Monday, January 21, 2013

No Silent Night

I don't know about you, but Christmas always prompts me to do some very specific reading.  No, I don't re-read A Christmas Carol or The Gift of the Magi.  I read a history book and always about the same subject:  the European theater during WWII.  If the book is about the Battle of the Bulge, which took place around Christmas, 1944, so much the better.  During the holiday season, Hitler made a last, desperate attempt to stop the Allied advance into Germany by launching an attack against the American line.  The weather was brutal, the fighting was hard.  The tiny Belgian village of Bastogne was vital to German success, and the Americans rushed the 101st Airborne Division there just before the Germans encircled the place, trapping the famous "Screaming Eagles" for several days.

You may vaguely remember General Anthony McAuliffe's reply to the German demand to surrender as it's one of the legendary communications of the war.  "Nuts," he said, which I suspect puzzled the Germans who wondered about the sanity of an American commander who would demand snacks at such a time.  The messenger who delivered McAuliffe's reply assisted in the translation by helpfully explaining that "nuts" meant the same as "go to hell."  An even better example of the 101st's fighting spirit is the response of one of the paratroopers when he was told that the Germans had cut off all retreat:  "So they've got us surrounded.  Poor bastards."

This year I read No Silent Night: The Christmas Battle for Bastogne, by Leo Barron and Don Cygan.

It's a battle history and the general reader may find the description of various units and their movements a bit too detailed, but the book superbly recounts the emotions and experiences of the men, both German and American, who fought at Bastogne.

Why do I read this sort of thing around the holidays?  My best friend's dad participated in the Battle of the Bulge, and when the weather turned cold and the Christmas lights went up around our little town, Grant would remember the misery of Christmas, 1944.  It made a deep impression on me and connected me to a place and time and to men I would never meet in such a profound way that I've never lost interest in the topic.  Sadly, Grant has passed on.  I think he'd be surprised at the legacy he left with me.


  1. I happened to come upon this review, doing another word search. It's funny what pops up when you search your own name. Thank you for the wonderful review. Don and I appreciate it.

    Leo Barron
    Co-Author of No Silent Night

  2. My pleasure, Leo. I'll look forward to reading the next book, which I hope won't be long in coming.

  3. Thank you again. NAL has my book proposal for my next project. I expect to hear from them soon.