We Just Want to Know the Big Picture. We don’t need to know what happened to every single GI in the Battle of the Bulge.

A Time For Trumpets: the Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge by Charles B. MacDonald.

Just a few days before Christmas in 1944, the Germans launched a massive offensive through the Ardennes region in Belgium against the Americans in Northwestern France. They drove a large bulge in the American lines – hence the name.

This was the largest military engagement every fought by the US Army. Contrary to popular folklore, while some American units did panic and run from the Germans, the majority did not. Even those in isolated outposts stood and fought what often became desperate actions. Many units fought to the last man. The most famous episode of the battle is the siege of Bastogne which the Germans had to take because it sat astride seven main roads the Germans needed to use. There are two episodes in the series Band of Brothers which take place in Bastogne and give a wonderfully realistic sense of what it was like.

During the Battle of the Bulge, SS troops murdered 84 American prisoners-of-war in what is known as the Malmedy Massacre. The author of the book describes something very interesting: the news of the Malmedy massacre swept through American forces and was the key element in maintaining American morale. Why? Because American soldiers got so pissed off they would be damned if they would let the Germans through.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the famous incident of English speaking German soldiers (although many were actually former merchant sailors who spoke excellent colloquial English) occurred. These men cut field telephone wires and caused some mayhem but the few teams which penetrated deeply into American lines were captured very quickly. Wearing the uniform of the enemy in order to pass into enemy lines violates the Geneva Convention and all of these men were justifiably placed before a firing squad and shot shortly after they were apprehended.

The Battle of the Bulge is the largest action ever fought by the US Army and one of the most important engagements of the World War Two in Western Europe. So there needs to be a great history giving a broad overview of the battle: what the German objectives were and why; and how and when the Americans reacted. A Time for Trumpets is not that book. The author did a lot of meticulous research, interviewed a lot of surviving GIs and by God he wasn’t going to waste any of that research so he crammed it all into this book which is way too long, cries out for a competent editor, and is confusing as hell since the author skips around from engagement to engagement. I was constantly turning back pages to re-read a section because I was so confused. It took me hours and hours to read the book. Do yourself a favor and buy a set of DVDs of Band of Brothers and watch the two episodes on the Battle of the Bulge.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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