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115 of 121 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shaara Completes His WWII Trilogy with 'No Less Than Victory
Jeff Shaara's "No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II" (Ballantine Books, 480 pages, $28.00) completes the prolific author's WW II in Europe trilogy that began with "The Rising Tide" and continued with "The Steel Wave." "No Less Than Victory" begins with The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and ends with the German surrender in May 1945.

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Published on November 4, 2009 by David Kinchen

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps he did settle for less than victory
After enjoying the first two books in the series, Jeff appears have approached the third book with a lack of interest. Understandable to to the scope of the subject, never the less, unfortunate.

My difficulty in keeping an interest in continuing page after page probably reflects how it must have been for him to write it. I suspect he has another project...
Published on December 30, 2009 by PS


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115 of 121 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shaara Completes His WWII Trilogy with 'No Less Than Victory, November 4, 2009
Jeff Shaara's "No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II" (Ballantine Books, 480 pages, $28.00) completes the prolific author's WW II in Europe trilogy that began with "The Rising Tide" and continued with "The Steel Wave." "No Less Than Victory" begins with The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and ends with the German surrender in May 1945.

Like Shaara's other novels, "No Less Than Victory" combines historical figures -- Eisenhower, Gen. George S. Patton, Gen. Omar Bradley, Lt. Gen. Walter Bedel "Beetle" Smith, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Albert Kesselring, Albert Speer, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and many others -- with fictional fighting men in the front lines, doing the grunt work of war and standing in for the millions of soldiers that served in the war. Two of them, Pvts. Eddie Benson and Kenny Mitchell, are particularly well drawn, while another, Sgt. John Buckley, a bombardier in a B-17 shot down by the Germans and sent to a Luft-Stalag prisoner of war camp, shows how dangerous it was in the Allied bombers that blasted much of Europe to rubble.

Mitchell and Benson owe their lives to another fictional soldier, Sgt. Bruce Higgins. In an "afterward" the author tells us what happens to the real and fictional characters.

The fictional characters have a "Willie & Joe" ring about them, with a reference to the bedraggled front line "dogfaces" portrayed by Army cartoonist Sgt. Bill Mauldin. Shaara provides a scene with Gen. George "Blood & Guts" Patton ranting about Mauldin's cartoons in Stars & Stripes. Shaara does a fine job with the historical figures and I recognize some of the details from my extensive reading about the war. His thorough research shines through and the book should serve as a useful introduction to the final six months of the fighting in Europe. Missing in Shaara's novel is any account in depth of the Russian advance on the Eastern Front, although there is a reference to the Soviet Army's halt outside Warsaw in August 1944 that gave the Germans the chance to destroy the Polish Home Army in the Warsaw Uprising.

Perhaps the best portrayal of German leaders is Shaara's depiction of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, who was in charge of Wehrmacht forces facing the Americans, British, Canadian, French and other Allied forces in France, Belgium, Luxemburg and later in the German Homeland. Shaara also does a fine job with Hitler's favorite architect, Albert Speer, who was in charge of war production and slave labor efforts and who somehow escaped the hangman's knot at Nuremberg to serve a lengthy term in Spandau Prison.

The Ardennes Offensive that began on Dec. 16, 1944 -- quickly called by the news media The Battle of the Bulge -- was Hitler's last gasp on the western front, a desperate attempt to drive a wedge between the Allied forces and allow the Germans to retake the port of Antwerp. Shaara provides maps to help the reader see the big picture of the offensive and how Patton, Hodges, Montgomery and other leaders, under the command of Eisenhower, turned the tide.

German atrocities against civilians in Belgium and soldiers at the Malmedy Massacre led to a toughening of the attitude voiced by Gen. George Patton that the only thing better than killing Germans was killing more Germans. But it wasn't until the Allies liberated their first concentration camp that the extent of German crimes against humanity became apparent to Allies. Patton ordered the civilians of the nearby towns to visit the Ohrdruf concentration camp, near Gotha, Germany, part of the Buchenwald complex.

Ohrdruf was liberated on April 4, 1945 by Patton's 4th Armored Division and the 89th Infantry Division, the first camp liberated by the U.S. Army. The 89th Infantry division included Charlie Payne of Augusta, Kansas, the then 20-year-old great uncle of President Obama. In his introductory "To the Reader," Shaara relates how he was in Washington, DC at the time an 88-year-old Holocaust denier charged into the Holocaust Museum and shot and killed a security guard -- and the need to remind everyone of the atrocities committed by the Germans during the war.

