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The Battle of the Ruhr Pocket, A book Review

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by belasar, Mar 11, 2011.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    May 9, 2010
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    Battle of the Ruhr Pocket by Leo Kessler
    Scarborough House, Chelsea, MI 48118
    1989 Hardcover, 214 pages with illustrations
    List price $19.95, Amazon new-$10.50, used-$7.00

    The book begins with a prologue that would not sound out of place in a Clive Cussler novel, a group of men move though a german forest hoping not to draw attention to themselves while the search for the hidden grave of one of Hitler's most successfull generals, Field Marshal Otto Moritz Walter Model. After we discover Model's grave the author tells us that while the book chonicels the Battle of the Ruhr Pocket, it is an indictment of the mis-handling of the Anglo-American armies in the final 4 months of the war in Europe.

    The Author makes several serious assertions in his book. First that the Battle of thr Ruhr Pocket was a completely unnecessary battle, wastefull of not only American lives, but German ones as well. His second assertion is that the destruction caused in the Ruhr industrial area gravely extended the famine that beset Germany for the next 3 years. The third assertion is that this battle diverted the allies from the far better objective of striking out to capture the capital of the Reich, Berlin. Kessler saves his best for last, his final two assertions are that the reason for not attacking Berlin and attacking the Ruhr was to burnish the reputation of the US Army and to humiliate the British, especially Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery. But even this pales to the assertion that Eisenhower made this decision secretly, and without informing or asking the opinion of either the US Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Prime Minister of Great Britain or the President of the US. In effect that SHEAF Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower disobeyed his orders to capture Berlin.

    While the book is an easy read, Kessler offers no real proof for his assertions. He does infer a good number of things ranging from the sexual impotence of Ike with his mistress, to the severe mistreatment of German prisoner's (apparently the GI's executed groups of prisoners in formations as large as battalions with bullets to the back of the head) and the rape of every German girl 16 to 60 by drunken GI's. He also infers that American troops routinely broke and ran at the sight of a Pzkw III mistaking it for a fearsome Tiger.

    To accept his arguements uncriticly you must ignore several 800 lb. gorilla's in the room. The first is the Yalta Conference held 6 weeks before Ike made his 'surpising' decision not to go for Berlin. While it is mentioned that it occured in passing twice it was not worth putting in the index. Of course one of the main points of Yalta was the division of Germany, with Berlin well in the Soviet area of control.

    Also apparently the destruction of Germany's transpotation network, the shaving off of bits of the Reich to Poland and other neighbors, the loss of millions of young men first to combat, then to POW cages until as late as 1955, and the fact that much of Germany's agricultural land was occupied by Soviet troops pale in comparison to the desruction caused by combat for two weeks in the industrial region of the Ruhr. It seems Krupp steel is quite the delicacy.

    Nor does he discuss or mention any of the complexities or problems involved in a drive to capture Berlin. In a drive to capture the Reich's capitol, while it might have a British commander, it would likely comprise more American troops than Commonwealth. The 1st Canadian army would likely be deployed well north of Berlin to prevent any German counter attack from that direction. If the British 2nd Army swung around the north and the US 9th Army around the the south, it would still likely need the US XVIII Airborne Corps and troops from the US 1st Army to complete the kessel and reduce the city.

    No thought is given to what the Soviet Union would do. They began thier Berlin offensive on April 16th/17th or about the same time US troops reached the Elbe river. A hell for leather strike at Berlin by allied troops would likely promt an early Soviet attack. How do you prevent fratricide between Allied and Soviet troops with no clear demarcation line?

    If you do capture Berlin before the Russian's what then? If you fullfill the Yalta treaty obligations, then you must give up all the ground gained except the occupation zones. If you hold onto all ground taken by Allied troops as Kessler infers we should, we would grossly violate a treaty signed just months before with an ally. Such an act might fullfill Hitler's most cherished dream, a war between the Anglo-American allies and the Soviet Union.

    Nor does he consider the cost. Kessler states that US casualties for the Battle of the Ruhr Pocket were about 10,000 men to all causes for 2 weeks of combat that destroyed a German Army Group B of about 300,000 men. The Soviets admit to casualties of 250.000 to finaly capture Berlin. What evidence is there that the Allied troops could do the same thing with fewer losses.

    Leo Kessler ( real name Charles Whiting, 1926-2007) authored some 350 books under at least six different names. That averages out to 4 books a year from birth. Since he did not start writing till after he left the British Army after the war the real average is closer to 6 books a year or one every 2 months. I will let the reader judge for themselves if he could devote enough time to properly research his subject. According to Wikipedia Whiting served in the 52nd Reccon Regt. as a Sergent where he saw on 'various' occasions interactions between Field Marshal Montgomery and senior American Generals, experiences which he used to help him write his books. The average tommy or GI might have one 'Hello son, where are you from' moment with a army group commander but various ones enough to learn the inner workings of the high command?

    Bottom line, while an easy read, it is very poor history. This book will not stay in my collection.

    Slipdigit likes this.
  2. TacticalTank

    TacticalTank Member

    Jan 26, 2011
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    Sounds good, I will purchase it
  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

    Jan 5, 2009
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    Umm, did you even read the review? The reviewer wrote this "Bottom line, while an easy read, it is very poor history. This book will not stay in my collection." So why would you buy it?

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