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The Longest Battle: September 1944 to February 1945, From Aachen to the Roer and Across.

The Longest Battle: September 1944 to February 1945, From Aachen to the Roer and Across. By Harry Yeide. St. Paul, MN: The Zenith Press, 2005, 304 pages, $24.98.

In September 1944, optimism filled the air in Allied headquarters all across northwest Europe. Many Allied commanders (primarily U.S. and British) believed their units could easily continue their advances into the heart of Germany against little or no organized resistance. Edward Andidora, writing in the December 1987 issue of Parameters, gives an even sharper picture: "But optimism had reached euphoric proportions in the allied camp, bolstered by an almost universal belief that German morale was ready to crack."

But it was not to be, as Harry Yeide, an international analyst with the U.S. Government and author of this book, and Charles MacDonald (The Siegfried Line Campaign, a volume in the Army's official WWII History series) point out. Suffice it to point out--the allied advances across Europe and southern France that began in July 1944, were brought to a virtual halt in mid-September 1944 by hastily thrown together German forces. Particularly was this true north of the Ardennes.

Although Yeide says his book "shows some bias toward the allied perspective," I could not find any sign of this. For some reason, he believes that Allied "dreams of quick triumph" only added to the arrogance shown by many U.S. and British high-level commanders in the seeming supremacy of their forces, that nothing could stop them, and total defeat faced the Germans.

Yeide's aim, therefore, is to show that the Allied forces--particularly those from the U.S.--were not invincible, and a badly weakened German army, fighting from bunkers and strong defensive positions in towns and villages (a lesson it had learned on the Eastern front) and using its armor in the best possible way, proved more than a match for our GIs.

Accordingly, he concentrates on the fighting that waged in those small villages and in one large urban area: Aachen (think Iraq and Lebanon). He stays clear of the Huertgen Forest debacle because he believes it "is a tale of military command stupidity with its own internal dynamic that deserves separate treatment." (And it has been covered by several authors, plus a lengthy treatment by MacDonald.)

Aachen was a costly U.S. success, but the Huertgen Forest and the dams were not, at least for several months. I do not understand why he chose to pay so little attention to the U.S. XIII Corps and its actions, I commanded an infantry rifle company in the 84th Infantry Division in that corps from late November 1944 (I was the company XO for six months prior to taking over) to late March 1945, and I know how the Germans fought and what tough opponents they were. I became quite familiar with such towns as Beeck, Lindern, Linnich, and with both sides of the Roer River. Seldom did we fight the Germans in the open.

Yeide likes to tell his readers how well Germans fought and the difficulty our troops had in overcoming the resistance. He doesn't hesitate to give U.S. casualties but seldom gives German losses. I can assure him the four-buckle overshoes did little to help us with our cold weather injuries. We figured out the answer as we went along even though we were wearing the worse combat boot the Army has created in modern times, and our clothing was not much better. Tanker jackets were prizes; look at the photos of many of our general officers and see what they were wearing!

Yeide does not give us much credit for our crossing of the Roer River in February 1945 and dash to the Rhine River. After all, he believes, the Germans had little to fight with after Hitler's Ardennes counteroffensive in December 1945-January 1945 had been defeated.

I certainly give the German soldiers credit for being tough fighting men. And I give Yeide full credit for his location of, research in, and use of that German material shown by his chapter notes and bibliography. I only wanted him to give the U.S. Soldier equal treatment.

Reviewed by LTC (Retired) Albert N. Garland and Patricia A. Weekley.
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Author:Garland, Albert N.; Weekley, Patricia A.
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2008
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