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Wijers' book is published

Book Review

Wijers' book is published


     "The Battle of the Bulge: The Losheim Gap - Doorway to the Meuse - U.S. Troops Block Northern German Advance,"
by Hans J. Wijers. Price: $35.00. Publisher: (Privately published book) Hans J. Wijers. Soft cover, 250 pages, black and white photographs and color photographs, maps, and copies of original documents. Books may be ordered directly from the author by sending a check to: Hans J. Wijers, Zegerijstraat 27, NL-6971 ZN BRUMMEN, The Netherlands, Telephone/fax: 0031575561132.

     This book describes the combat that took place at the Losheim Gap during the Ardennes Offensive. This area was part of the sector assigned to the American 99th Infantry Division (primarily the 393rd and 394th Regiments) from Dec. 15 to the establishment of the American defensive positions along Elsenborn Ridge.

     The information presented is based on official U.S. Army documents (AARs-After Action Reports), combined with numerous interviews with members of the 99th Infantry Division and its supporting troops, complemented by eye-witness testimonies of several members of other units that fought in the area. Official documents from the German side also grace the story, as well as eye-witness testimony from several former members of German combat units that fought in this sector of the Ardennes Offensive.

     The book describes the action at the "Northern Shoulder" of the Ardennes Offensive Losheimergraben, Lanzerath, Krinkelt, Buchholz Station, Mürringen, Wirtzfeld and Elsenborn Ridge, from Dec. 16, 1944 until the retreat of U.S. forces and the establishment of a new frontline at Elsenborn.

     The "Northern Shoulder" was where the main thrust of the German Army was halted. After nearly six years of research in the area, and with the help of many veterans of both German and American units who fought there, an in-depth account of the combat in this sector of the Ardennes Offensive is presented.

     Many first-person accounts are provided to supplement the operational details found in the original U.S. and German Army documents.

     The text is supplemented by numerous period black and white photographs, maps, copies of original documents, and color photographs of the area as it appears today. The many present-day photographs from the area will cause the reader to feel like they are stepping back in time, because, even with the passing of nearly 60 years, many of the "wounds" are still visible.

Foreward B.O. Wilkins Jr.


     "The Battle of the Bulge," the greatest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army, was not just one battle. It was hundreds of battles, some of battalion size and some of squad size and smaller. This book is the sum of many stories of many different battles — stories by individual men of the infantry, artillery, engineers and others, by leaders of squads, platoons, companies, battalions, and even divisions and armies.

     The varied topography of the Ardennes greatly influenced the pattern of the different, yet similar experiences related by men on both sides of the battle. Thick forest of tall trees, sparse areas of shorter trees (mortar positions), snowy fields, muddy trails, hills and valleys, log-covered foxholes, uncovered holes, shallow holes in ground too frozen to dig into — all contributed to the different action at the individual places of combat as well as the perception of the combatants.

     These terrain features, while allowing some secrecy and protection for the German troop movements, posed much difficulty for advancing any appreciable distances. The same features also provided for well-prepared defensive positions for the early part of the action, positions that were held in many places by the American defenders although there were wide gaps between small units, mostly outposts.

     The difficulty of the terrain and the inability of the attacking units to perform reconnaissance, plus the fog that was to have been an advantage for surprise, all combined to create great confusion for the attackers. The confusion that helped stymie the German advance of large units also lent initial confusion to the American commanders so that the magnitude of the attack could not be accurately determined.

     While there were many bits of intelligence sent back from the front lines prior to that fateful Dec. 16, there was a mind-set in the higher levels that the Germans were running out of steam, and that the thinly-held Ardennes front was ideal for breaking-in two inexperienced divisions and refitting two well-worn ones.

     The fact that the surprise attack did not follow Hitler's plan at the north shoulder is revealed in the many stories in this book, stories that show the lack of in-depth leadership on the German side, while showing individual entrepreneurship among many Americans, even when there were only two or three engaged.

     The many actions of this scale afforded precious time for reinforcements to be brought into the area, and effectively blunted the main thrust of the German offensive.

     Although I have not met the author personally, I've grown to know him through our e-mail correspondence over a period of more than a year. This young Dutchman, Hans Wijers, has impressed me with his investigative energy and his deep passion for learning all he can about the events of this important piece of history. His presentation of the many stories, colored by interviews of participants from both sides, adds interesting highlights to the already large volume of writings on this battle.

     From another standpoint, his presentations also gave me, as an editor, considerable opportunity for understanding the European terminology and putting it into a more readable American/English frame of thought. It has been a pleasure to be a part of this adventure.

