Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble
On 16 December, 1944, Hitler launched his ‘last gamble’ in the snow-covered forests and gorges of the Ardennes. He believed he could split the Allies by driving all the way to Antwerp, then force the Canadians and the British out of the war. Although his generals were doubtful of success, younger officers and NCOs were desperate to believe that their homes and families could be saved from the vengeful Red Army approaching from the east. Many were exultant at the prospect of striking back.
The Ardennes offensive, with more than a million men involved, became the greatest battle of the war in western Europe. American troops, taken by surprise, found themselves fighting two panzer armies. Belgian civilians fled, justifiably afraid of German revenge. Panic spread even to Paris. While many American soldiers fled or surrendered, others held on heroically, creating breakwaters which slowed the German advance.
The harsh winter conditions and the savagery of the battle became comparable to the eastern front. And after massacres by the Waffen-SS, even American generals approved when their men shot down surrendering Germans. The Ardennes was the battle which finally broke the back of the Wehrmacht.
‘Revealing, profound and thoroughly unputdownable, Stalingrad is an extraordinary achievement which transcends its genre’ Vitali Vitaliev, Daily Telegraph (on Stalingrad)
‘This brilliant storyteller. . . makes us feel the chaos and the fear as if every drop of blood was our own: that is his gift. It is much more than just a humane account; it is compellingly readable, deeply researched and beautifully written’ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Spectator (on Berlin)
‘This is a terrific, inspiring, heart-breaking book. It makes the argument all over again that the world would be an infinitely better place if it didn’t keep producing subject matter for military historians: but as long as it does, we can rejoice that at the top of that profession is Antony Beevor’ Sam Leith, Daily Mail (on D-Day)
‘His book is the definitive history. This is World War II as Tolstoy would have described it – the great and the small’ Gerard DeGroot, Washington Post (on The Second World War)
Antony Beevor is the renowned author of Stalingrad, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature, and Berlin, which received the first Longman-History Today Trustees’ Award. His books have appeared in thirty foreign editions and sold over six million copies.
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