Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne by George Koskimaki

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: February 26, 2014

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne is the product of contributions by 530 soldiers who were on the ground or in the air over Bastogne. They lived and made this history and much of it is told in their own words. The material contributed by these men of the 101st Airborne Division, the Armor, Tank Destroyer, Army Air Force , and others is tailored meticulously by the author and placed on the historical framework known to most students of the Battle of the Bulge. Pieces of a nearly 60 year old jigsaw puzzle come together in this book, when memoirs related by one soldier fit with those of another unit or group pursuing the battle from another nearby piece of terrain.

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First published in 1994, George Koskimaki's The Battered Bastards of Bastogne is a remarkable volume and I'm not just saying that because I have a thing for WWII.

Unlike a lot of volumes on Bastogne, Koskimaki's work is a collective memoir. It is not told by scholars who examined combat movements after the dust had settled, but by those who experienced it firsthand. Together these stories create a unique portrait of trench-level combat and result in a unique and comprehensive eyewitness account with incalculable historic value for future generations.

There are no assumptions over the importance of this incident or that skirmish, no overblown supposition on politics or strategy. Koskimaki's focus is on the men in the field. How they were affected by the loss of comrade, the moments that defined their involvement in the Battle of the Bulge and the private trials and tribulations they faced on the front lines.

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne isn't easy reading and I'm not sure I'd recommend it someone just starting to understand the campaign, but that said, I enthusiastically believe the book one of the best available resources on the market.  

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"The next morning the lieutenant ordered me to report to him. I was sure he was gonna order me to lead another attack but I had just about given up ever getting out of that mess. To my surprise, he told me ‘Get what troops you have left, leave and go back to the rear.’ We did, just as fast as we could shuffle. We slept that night in the woods, on the ice and snow. That was cold, cold, cold! My time in Bastogne was over. I was alive. I had walked through hell with my eyes open to the Lord."
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