After the success of the Normandy invasion, the Allied commanders are buoyantly confident that the war in Europe will be over in a matter of weeks, that Hitler and his battered army have no other option than surrender. Read more...
After the success of the Normandy invasion, the Allied commanders are buoyantly confident that the war in Europe will be over in a matter of weeks, that Hitler and his battered army have no other option than surrender. But despite the advice of his best military minds, Hitler will hear no talk of defeat. In mid-December 1944, the Germans launch a desperate and ruthless counteroffensive in the Ardennes forest, utterly surprising the unprepared Americans who stand in their way. Through the frigid snows of the mountainous terrain, German tanks and infantry struggle to realize Hitler's goal: divide the Allied armies and capture the vital port at Antwerp. The attack succeeds in opening up a wide gap in the American lines, and for days chaos reigns in the Allied command. Thus begins the Battle of the Bulge, the last gasp by Hitler's forces that becomes a horrific slugging match, some of the most brutal fighting of the war. As American commanders respond to the stunning challenge, the German spear is finally blunted.
Though some in the Nazi inner circle continue the fight to secure Germany's postwar future, the Fuhrer makes it clear that he is fighting to the end. He will spare nothing-not even German lives-to preserve his twisted vision of a "Thousand Year Reich." But in May 1945, the German army collapses, and with Russian troops closing in, Hitler commits suicide. As the Americans sweep through the German countryside, they unexpectedly encounter the worst of Hitler's crimes, the concentration camps, and young GIs find themselves absorbing firsthand the horrors of the Holocaust.
Presenting his riveting account through the eyes of Eisenhower and Patton and the young GIs who struggle face-to-face with their enemy, and through the eyes of Germany's old soldier, Gerd von Rundstedt, and Hitler's golden boy, Albert Speer, Jeff Shaara carries the reader on a journey that defines the spirit of the soldier and the horror of a madman's dreams. No Less Than Victory further solidifies Shaara's reputation as this era's most accomplished author of historical military fiction.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 37.
- Review Date: 2009-09-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Firmly straddling the ground between war novel and military history, the conclusion to Shaara's WWII European theater series contains the usual mix of real life military leaders and fictional soldiers in combat, recapitulating the last five months of the war, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of concentration camps. Shaara's real-life figures (generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt) mostly appear in stilted scenes to discuss strategy, while fictional characters carry the narrative by doing the fighting. Thanks to Shaara's visceral descriptive powers, we ride on a bombing mission with bombardier Sergeant Buckley as his B-17 flies through the flak-filled skies over Germany. With Private Benson, we feel the cold, deprivation and sense of dislocation of the Ardennes. And we sit in an observation post right on the Germans' doorstep as Captain Harroway calls down artillery fire on the enemy. In the end, Shaara delivers nothing we haven't already read in Stephen E. Ambrose's Band of Brothers or Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle, but fans of military fiction will definitely gobble this up. (Nov.)
Shaara’s incisive portrait of war
Jeff Shaara, one of the grand masters of military fiction, returns with the final novel of his acclaimed WWII trilogy. No Less than Victory concludes the epic tale of the war in Europe from the Battle of the Bulge through the German surrender. Shaara’s plump third installment illuminates the final six months of the war as told by a handful of men on both sides. The battles and timeline themselves are painstakingly accurate. As Shaara himself says, the only reason he is forced to call his work fiction is because he must use dialogue. And he uses it well. While battles may be enough for military buffs, it’s the dialogue and thoughts of Shaara’s characters that make the book a narrative success. On the American side, the story is mainly told by a trio of soldiers, two of whom you may have heard of: Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. George Patton. Eisenhower comes across as wholly human and singularly humane. You’ll feel his exasperation when dealing with British Gen. Montgomery—whom Shaara absolutely skewers—and have a lump in your throat as Ike gets his first glimpse of a German concentration camp. Patton does not entirely shed the famous portrayal by George C. Scott, but we do get a glimpse beneath the bravado. No story of WWII is complete without GIs. Their story is told by Private Benson, a raw recruit unlucky enough to arrive just before the Bulge. Benson is scared and confused, but draws courage from his fearless buddy Mitchell, whose hatred of the Germans grows along with his love of war. The Germans are mostly represented by Gen. Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt, who knows by the winter of 1944 that he is merely following Hitler into the abyss, but has little choice but to continue. Curiously, Shaara is gentler with much of the German military hierarchy than he is with the English. His empathy is fitting—on the front lines, where Shaara’s writing is limpid and concise, politics do not exist, only soldiers. Ian Schwartz writes from San Diego.