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The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon Paperback – October 25, 2005


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The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon + The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-day Sacrifice + The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306814404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306814402
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author of The Bedford Boys [BKL My 1 03] limns another group portrait of a band of similar World War II soldiers, this time the intelligence and reconnaissance platoon of the 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. That green division came squarely in the path of the Wehrmacht during the Battle of the Bulge, and that platoon was one of many small units that fought tenaciously to the bitter end. The whole platoon was captured, but only after they had held a crucial road junction long enough to seriously delay Joachim Pieper's SS battle group. More miraculously, all those captured, even the grievously wounded, survived the war; indeed, most were alive to receive decorations in 1980. The narrative moves from the GIs' combat experience at the Bulge to their POW experience until the closing days of the war, and Kershaw handles both combat and internment skillfully and respectfully. A good read for observing the sixtieth anniversary of the Bulge. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A gripping saga about raw courage and superhuman endurance." -- Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans

"A moving story of uncommon valor." -- James Bradley, author, Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys

"A riveting read." -- USA Today

"America's enemies would do well not to underestimate this sense of courage and duty." -- Wall Street Journal

"Kershaw is a fantastic storyteller." -- Army magazine

"This book is a must-read for anyone who wants a renewed sense of patriotism." -- Roanoke Times

More About the Author

Alex Kershaw is the New York Times best-selling author of several popular WW11 titles. He is a British born journalist.

Please visit alexkershaw.com for his full bio and some great web-sites devoted to his books. He would be happy to answer any questions and sign books and help in any other way.

You can also catch up with him and his work at his facebook page - alex kershaw, author's page.

He blogs at www.alexkershawauthor.com and provides video/images/posts on facebook.



THE LIBERATOR Q&A

What inspired you to write the book?

I was researching a story about men who liberated the camps in WW11. I came across an extraordinary photograph which showed a young American officer, Felix Sparks, firing his pistol into the air on 29 April 1945. He is in a coal-yard at Dachau, which he has just liberated, and some of his men have opened fire on SS soldiers. He is firing his pistol and shouting to make them stop. The image captures an amazing moment of incredible humanity when one considers that Sparks had by then spent over 500 days in brutalizing combat, losing an entire company at Anzio and a battalion to the SS, since landing on the first day of the invasion of Europe. Most people would not have stopped the killing of such evil men, just minutes after discovering the full horrors of Hitler's first concentration camp. I had to meet this man and in 2007 I interviewed him, literally on his death-bed. No other American fought for longer or suffered more to free more people from the greatest evil of modern times.


- What surprised you the most during the writing process?

I was often astonished by the sheer violence and trauma endured by the so-called Greatest Generation. Over 150,000 mostly working-class Americans died to liberate Europe. Hundreds of thousands came home and never talked about it. Why would you want to recount what felt like being in a terrible car crash each day? I interviewed many men who served with and under Sparks and because they opened up to me I was struck over and over by how great their suffering had been. None came home unbroken. They all paid a huge price if they were in combat.

- What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

I'd be a retired banker, sipping cocktails in St. Lucia, lazily scanning the Wall Street Journal to see how my investments, taxed at almost nothing, are doing. Sadly, l decided to try to do something a little more interesting....

- What else are you reading right now?

I am utterly absorbed in the Civil War and Revolutionary War America - my son is studying these periods at middle school. It's hugely colorful history. Even as an expat "limey" who has lived here for twenty years I'm astonished by how radical the idea was that all men should be equal before the law, not subjects of a king. As concerns the Civil War, Michael Shara's The Killer Angels is amazing. The Civil War has not ended of course - just look at the red and blue states.

Customer Reviews

Well written, very informational, I enjoyed reading it.
Lynn M. Jacobson
What these men suffered after being captured and how they were able to survive until the end of the war is further proof of just how great they were.
Neal Bellet
All of these errors, and there are more, may seem pedantic, but it indicates that the author did not carefully do his research.
Robert Humphrey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Mannie Liscum on January 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II's Most Decorated Platoon, Alex Kershaw's latest foray into the WWII genre, is a quick, straight-forward read that tells the inspiring story of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) Platoon, 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. This small unit of US GI's can fairly be credited with one of the most significant defensive actions associated with the Battle of the Bulge - Hitler's last gamble to turn the tide of war in the West. Kershaw spins a riveting yarn of the eighteeen young men who battled until killed (2 members) or captured (the remainder) at the small Belgian town of Lanzerath on 16 December 1944 against an overwhelming force (1st Battalion, Fallschirmjager Regiment 9 - temporarily assigned to 1st SS-Panzer Division).

