- Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible
The writing of battle history is as old as history itself. John McManus has proven to be a master of this art in four previous books, and again proves his mastery in Alamo in the Ardennes, though the 'unknown story' subtitled by the publisher has been known and was officially recognized in the Army Official History by Hugh Cole and by Robert Phillips in To Save Bastogne, works acknowledged by the author. McManus, however, expands significantly on what has gone before, not simply by adding new eyewitness and soldier level accounts, but by a careful [End Page 609] checking of events through the official records of both the Allies and Germans. He never loses sight of the soldiers' story, but carefully and unobtrusively places their action into the larger context of the battle without transforming the story into a mix of high and low level perceptions. The hardest test of soldier history beyond a library or source check, is visiting the scene. Like a detective working a crime scene, McManus did this, to understand and check the plausibility of his witnesses. Likewise, this book passed my test during a recent visit to sites and opened my mind to a deeper understanding of the actions at the soldier level that I had missed on numerous visits to that battlefield. McManus ends with a perceptive account of how some units who defended in front of Bastogne were denied unit citations, and how mistaken perceptions at the time drove award boards whose judgments, based on poor information, are upheld in most cases. Historians are inclined to reevaluate events in a new light, bureaucracies are not. McManus's work, however, poses a clear case for those whose valor is unchallengeable.