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Book Review – The Battle of the Bulge

A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-45; by Wayne Vansant; Zenith Press; 104 pages

Seventy years ago this month, what we Americans refer to as the Battle of the Bulge began. If you are looking for a concise, beautifully illustrated and entertaining history of the battle to read while you are safe and warm on the couch this holiday season, consider Wayne Vansant’s The Battle of the Bulge: A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-45.

While we haven’t read every book Vansant has done, we have enjoyed other Vansant books, and this book, released for the 70th anniversary of the battle, is possibly his best yet.

The Battle of the Bulge Cover

The Battle of the Bulge: A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-45; by Wayne Vansant; Zenith Press; 104 pages

Vansant’s illustrations are up to his usual high standard, but what stands out in The Battle of the Bulge: A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-45, is the story. The scope of this battle, in which U.S. forces suffered the greatest casualties of any operation during the war, seems to be the perfect fit for Vansant’s skills as a writer and illustrator.

In recounting through words and illustrations the individual experiences, anecdotes, and recollections of participants in the battle – a soldier playing Claude Debussy compositions on a piano as the battle for Clervaux rages around him, the bagging of a “Christmas swan,” the last stand of a 57mm anti-tank gun at a river crossing, and more – Vansant gives the reader, especially one learning of the battle for the first time, a rich and varied insight into the battle from multiple points of view.

Vansant has been able to pack into a little more than 100 pages not only the “big picture” story of what the Germans called Operation Watch on the Rhine, but also the many individual stories of small units, soldiers, and civilians that personalize the battle and make it more than arrows and symbols on a map. In recounting through words and illustrations the individual experiences, anecdotes, and recollections of participants in the battle – a soldier playing Claude Debussy compositions on a piano as the battle for Clervaux rages around him, the bagging of a “Christmas swan,” the last stand of a 57mm anti-tank gun at a river crossing, and more – Vansant gives the reader, especially one learning of the battle for the first time, a rich and varied insight into the battle from multiple points of view.Spread2(1)

Vansant’s The Battle of the Bulge is one of the best ways a reader, safe indoors with a hot drink and good food at hand, can appreciate the sacrifices of those who were engaged in a bitter fight, right about this time of year, 70 years ago and a world away. This book is an introduction to understanding those who, shivering in frozen foxholes, frigid tanks, or dark cellars, hungry, homesick, and afraid, fought the last great battle in the European Theater during World War II.