eindhoven, mostly east of it: the efforts by German forces to cut the "Hell's Highway" that fed the tenuous fighting point up towards Arnhem. The writing is good and exciting. I like how not all Germans are characterized as evil Nazis: many of the SS were, but there were honorable Germans in other units. There is some attempt to dig into the psyche of the main character, an American paratrooper, but I give that aspect a middling grade. He's kind of a melancholic guy. So, it's a fun book worth buying.
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Much More Than You'd Expect 24. Januar 2009
Von Bradley Thompson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
When you pick up a book that's inspired by a computer game, you don't expect it to be full of accurate historical detail. You don't expect fully dimensional characters. And you don't expect a finely nuanced plot -- But if you're aware of Col. Antal's previous work, (Infantry Combat, Armor Attacks) you change those expectations, and Col. Antal delivers on all fronts in this sweeping novel of Operation Market Garden - when the Allies gambled they could cross the Rhine and win World War 2 by Christmas 1944. It didn't work out that way. Antal keeps the story personal and understandable, yet delicately woven though the actions of his characters, he also conveys the sweep of history and the attitudes of those who fought in this great undertaking. Read it.
-Bradley Thompson
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