B.O. Wilkins, Jr.,

K Company, 393rd Infantry

Houston TX

 

Other comments


     I have just read Hans J. Wijers new book, The Battle of the Bulge: The Losheim Gap Doorway to the Meuse. I found it very good reading, and must say he selected knowledgeable men in his compilation of personal stories. I know many of these men and have been back to their old positions several times with them. You will find some new pictures — also new stories.

     This is a book you can start on any page. After finishing this book I have gone back and easily found stories that I wanted to read again.

     I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Battle of the Bulge.

J.R. McIlroy

F Company, 393rd Inf.

     Absolutely GREAT book!!! I was up to two o'clock Sunday morning reading it. I don't think I have ever read a book with so many personal accounts.

Major Michael DeBarto,

Warrior Preparation Center, Kaiserslautern, Germany


     

     Fabulous, I can't put it down. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

Joanie Pitstick,

wife of HQ 394th Infantry veteran


     

     Your book arrived today. Looks good, with plenty of photos and interviews or letters providing first-hand accounts, German and American. Will be reading in detail soon. . . . The photos taken at Brent Mullins' place of the armored car (and myself), light tank (and Don DePasqual), Sherman, and half track turned out well. Congratulations on your evidence of good work.

Calvin C. Boykin,

814th TD Battalion


     

     Yes we received the books and they are excellent. They brought back momentous memories and flashbacks in which I recalled many things which I had forgotten. This will give the children a first hand view of what happened in the Bulge. You certainly are to be commended for a great job.

Hensil S. Cohron,

1st Bn, 394th Infantry


     

     Yes got book. Good reading but not finished. You did a good job . . . your father would be proud . . . I am sure.

Raymond Wenzel,

C Company, 394th Infantry

     

     Hans, I just began reading your book which will take some time to finish, but I like what I see. You spent a lot of time gathering information from the German side and I think that is good.

Edward T. Hojonowski

     

     Mother just called me to tell me that the two books you sent have arrived. She said they were in perfect condition — it was as if you had just handed them to her yourself! You are to be commended for taking the time and effort to put this book together. Thanks so much!

Jarrell Simmonds Larew,

daughter of Capt. Wesley Simmonds,

CO, K Company, 394th Infantry


     In 2001 Hans Wijers completed his book about the Losheim Gap, a "forgotten" in the sideline of what is now known as The Battle of the Bulge.

     After receiving this new book I wandered through the pages. Again Hans Wijers has succeeded in producing a book of a high historical level.

     His books are totally different compared to the "regular historical publications," because of the fact that he does his research with the veterans himself! He travels with the men to the battlefields and lets them tell their story on the exact place as where the event from their stories really happened!

     In his book about the Losheim Gap he also went to the former battlefield south of the German city of Monschau. This area was the most northern sector of the Battle of the Bulge.

     In my younger years I had traveled to this area but, like everybody else, most of my attention went out to the classical events which happened in Bastogne and Malmedy.

     I never realized that such heavy fighting took place in this particular sector, a sector that has been forgotten throughout the years — but not by the men who fought over there!

     Still now, after almost 60 years, you still can see the remains of what used to be the frontlines in the very cold winter of 1944-1945. Gear of German and American soldiers is still there! Gas masks, remains of Panzerfausts (a German anti-tank weapon) and steel helmets.

     I was deeply moved by some of the stories the veterans told Hans Wijers. Everybody knows everything about the men of the 101st Airborne Division who held Bastogne, but hardly nobody knows of the men of the Losheim Gap (the 99th Infantry Division) and all the other "historically nameless" American soldiers who held the frontline everywhere with lack of food and ammunition.

     And hardly anybody realizes that Bastogne was held, in part, due to these unknown soldiers, because if they hadn't kept the Germans busy, the full strength of the German forces could have turned to Bastogne — with all possible disasters that could have happened after that.

     Those "nameless" veterans now have a name, after almost 60 years! What went through (the minds of) these men, when they returned to the battlefield? No doubt it was a very emotional thing for all of them, especially for those who returned there for the first time since the end of World War II! How many brave men lost their lives there in terrible fighting for the freedom of Europe?

     Thanks to Hans Wijers and all of the veterans who are still alive these days, we now can learn all about a forgotten fight, the battle at the Losheim Gap! Read about the events, about the men, what they experienced, what they felt, how they survived. This book tells you all about it and lets you relive the events of those days through the eyes of the veterans!

Ard Rietveld

Dordrecht, The Netherlands

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