The Longest Winter is separated into three major parts: 1) training and pre-battle actions; 2) The Battle of Lanzerath itself; and 3) captivity, liberation and post-war accolades. While the second section is the main theme of the book and is written with flair, it is not particularly original. It was John S. D. Eisenhower who first detailed the Battle of Lanzerath in his 1969 The Bitter Woods. More recently the actions of the I&R/394th have been competently put to page by Stephen Ambrose (Citizen Soldiers, 1997) and Ronald Drez (25 Yards of War, 2001). In contrast, the first and third sections of The Longest Winter represent narratives of new information. Almost all of the actions associated with the I&R/394th are crafted entirely from interviews Kershaw conducted with surviving members of the platoon. While this provides an engaging narrative with a human feel, it lacks the historical clarity of thoroughly researched material.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By R. Loerch on November 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Every book I've read about the Battle of the Bulge is complicated and confusing because it was such a massive and chaotic battle with a cast of several hundred thousand Americans. Finally, a book comes along that reduces it to a very human level, just eighteen men, and describes what it was really like to fight from a fox-hole against all odds that December. I understood enough about the battle without it becoming overwhelming but got to know some remarkable individuals and that is what really makes you appreciate their sacrifice - when they are no longer soldiers but human beings. Recommended to anybody wanting to be inspired by a great story of survival against all odds.
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53 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Robert Humphrey on August 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
To base a book mainly on interviews with 10 surviving members of the I & R platoon provides Keshaw with a very small data base to work with. Consequently he pads his book with accounts of Hitler, Eisenhower, J. Peiper, and others, none of which is particularly relevant to his story. Even brief retelling of Robert Kriz's crossing of the Rhine or the surrender at Iserlohn is in no way connected to the platoon.Remarkably he is able to extract from these 10 men not only accounts of their experiences, but actual conversations they had 60 years earlier. Because Kershaw writes in the present tense, the reader is led to believe he is receiving a stenographic reproduction. It would be acceptable to use memories, but the author needs to alert the reader to the fact that these comments or verbal exchanges are recalled and therefore subject to all sorts of distortions. Kershaw, who is given to fictionalizing, also conflates the comments of non--99ers with the platoon members, so the reader is led to believe these were the attitudes and experiences of the I & R guys. Finally the number of errors in this book are legion. The ASTP stood for the Army's Special Training Program, not the "Advanced STP." Aubel is not "just across the French border" but rather is in eastern Belgium, close to the German border. GI's did not wear "beanie caps" but wool caps. Lyle Bouck and the others were not "the first batch of prisoners at Hammelburg," rather 100s of non coms and privates from the 99th arrived there on Dec. 26 and 27th, whereas his group arrived on January 18th and there were no searchlights, as he claims. "Würzburg was not "famous for its ball-bearing factories"; that was Scheinfurt. The Danube was not "blue" but brown and its waters were not "swollen by the spring melt from the Alps.Read more ›
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54 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Neal Bellet on December 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the story of a platoon of men that quite possibly changed the course of the Battle of the Bulge by delaying the initial German attack just long enough to give the Allies the time they needed to regroup. These heroes were asked to "hold at all costs," and that is exactly what they did until their ammunition ran out. By doing so, they had slowed the German advance enough to allow the Allies to react to what was happening. What these men suffered after being captured and how they were able to survive until the end of the war is further proof of just how great they were. The book is very well written and I recommend it very highly. My only criticisms of the book are the one typo that I found and the error by the author of his description of Bradley, Montgomery, and Deevers leading Armies. I believe by this time in the war they all were in charge of army groups. That aside, this was a great book of an even greater story.
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