Eisenhower ordered the news media to document the horrors of Ohrdruf and other camps so that no one would be in a position to deny what happened there and chalk it up to Allied "propaganda." Shaara draws on Patton's diary in his description of the Ohrdruf liberation. Here's an extended version from Patton's diary:

"In a shed . . . was a pile of about 40 completely naked human bodies in the last stages of emaciation. These bodies were lightly sprinkled with lime, not for the purposes of destroying them, but for the purpose of removing the stench. When the shed was full--I presume its capacity to be about 200, the bodies were taken to a pit a mile from the camp where they were buried. The inmates claimed that 3,000 men, who had been either shot in the head or who had died of starvation, had been so buried since the 1st of January. When we began to approach with our troops, the Germans thought it expedient to remove the evidence of their crime. Therefore, they had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them. They were not very successful in their operations because there was a pile of human bones, skulls, charred torsos on or under the griddle which must have accounted for many hundreds."

"No Less Than Victory" is a powerful evocation of the war in Europe that will appeal to WW II buffs and the general reader alike. It's a book that literally impossible to put down until the very end.

As Veterans Day draws near, and the ranks of World War II veterans thins dramatically, it's important to remember what Shaara describes in this book.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Missouri Yankee in Europe, November 24, 2009
I think this book was the best of the series.

In his usual style of "historical fiction" Mr. Shaara takes us through the European theatre in WWII as seen through the eyes of its generals, politicians and, the parts I found most interesting, the soldiers themselves.

This is solid storytelling, primarily focusing on the Battle of the Bulge, as seen through the eyes of the grunts, and as managed by the generals on both sides of the fence. Unlike the authors other books, this book has less characters (or so it seemed at least) which I find to be more appealing and less confusing. Even though it's always fun to read about the clashes between Montgomery and Patton the story focuses on Private Eddie Benson and his experiences at "mud level".

The reader's journey through the eyes of Benson, while peeking in the minds of the generals is a winning combination which makes the story more personal and engrossing.

Even though I have heard many people who condemn the oxymoron called "historical fiction" it has worked for me personally. Because of Mr. Shaara's Civil War books I read many other historical books and biographies of the characters I was interested in - so as you can see, I think that writing about history on a grounded, personal level has many benefits especially for those who don't' find history as fascinating as I do.

My only comment is that I think it would be wonderful if Mr. Shaara could provide some pictures of the personalities involved so we can see what they look truly look like (instead, for example, picture George C. Scott as General Patton or Ike as the President).
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best of the Three, November 10, 2009
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Although I found the two previous works on the European theater of World War II by Jeff Shaara informative and engaging, "No Less Than Victory" is the crowning achievement of the trilogy. The focal emphasis of this novel is the Battle of the Bulge and Shaara works his magic when getting into the heads of the principal combatant, namely: Hitler, Von Rundstedt, Montgomery, Tedder, Eisenhower, Patton, and the infantry grunts Edward Benson, Kenneth Mitchell, and Bruce Higgins.

Sharra writes convincingly that the Germans nearly pulled off a major reversal of fortunes on the Western Front when they amassed a surprising strength of arms, tanks, and artillery along a narrow span in the Ardennes Forest. The surprise offensive counterattack by the Germans is measured by immediate reaction of the defenders in harms way and the slow reaction of the British and American brass to the intense assault. Only the severe weather and lack of fuel thwarted more extreme damage to allied forces inflicted on them by the German thrust. Superior numbers of men and materiel would prove in the end to be the deciding factor in regaining the allied initiative and eventually lead to victory.

What makes this book such an interesting read is the revelation that in spite of the ferocious nature of combat, there is much downtime in the life of an infantry soldier. Marching, embedded in foxholes, awaiting orders, performing menial chores are major portions of existing even under the most strenuous of anticipated combat involvement. It comes as somewhat a surprise that many WW II soldiers never came into direct contact with the enemy they fired upon or killed. Military machinization accounted for most of the casulties; however, not to minimize their contribution, it was the foot soldier that was neccesary to do the dirty work of cleaning up the mess and ferreting out those that resisted to end.

Jeff Shaara has done himself proud with this concluding labor. I, as I'm sure many others, look forward to his writing about United States' role in the Pacific theater of World War II. Hopefully it will be as rewarding an experience for both author and reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jeff Shaara Living Up His Own Standards!, November 18, 2009
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I admit my bias up front on this review. I really enjoy Jeff Shaara's books. He is my favorite author in the historical fiction genre. I pre-ordered this book, and I cannot tell you how excited I was when it arrived at my door on the day of its release. So that's my bias. I don't think Jeff Shaara writes a bad book.

