The best books on the Battle of the Bulge

John C. McManus Author Of Alamo in the Ardennes: The Untold Story of the American Soldiers Who Made the Defense of Bastogne Possible
By John C. McManus

The Books I Picked & Why

A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

By Charles B. MacDonald

A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge

Why this book?

How many historians can claim to have fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a rifle company commander, documented it as a combat historian, and then written about it as a popular author? Only the great Charles B. MacDonald. In this remarkable work, published on the fortieth anniversary of the battle, he managed to convey both the human and strategic dimensions without missing a rhetorical beat. I love this book because it is so obviously the product of decades of reflection and research by a true master of the historical art.


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Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge

By Antony Beevor

Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge

Why this book?

What happens when an author with a remarkable knack for insightful research and a gift for brilliant narrative prose takes on the task of telling a story of such epochal importance? A wonderful book that conveys the desperation of the moment and weaves this together with latter-year perspective. Among Beevor’s many insights, my favorite is his assertion that “the German leadership’s greatest mistake in the Ardennes offensive was to have misjudged the soldiers of an army they had affected to despise.” So very true! The Germans badly underestimated the U.S. Army and they paid the price for their dismissive chauvinism.


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Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45

By Peter Caddick-Adams

Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45

Why this book?

How many times have you read a 700-page book that feels more like 200 pages and actually leaves you wanting more? Caddick-Adams’s scope is magisterial and yet the abject beauty of his marvelous writing moves the narrative along with a crispness that is hard to appreciate until you find yourself deep into the book and feeling almost like you just started it. His chapters crackle with the depth and intensity of a polished staff ride, and that’s appropriate because this authoritative tome is the product of decades of on-site investigation, deep-dive archival research, and the illumination that came from more than a few of the author’s longtime personal friendships with key participants. I know of no World War II historian who writes more artfully and colorfully but without ever sacrificing good scholarship.


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Battle: The Story of the Bulge

By John Toland

Battle: The Story of the Bulge

Why this book?

Toland was a veritable genius at long-form historical storytelling. His books read like sweeping, epic novels. When he researched this book in the 1950s, he did not have the benefit of access to massive amounts of unclassified Army records that World War II historians of our time take for granted. But he did enjoy the advantage of proximity to the event and he used that asset to the hilt. He practiced immersion-style research, embedding himself on the ground for long stretches of time, forging relationships with civilians and combatants of both sides, from all ranks and dispositions. Then he had the consideration and presence of mind to save all this precious material—boxes and boxes of documents, photos, reports, interview transcripts, and the like--and donate it to the Library of Congress. I have researched these fascinating sources first hand so I can personally attest to their incredible value. Reading this book is like transporting yourself back in time to look over the shoulders of the participants as they fought the battle and, far too often, we're forced to make life and death decisions.


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Loss and Redemption at St. Vith: The 7th Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge

By Gregory Fontenot

Loss and Redemption at St. Vith: The 7th Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge

Why this book?

Quite simply, the best Bulge division history ever written. Plus, Fontenot sheds long-overdue light on the fighting at St. Vith, whose importance was nearly equivalent to the more famous struggle for Bastogne. Like every author on this list, he knows how to combine first-rate scholarship with excellent storytelling. Fontenot spent decades interviewing commanders and other participants, visiting the ground, and compiling source material. He knew many of the principal characters quite well and yet he never let his personal relationships stand in the way of historical objectivity. Plus, as a retired colonel and a veteran of Desert Storm who commanded an armor battalion in combat, he brings his own professional understanding into the mix. The result is a fascinating and innovative historical work.


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