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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2007
John McManus is establishing himself as one of the leading scholars in the Second World War genre. With his latest book, "Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers Who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible", McManus scores a solid hit, both in terms of enjoyable and readable prose, and relative to filling a void in the historical literature. Many WWII-oriented books of late have subtitles including the words "The Untold Story..." and too few live up to their own hype. By contrast, McManus' book does in fact tell an otherwise untold (at least as a complete narrative limited to the Bastogne corridor) story. This fact alone makes "Alamo in the Ardennes" worthy of a read by anyone interested in the Battle of the Bulge, since all are familiar with the stand of the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne - this gallant action is branded in the American psyche - but few likely have a good picture of how American forces already in Belgium slowed the German drive sufficiently to provide enough time for the praised (deserved) 101st to get from their base in Mourmelon, France to the critical crossroads town of Bastogne in order to defend against the eventual siege. In fact, as McManus argues, the actions of the US Army in the Bastogne corridor likely determined that the eventual siege of Bastogne was in fact a siege instead of a Blitz through the region as might have occurred had the Germans reached Bastogne early in strength.

The central characters in "Alamo in the Ardennes" are the combat soldiers of the 28th ('Bloodybucket') Infantry Division, Combat Command Reserve (CCR) of the 9th Armored Division, and Combat Command B (CCB) of the 10th Armored Division. While McManus also integrates information about coordinated actions with smaller unit of the 101st Airborne, most of story is focused on the aforementioned units and their variously attached commands. Topographically the story revolves not so much around Bastogne but the so called 'Bastogne corridor', which McManus defines as roughly the 25 mile front held by the 28th before the German attack - approximately from Lutzkampen on the north to Bettendorf and Reisdorf in the south. This area was extremely important from a tactical standpoint relative to the movement of armored and vehicular traffic, as the roads running west in this region are some of the best in the Ardennes and Eiffel; certainly the quickest and most direct route to Bastogne lead through this area. McManus in now way minimizes actions in other regions of the Ardennes (e.g., northern shoulder actions) or the siege of Bastogne itself, but rather presents a compelling and exciting story that focuses on men and places cites above.

In general the book follows a chronological format, which works well to tell the story McManus wishes to convey. He begins the formal discussion of events with some chronologically mixed views of the Ardennes and actions on the Allied side prior to, and during, the initial German attack phases. This 'preface' chapter places the whole of the "Bastogne corridor' in nice perspective relative to the larger Battle of the Bulge. With the exception of the final 'Postscript' (conclusionary/summary) chapter, McManus devotes each chapter to a single day of action, beginning with 15 December and ending with the 20th, when the formal siege of Bastogne. In chaptering his book in this fashion McManus is able to pull the reader along the events as they unfolded. On a less positive note, focusing material along chronological lines rather than unit or geographical lines makes for often 'choppy' prose that one has to 'think' about a bit sometimes. This criticism could have been lessened considerably had the excellent maps McManus provides been cross-referenced within the text and a greater effort at sectioning within chapters been made. Yet, these are not fatal flaws and the book still conveys an important story in a readable form, that while not necessary impossible to put down, is nonetheless compelling.

In addition to the chapters outlined above McManus also provides ~20 pages of abbreviated TO/OB, personnel and map information that many readers will find useful. McManus' 'Notes' section of the book is extremely thorough and detailed. The one criticism that this reviewer would however have would be that the Notes are not cited in a very useful fashion in the text proper. Large sections of prose with multiple (oft disconnected) references/citations are generally clumped together as single footnotes, making backtracking of McManus' research very difficult. Of course this is a minor criticism unless someone is trying to delve deeper into the topic, in which case this approach will certainly cause some anxiety.

All in all "Alamo in the Ardennes" is a solid and very thoroughly researched book that provides a new vision of the Battle of the Bulge, at least in terms of capturing the importance of the "Bastogne corridor' in the eventual defense of Bastogne by the 101st Airborne. 4.5 stars for academic standard, 4 for general reader accessibility - solid 4 star book.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2007
While I don't usually like books that are entitled "The Untold Story of..., this one actually produces. I have read a of books on WW2, and in particular, on the battle of the bulge. My interest heightened when I found I had a family member who fought in the battle, but who I was unable to talk to about it before he passed.

Though many books have been written on the battle, none seem to really get it all together. Three have been written recently that don't attempt to cover the whole battle, but focus on the events surrounding smaller units, or even individual soldiers, and what the battle was like for them.
These three recent books are "Eleven Days in December", "The Longest Winter", and now "Alamo In The Ardennes. All just great books fully worthy of your time, but Alamo is a little different in that it attempts to give credit to the 28th Division for saving Bastogne, perhaps even more so than that of the 101st Airborne, the unit usually, and correctly, given most of the credit for the epic stand that broke the German offensive.

