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Saturday, November 2, 2013

No Less Than Victory

Review of No Less Than Victory by Jeff Shaara
Overview from 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 Führer 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.

My Review:

This is the last of the novels featured in the Three Novels of World War II set. I think the author does have one more but it is not part of this set.
This book does not bring us to end of World War II though it does take us pretty much all the way through the end of European theater. The Allies still have some unfinished business in the Pacific.
Also we get to see more of Hitler’s inner circle in this one. Now the majority of those who are left are yes men, or are they? Von Rundstedt, the only one who sometimes dared to tell his Fuhrer what he didn’t want to hear, is sent on a forced retirement. But he is ready. He is tired of fighting with the man, hoping to convince him to do what is right for Germany.
Model is still around but is becoming less and less convinced that Hitler knows what he is doing though he dares not say anything. Speer begins to have his doubts as well after he encounters a small boy during an air raid.
“The boy said, ‘Do you know the Fuhrer?’
‘Yes, I do. I will see him…’
‘Tell him we want this to stop.’
Speer looked at the mother, saw the first tears, and she stepped forward, took the boy’s hand, said, ‘Very sorry. Please, I beg you not to report us. He doesn’t understand.’”
Only Goebbles seems to be under the impression that everything is still going along smoothly yet meanwhile he reveals to Speer that he has plans to commit suicide with his wife should things go awry. He will later have his chance to act on that.
Of course the American side of the story is just as fascinating. We are introduced to a man named Benson, a strange private who chooses to go back out to the front lines while his unit is reassigned to guard German POW’s. He does this to show his support a fellow soldier named Mitchell who seems to take more joy than most in killing Germans but is supported by Benson nonetheless.
While I liked Benson, I had a hard time liking Mitchell. He seemed far too mean to his fellow soldiers at times. He struck me as one of those people who probably would have ended up in prison if he hadn’t joined the army.
Their story eventually leads them to the concentration camps, making Benson loose his lunch though this time it is not related to his motion sickness. After this he and others make it their mission in life to end the war and make the Nazi’s pay for their inhumanity. He tries his best to move on with his life after the war, but I get the feeling that the images he saw that day at the camp will be with him always.
The bittersweet ending is a good wrap up to the story. Hitler gets his just desserts while the Russians get a piece of Germany and the Allied soldiers head for home, or maybe the Pacific.
Contains: war images and violence, foul language

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