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Book Review: War in the Ruins

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by schwarzfeder, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. schwarzfeder

    schwarzfeder Member

    Feb 22, 2012
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    Book: War in the Ruins
    Author: Edward G. Longacre
    Publisher: Westholme

    Reviewer: schwarzfeder

    This book is more than just a well-written, well-researched divisional and battle history. Billed as a detailed account of one of the U.S. Army's last major ground actions--the battle for the alrerady-ruined city of Heilbronn--this is also an excellent history of the 100th Infantry Division.

    They called themselves the "Centurymen", the men of the 100th Infantry Division. Their primary regiments, the 397th, 398th and 399th,
    landed at Marseilles, went into the line in southeastern France, survived Operation Northwind (Post-Bulge faltering counterattack), took and retook the Maginot Line, and soldiered on into the dwindling Reich.

    At first I was somewhat put off that there was not the comprehensive coverage of the German forces that opposed them, just the facts, supported by anecdotal evidence. Then I realized this book was not intended to be a both-sides story, and rightfully so. In the best tradition of other American divisional-and-key-battle histories--such as McKay Jenkins's excellent "The Last Ridge" (the story of the 10th Mtn. Div. and
    the battle for Riva Ridge in WWII Italy)--"War in the Ruins" reads so well, is packed with eyewitness input, good maps and timely spaced photos.

    It is, in a way, like watching one's favorite episodes of the old "Combat!" series; you know the end result beforehand, but you enjoy the story no less.

    But "War in the Ruins" certainly will educate some of us. I liked the author's honesty; he does acknowledge there was some looting along the way, and that feeling among the battle-hardened men that, once they got into Gertmany itself, the small towns and countryside were untouched by war to a certain degree, and some of the men felt the natives hadn't suffered enough. The book describes the unevenness of the tail-end opposing German forces--children and old men, with a scattering of older vets and fanatics.

    What really comes through for me in this book is that the Centurymen were tough, good soldiers. The acts of heroism and valor are many,
    detailed and deserving. This book describes a system that for the most part worked; men got credit for their bravery. I, for one reader, came away from this book with a great regard for the Division's leader, the capable, smart and compassionate Maj. Gen. Withers A. Burress.

    "War in the Ruins" is, for me, the kind of book I don't want to end. It is so well written, so well-researched, and the material so well-coordinated: Hats off to author Edward Longacre.

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