Thursday, May 21, 2020
A GI in the Ardennes
As a collector of WWII books since the 1980s it takes quite a lot to stun me. But I am truly stunned by A GI in the Ardennes by Denis Hambucken. This book is so filled with brilliant essays about GIs, the Battle of the Bulge and relevant artifacts that I must immediately congratulate the author and his publishers.
Having read several Battle of the Bulge books, seen lots of documentaries and driven around in the Ardennes in an original WWII Jeep one comes to think of new questions about what the fighting there was like and how various practical matters were resolved. In Belgian author Denis Hambucken´s new (2020) book, first published in French in 2017, so many of these questions are answered in 109 short but brilliant essays on subjects such as the draft, the GI uniform, dog tags, individual and squad weapons, a solder´s pay, field rations, "battle fatigue", V-mail and German trophies. I find myself especially impressed with the sections about the M1928 haversack, "Axis Sally", German mines and Christmas in the Ardennes.
What makes this book so outstanding is that combines excellent photographs of original artifacts (many types I have never seen before) with testimonies of veterans and Belgian civilians. You might think that the author is uncritical of the GIs, considering his deep passion for their artifacts. Well, there are actually several passages that are critical, moving and surprising.
Briefly put, I would say that Denis Hambucken has set a new standard for WWII books. The Ardennes aside, this is one of the best WWII books I have ever come across.