Read this excellently written book and you might tend to agree that the 28th deserves at least as much credit as the more famous 101st. You will also get probably as close as you ever will, from the written word, to underestanding what it was like for our 19 and 20 year old citizen soldiers caught in one of the most vicious battles of WW2. Were the young men of these divisions part of our greatest generation? Absolutely, they could have written that book themselves.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 23, 2007
If you like to read what American soldiers experienced during World War II and specifically during the the Battle of the Bulge, this book is for you. This book has so many detailed anecdotes about the experiences of US soldiers that it is impossible to relate even a portion of them here. However, here is just one example. Like his previous books, as you are reading this, you can sense the fear that the soldiers felt as the German tanks approached them. You can feel that you are there with them as they shiver with cold and fear, with only an M1 rifle, a bazooka and their buddies, many of whom are getting shot up, in their foxholes as the Panther tanks approach them, running over their foxholes. You can sense their fear as the tanks stop over the foxholes. If the tank is destroyed here, then they burn with it. Although certainly you aren't there, thank God, this is the closest that I've been brought to the real experiences of the US soldier. Consequently, I highly recommend this book for any reader interested in what US soldiers experienced in the World War II and especially in the Battle of the Bulge
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2007
As a Pennsylvanian and the son of a member of the 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, I've long been familiar with the state's National Guard division history in both World Wars. This book is the best I've found to focus on the unit's major role in the Battle of the Bulge. Great details of their valiant stand against overwhelming German forces. With close-up descriptions of what the soldiers experienced, often in their own words, McManus has authored an important work for anyone interested in the face of battle as seen from the foxhole. Very good look at the tactics officers and men utilized to hold back the German attack "at all costs."
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2008
My father was a rifleman in G Co, 109th in the 28th during the Huertgen Forest and The Bulge. For years he had told me how thin the lines were, how they kept reporting the German movements, the confusion on the morning of the 16th and how our patrols had passed Germans patrols with neither side firing at each other in the weeks before. For years his story was not the one written in the history books. "To Save Bastogne" was the closest book I had read. Until now. While it doesn't discuss the 109th as much as I would like, it is far better than anything I've found. Before reading this book, you should be familiar with the broad outlines of the war in Europe, the situation in the fall of 1944 and the geography of the Ardennes region. You will not be disappointed.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2007
I have had a serious interest in World War II for over 50 years, have visited the European battlefields a number of times, and have read countless books on the ETO and the Battle of the Bulge. "Alamo in the Ardennes" is right up there with the best of them. McManus has captured the confusion and the horror faced, and the bravery shown, by so many individual soldiers and small units as they fought to buy time to save Bastogne. It is a classic.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2010
An interest of mine for some time has been the 28th Infantry Division; they're one of the few divisions in WWII that got handled badly by the Germans three times (in a row). After I read the back of Alamo in the Ardennes I just had to pick it up.

Alamo in the Ardennes tells the story of the battles leading to the 101st Airborne's (and the others) stand at Bastogne. The chapters are broken down into the lead-up to Watch am Rhine and then a day by day breakdown of the battle. Accounts go from the higher level (divisional/regimental) down to individual riflemen, artillerist, and tankers. Initially the 28th ID is front and center, with most of the focus on the 110th Regiments stand in front of and in Clervaux (also known as Clerf). Mr. McManus does an excellent job describing the plight of the 110th Regiment, providing good details on Col. Fuller and the fact that he was recently appointed as the regiment's commander. If there's a weakness in Mr. McManus' description on the 28th ID, its that he barely mentions the blood letting the 28th had experienced in the Hurtgenwald (infantry units suffered 80%+ casualties). Following the 28th ID slowing the German attack, Mr. McManus follows up with the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions (to be more accurate, Combat Command B for the 10th and Combat Command R for the 9th) and their delaying actions in front of Bastogne. The final ingredient, the 101st Airborne Division, comes at the end, solidifying the defenses in front of Bastogne.

Rating wise this one was a solid 4 star book. Mr. McManus does a solid job delivering the goods on the stuggles. The battles are nicely described, easily moving from unit level actions to personal accounts. There are nice maps in the front with excellent photo's to support it. One of the best pieces Mr. McManus does is mentioning how short the distance was from the front lines before the German offensive to Bastogne (approximately 20 miles). This is done repeatedly to emphasis the contributions the 28th, 9th, and 10th made to the 101st great stand at Bastogne (also, Mr. McManus mentions the veterans from the 101st being thankful for the 28th, 9th, and 10th delaying the Germans as much as they did). This makes for a good story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2008
I have been reading World War 2 books for well over 3 decades and I can sincerely say this book did the best job of describing the horrors faced by the American soldier at the beginning states of "The Bulge". Excellent account of the battle before the Bastogne siege. Well done!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great read about hours just before and during German push known as Battle of the Bulge. Expect incredible details and plenty of first-hand observations. A must read for WWII buffs. May be too heavy on details for casual readers. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2008
I have read a number of accounts of the Battle of the Bulge and have walked / driven much of the ground in person. This was - as advertised - an excellent, detailed summary of the heroic efforts of the troops in place who provided a surprisingly strong defense that enabled other resources to be brought to bear and eventual Allied victory. It also clearly pointed out how much of an intelligence failure and surprise this was.I thorougly enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Bulge.
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