I found this book very different from the previous two of the WWII trilogy. Compared to those novels and many of his others, No Less Than Victory stood out to me for how few characters Shaara utilized to tell this story. He mainly follows Eddie Benson's journey through just prior to the Battle of the Buldge to the conclusion of the war in Europe. Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Albert Speer, and German Field Marshall van Rundsteldt also play focal roles in the story; yet Speer doesn't appear until the final 3 chapters, just as van Rundsteld exits the novel.

The focus on Benson, in my opinion, made the story very good. I have read many books on WWII and found Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers to be one of the best I have read on the Battle of the Buldge. I worried about how Shaara would approach this portion of the war with so much out there on this topic. His solution was to tell a very personal story of a private as he made his way through the end of the war in Europe. The first 100 pages contain almost no battle scenes, which is atypical of Shaara. One of his strengths is writing battle scenes. He departs from his strength, and I think the book is better for it. Instead of actual battle scenes, Shaara provides a gripping account of what it must have felt like for a private from Missouri to struggle through Hitler's Watch on the Rhine assault. You could feel Benson's anxieties, his fears. You could empathize with him. That's what made this story different than many of the other novels in this genre. It was personal. And I thought it was great.

On Shaara's website, he has alluded in the past that this will not be a trilogy but a series of four WWII books. He leaves No Less Than Victory with a quote about the war in the Pacific. That's his next stop. I can't wait until that books is written and published. No Less Than Victory, in my opinion, is the best of Shaara's WWII efforts. It might not be up to par with the books that I consider his best (Glorious Cause, To the Last Man, Last Full Measure), but I really enjoyed this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps he did settle for less than victory, December 30, 2009
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After enjoying the first two books in the series, Jeff appears have approached the third book with a lack of interest. Understandable to to the scope of the subject, never the less, unfortunate.

My difficulty in keeping an interest in continuing page after page probably reflects how it must have been for him to write it. I suspect he has another project dividing his attention, or he's tired.

The problem is that the book is more of a flat narrative, than dissecting the thoughts and feelings of characters, which he is so good at.

The first two are worth the read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WW2 Crowning Achievement!, November 18, 2009
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I just finished the two books of Sharra's on the American Revolution. I never feel I'm reading fiction with Shaara. I first got interested in War with Saving Private Ryan. I stumbled into Gods and Generals and I liked it but I wasn't ready for the Cival War. After reading all of Shaara's other books, I am ready to start the Civil War series again. I just completed the WW2 trilogy and No Less Than Victory doesn't disappoint. Never did I feel I was reading fiction, and Shaara is always entertaining in his prose. The battle scenes are tightly written. I can see the Speilberg camera angles in every paragraph. Sharra makes you understand the politics, emotions and tragedy of war. Whenever I want to learn about a particular war, I'll go to Shaara first. Then I want to read the historical texts. He gets you engaged. I also find that I relate all historical text back to his stories. His facts are right on. The WW2 series is facinating. Start with the first novel and you will read through to this one. This book will not disappoint.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great conclusion to a terrific trilogy, November 8, 2009
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A truly tragic fact is that we are losing WWII vets at an astonishing rate on a daily basis, and the newest generation has almost no inkling of the greatest war ever fought. WWII was the seminal event of the last century. Its repercussions can be seen in almost all walks of life - financial, technological, social - and yet the memories of it are dying away with all of the men and women who fought so hard so long ago to guarantee us the life we have today. Jeff Shaara captures all the horrors of war and the feelings of the soldiers who sat, freezing, lonely, and hungry in their foxholes in a far off country. He tries to give us an insider view of the thoughts of the men who led the troops on both sides, and whereas there will always be disagreement on that, at least we can try to imagine what it must have been like making decisions when the fate of the world turned upon them. I am looking forward to his next books on the war in the Pacific.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tad Less Than Victory, September 6, 2010
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jason hirsch (Brooklyn, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
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The average reader will enjoy this, as it is better than the second installment in this trilogy - though not as good as Shaara's best works. The individual storylines are compelling, if not perfectly flowing in a fully integrated narrative. Furthermore, Shaara provides enough historical background and detail (and plenty of great maps, an improvement Shaara noted was in response to comments he received - and perhaps read on amazon.com) to be informative, though real students of WWII may be (and judging by the reviews here) unsatisfied or just plain annoyed (uh...get a life, ok?). Readers who expected Shaara to have discovered some previously unknown cache of WWII history may be disappointed, but those who were realistic about what Shaara set out to do will likely be entertained and educated. [Perhaps folks have an unrealistic set of expectations for Jeff Shaara, based on some of his past excellent works; readers will be much happier if they simply enjoy what they've got in this gifted author and stop focusing so much on stuff like the cover art.]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the entire trilogy, November 6, 2010
The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II

The first book in the series. It is the weakest in many ways. Shaara approaches most of his books with the docudrama format - a little bit of narrative history, a lot bit of historical fiction. His narrative history is quite well written and flows nicely.

