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The Americans and Germans at Bastogne (Hardback)

First-Hand Accounts from the Commanders

Military > Pre-WWI > American History WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Battle of the Bulge WWII > German Forces & Weaponry

By Gary Sterne
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 312
ISBN: 9781526770776
Published: 10th June 2020
Last Released: 21st June 2021



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In December 1944 the Third Reich was retreating. It was almost inconceivable that they could mount a counter offensive.

To the Allies, the capitulation of the Third Reich was just around the corner. Or was it?

Could the Battle of the Bulge succeed in turning the tide of the war for the German high command ?

The US 101st Airborne were the only Allied unit capable of slowing down the German advance towards Antwerp - and they were ordered to do just that - at a place called Bastogne.

The battle for the small Belgium cross-roads town is now world famous and to add to that historical narrative, the author has located de-classified interviews with the German unit commanders who took part. Brought together for the first time - they provide a unique perspective on the battle as the Germans were forced to make continuous alterations to their plans - and the 101st resisted every attempt to dislodge them.

This book offers significant and fresh research on this famous battle and the narrative unfolds in words of the men who were actually there.

For Americans, the Battle of the Bulge ranks up there with D-Day and Market Garden as the premier most discussed battles of the Second World War. A lot of books have been written and a lot of games played on the battle. Most cover the whole battle from the initial attack through the final allied counteroffensive. Author Gary Sterne has taken a different approach, selecting a single part of the battle (which many believe was the key to the whole thing) and discussing it from both the perspective of the Germans and the Americans. His focus is Bastogne, the crossroads that held out against a 10-day German siege. His book, The Americans and Germans at Bastogne: First-Hand Accounts of the Commanders who Fought. (Pen & Sword, 2020) takes it day by day.

Sterne’s format starts with setting the stage, which has multiple German commanders, from post war interviews, discuss the overall plan for Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein, or "Operation Watch on the Rhine.". The commanders range from Generaloberst Jodl (Chief of the operations Staff), Fifth Panzer Army’s General Manteuffel, to Colonel Alfred Zerbel, a staff officer of the 47th Panzer Corps. After the plans are discussed, the battle is discussed in sections leading up to the encirclement of Bastogne, followed by a day-by-day discussion of the siege up to its relief on 26-27 December. He ends with the German commanders detailing why the offensive failed.

Unlike the Germans, who are quoted individually from their post war interviews, the U.S. side of the battle comes from the U.S. history of the battle; the narrative built from the notes and recollections of the various U.S. commanders, so while you don’t get personalized memories, you do get a good detailed discussion of the period each chapter covers. Sterne has added a detailed Bastogne-specific U.S. order of battle to identify the commanders who contributed to the narrative

We have had books on the Germans side of the Bulge, notably Danny Parker’s Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive: the German View of the Battle of the Bulge. I liked this one because it is far more focused, which means the comments and memories are far more detailed. The text is illustrated by multiple maps (thank you Pen & Sword); some are combat sketches, other are detailed maps of the action. For example, I found it easier in this book to follow the actions of Teams Cherry and Desobry – and their opponents – in the initial clashes near the city than in other Bulge books.

Overall, while the story of Bastogne’s siege has been covered from both sides in various books, this one gathers it all in one place. Sterne has done an exceptional job maintaining that focus for the reader.

John D. Burtt

As featured on WW2 Today

WW2 Today

"...does an excellent job of showing how those German leaders had to continually adapt to changes on the ground as the Americans showed flexibility under pressure and foiled their opponents goals."

WWII History

The German accounts are tied up as much as possible with those from their American opponents, so we get to see both sides of the same battle. On occasion this helps explain actions that confused the other side, such as why the Germans were quiet on particular days. Overall this is a very useful addition to the literature on this battle.

Read the full review here

History of War

This amazing new book on the iconic Battle of the Bulge reveals new information and detail about the battle, with first-hand accounts and superb photographs.

Books Monthly

Can anything more and also of interest be said about the Battle of the Bulge? This new book by Gary Sterne shows that it is still possible. This is a book of particular interest to wargamers and others who want to get into details of the fighting in December 1944.

Read the full review here

Lars Gyllenhaal

Sterne is supported by many excellent maps to help us understand this confusing battle. All in all, Sterne’s book adds more quality to the growing body of work on the Battle of the Bulge, and is well worth reading.

Read the full review here

Beating Tsundoku

Recently declassified interviews shed fresh light on Hitler’s last great gamble with the Ardennes Offensive. The Battle of the Bulge has attracted considerable attention from historians but fresh insight is provided by the first-hand accounts of the commanders who fought it out in the snow – Highly Recommended

Read the full review here


It provides an excellent view not only of the facts and (local) battles, but also on the WHY certain actions took place, and why certain actions went wrong!
The book’s many sketches, maps, and photos of original plans and maps are a great help in visualizing the events in that glum and violent December month back in 1944.

Read the full review here

WW2 Traces

The book contains excellent reports and interviews from all round and these are accompanied by illustrated maps, reports and diagrams which help tell the story of the unfolding battle. The book also contains a number of excellent and clear photographs and at the back of the book is a comprehensive list of names and war information on both sides, which I found to very informative and helpful as it does the book and story credit. In one of the war’s closely fought battles, this book tells a robust and closely fought story. I credit the author for having written and excellent book and I would think that this would really appeal to most world war two military historians... I would give this book a very good 4.5 star rating. Plus I really enjoyed the font used throughout the book, as a reviewer it made a nice change.

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UK Historian

This is a very well laid out book, comprehensive and easy to understand, and for the first time being able to see the full German plan and how the American forces constantly shifted and changed to counter the attacks, and let small teams work together alongside the artillery to defend the town, causing the German army to lose in the region of 400 tanks and 37 thousand troops, killed, frozen or injured is a testament to the pluck and fighting spirit of the American forces.

A fantastic book to read more so if like me you have visited the area over the years.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

I have to admit to being a fan of the author’s previous forensic analysis of certain events during the Normandy landings in the US Sectors, and this book on Bastogne follows the previous pattern. Using many declassified accounts from German officers, the book adds balance to the story and is supported by good source documents, not least many fascinating sketch maps found in the archives. It is an essential part of the knowledge of the events during the assault in the Ardennes.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Gary Sterne

Gary Sterne is a keen collector of militaria and was a co-founder of The Armourer and Skirmish Magazines. He has always been fascinated with the D-day landings and in particular was intrigued by the lack of precise information relating the mystery of the "missing guns" of Pointe du Hoc. His research led to the finding of a map which indicated the position of an "unknown" German gun position buried in the village of Maisy. After buying the land, he was able to open the huge site to the public. The re-discovery of the Maisy Battery made headline news around the world and has subsequently changed the history of the Omaha Sector forever. The site is now one of the major Normandy D-day attractions.

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