The historical fiction in this book is its weak point. The action is very good, but there is not a lot of action - just a few pages in the Afica Campaign and some very solid stuff from the Sicily campaign. The majority of the historical fiction part of the book, among the Allied characters at least, is Shaara's characters putting themselves into place to fight Rommell and setting the scene for the second book. It would have moved more briskly if Shaara would have reverted to the historical narrative form, but it would severely limit the fictional aspects of the book.

On the Axis side, Rommell is the compelling figure of the book. Clearly Shaara builds him up to be the ultimate professional officer of the war - not a Nazi, just a man fighting his country as he has always done. Shaara skirts around the issues that Rommell must have surely considered when those orders come from thugs like the Nazis. Perhaps he just assumed that Rommell chose to mostly ignore the uncomfortable aspects of taking orders from people like the Nazis. Perhaps Rommell was just as afraid of the Communists and just as angry at the Allies as Hitlers was - we just don't know from this book. What I did not get from this series was a sense that Rommell was a real "super general". After all, for the layman he is the only battlefield German General with a "name brand" recognition. What I got from this portrayal of Rommell was a sense that he just could two particular British commanders with ease if he had the resources and that he could see that Germany was extending itself too far.

There are plenty of great maps in this series, but especially in this book.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

The Steel Wave: A Novel of World War II

The second book in the series is a superior book to the first in almost every way. There is a lot more action (hundreds of pages) and it is intense. The political wrangling that Eisenhower had to endure and master is a theme in every book, but is strongest in this one. The title of the book comes from a comment that Rommell makes about the Allied invasion coming in like a wave of steel into France.

Rommell continues on as a major character throughout. It is interesting to note that he was correct to fear an Allied invasion of France (which most of the German high command poo-pooed) but picked the wrong place. Hitler picked the right place, although he doubted it would happen. It is also interesting to note that Rommell thought that D-Day was a feint and failed to respond correctly to it until it was too late. Rommell is still the most interesting "officer" character on either side - he knows that Germany will be ruined by the Nazis and that the Germans will lose the war but we get little sense that he was opposed to the Nazis for any reason other than that they will bring ruin to Germany. Still, the way Shaara deals with the last bits of Rommell's life is compelling reading.

Even more compelling is the way Shaara deals with the ground-level stories of the American soldiers during D-Day. This is riveting stuff - well told and compelling.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II

The final book in Shaara's World War II trilogy is very similar to the second book, which makes sense since it is a continuation of the same campaign. The Allies continue their quest to push across France and into Germany. Patton looms as a larger and larger character. The part of the noble German soldier, previously played by Rommell is filled by Karl Rudolf Gerd Von Rundstedt, so much so that the reader may not even miss the Rommell character at all.

The battle sequences are stirringly told. The "Battle of the Bulge" is told quite well from the point of view of three of the very few soldiers of the 106th that made it through the battle without being killed or captured (this was Kurt Vonnegut's unit, by the way).

Shaara spends a lot of time in the book among the inner circle of Hitler's loyal command, with people like Albert Speer and Martin Bormann. It is an interesting choice to do so, but I would have preferred that he had not done it. It would have been even more interesting to have looked at the common foot soldier that continued to fight after the war was completely lost and seen what their motivations were (perhaps this interest comes from a college class I had more than 20 years ago where we met a man who was just that - a common foot soldier who abandoned the Eastern Front and marched across Austria and Germany to surrender to American troops).

Shaara's tale of the liberation of the Ohrdruf concentration camp was shocking, visceral and powerful. Very well done.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Capstone to the Trilogy, February 25, 2010
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With "No Less Than Victory", Jeff Shaara has completed his WWII trilogy. Covering from the Battle of the Bulge to the end of the war, Shaara has given a good feel for this period.

As before, Shaara has covered a major battle, Battle of the Bulge, from several perspectives. Using the personal, tactical, and strategic view points, he has woven an interesting tale.

New to this novel, is the perspective from the enemy's point of view through the eyes of von Rundstedt and Speer. It added to the story and brought to life the conflicts of personalities on the German side.

I found this a good read. It was refreshing to look at the Battle of the Bulge from of the perspective of the retreating units at the beginning of the battle and not from the overworked perspective of the 101st.

The book is a fitting capstone to his trilogy and would recommend it to anyone.
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No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II
No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara (Mass Market Paperback - April 26, 2011)
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