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Hardcover When the Odds Were Even: The Vosges Mountains Campaign, October 1944-January 1945 Book

ISBN: 0891415122

ISBN13: 9780891415121

When the Odds Were Even: The Vosges Mountains Campaign, October 1944-January 1945

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Book Overview

In three months of savage fighting, the U.S. Seventh Army did what no army in the history of modern warfare had ever done beforeconquer an enemy defending the Vosges Mountains. With the toughest terrain on the Western Front, the Vosges mountain range was seemingly an impregnable fortress, manned by German troops determined to hold the last barrier between the Allies and the Rhine. Yet despite nearly constant rain, snow, ice, and mud, soldiers of the...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The odds WERE even

The one thing most of the other reviewers (who discount the author's theory that the odds were even) seem to forget is that the US Army was NOT at it's peak in terms of riflemen in 1945. The US Army had under estimated the number of casualties they would suffer in European combat and so they were stretched to the limit as far as infantrymen. They had to shorten the length of basic training and were combing men out of every other non-combat unit they could find to fill the gaps. Also, they were finally creating more African American combat units (prior to this point, most were restricted to non-combat functions, like driving trucks) because of the shortage. Add to that the fact that the Seventh Army was stretched thin due to troops being moved to the Ardenne to counter the German attack there. If anything, the German units were more rested than the US troops and their line of supply was a lot shorter than the US supply line, always a critical factor in combat. I think this reflects the whole "German super soldier" myth that the German's propagated themselves in 39' and which still survives today with so many WWII buffs.

The odds were far from even, but the analysis was excellent!

Mr Bonn tries to support his view that the Vosges campaign of 1944 was a rare example of fighting between the German and the US Army under even odds, but he also admits that the German divisions were badly drained from experienced personnel and weapons and badly trained. The truth is that by the end of 1944 the Wehrmacht was gutted in the Eastern Front where it had lost its best troops and the Western Allies rarely came against first rate divisions, let alone ones of complete strength. Despite this drawvack and also some simplistic notes about the organisation of the two opponents (the German divisions of 1939 had little resemblance to their 1944 brethren), the analysis of the plans and the battles is really excellent. Mr Bonn gives many details about each division engaged in the fighting and each divisional or corps or army commander, presenting a bird's eye view of the campaign. I especially liked the absolutely marvellous and very professional analysis of General Balck's mistake regarding the corps' boundaries before the November 12 US offensive, something that only a former officer like Mr Bonn gan give the reader. There are many maps to support the text, but their quality is poor and certainly not equal to that of the narrative. The book contains some black and white photos and many bibliography notes.

Logical, Accurate and Balanced

Both during and after World War Two, historians and military thinkers sought to analyze the relative effectiveness of American and German combat units. As an active duty infantry officer and a veteran of the United States Military Academy, Keith E. Bonn decided to tackle the task of comparing German and American efficiencies in the combat of World War Two in his book titled When The Odds Were Even. In order to accomplish his goal of critical analization, Bonn searched for a place and time during the war where neither side enjoyed a tactical or operational advantage other than the pure combat readiness and efficiency of the respective units. Bonn found this place and time to be the Vosge Mountains from October 1944 to January 1945. According to Bonn, when the odds were even the Americans demonstrated that they were the better fighting force. Through his historical accuracy, well-developed logic, and excellent balance throughout the book, Bonn successfully proves his thesis. To accomplish his mission of determining whether the Germans or Americans were better battlefield units, Bonn breaks his book down into five main sections. He begins with a thorough introduction of the Vosge Mountains (both the High and Low Vosges). This section aims at giving the reader a perspective on how the terrain looked, and how it limited technological advantages for either side. Bonn uses this section to emphasize how this specific place and time would provide an accurate account of which force was superior. The second section, titled The Opposing Forces, provides the reader with background information about the doctrine, training and organization for each country's army. This portion of the book serves to arm the reader with knowledge about how exactly each nation fought battles, and why they fought that way. Furthermore, this allows the reader to make their own conjectures about the combat readiness of both forces before actually knowing what does happen in the battles for the Vosges Mountains. The third and fourth sections of the book outline the battles for the High Vosges and Low Vosges respectively. In each section Bonn goes into extreme detail about the campaigns and ends each section with a conclusion that offers his personal analysis and arguments for which side he felt was superior. In the final section of this book, The Vosage Mountains In Perspective, Bonn shows the impact of the training, doctrine and organization, which he had previously outlined in the section titled The Opposing Forces, on the outcome of the battles for the Vosge Mountains. In order to determine the accuracy of Bonn's argument it is essential to examine the resources used in the development of this book. Through this examination of sources, the accuracy of Bonn's argument shows its validity. While Bonn does rely on many secondary sources such as books and journal articles, he also uses German documents, unit histories, manuscripts, and interviews, as well as United States Army

Rousing & Well-Written Tome About Vosges Mountains Campaign!

Most military historians are likely to offer the Battle of the Bulge as constituting proof positive of the Allies' military prowess and ability to fight toe to toe with the Wehrmacht and win. Yet, in this fine book by Keith E. Bonn, the author argues persuasively that in the battle for the Vosges Mountain region in the late fall and winter of 1944-45, the Allies in general, and the American army in particular, showed just how well they could meet the challenge of defeating a numerically superior foe that was well dug-in and much more familiar with the terrain. The stunning defeat of the German forces at the hands of the Americans should put quite a wrinkle in the discussion about the war being decided by either the sheer weight of Allied logistics support or of overwhelming numerical advantage. Here the odds truly were even.This campaign conducted toward the end of the war is a stirring account of how the American Seventh Army gradually but steadily breached the well-established fortifications in the Vosges Mountain region, where the remnants of the Wehrmacht had reconstituted itself in a last ditch effort to punish the Allies and slow their progress across the region's passes. Indeed, Bonn illustrates how many of the German army's finest combat forces were clustered into the area in an effort to safeguard it. In summary, he shows how all of the prevailing conditions initially favored the defenders, and shows how the American Seventh army systematically worked its way painfully but effectively through the stagnant defense and gradually overcame all these initial advantages. In so doing the American army made history, for it was the first time a defender had been successfully defeated in the Vosges Mountains region. As another reviewer commented, Bonn shows how the better organized and better trained American troops acted in systematically attacking and overcoming each of the many obstacles the Germans had erected to repel them. Of course, it is also true that the American forces were better able to focus the kinds of men and equipment they needed to overcome the circumstances. Yet, even when considering the fact of superior logistical support and air superiority, one must recognize that even when these advantages were removed due to poor weather, extremely rugged terrain, the ongoing competition for scarce resources due to the rush toward Berlin, the Americans simply outthought, outmaneuvered, and outfought their German opponents. Thus, this book offers a stunning example of how well the American fighting man could compete on the battlefield when adequately trained and equipped. "When the Odds Were Even" offers powerful testimony to that fact, and by carefully analyzing the campaign, succeeds marvelously in conveying an accurate and quite detailed portrait of the relative merits of the two opposing sides. I agree with another reviewer's comment that this book is destined to become a classic, and should be on any serious WWII scholar's readi

Of the Best Printed on the US in World War II

The time? Autumn and winter 1944-45. The place? The VosgesMountains of northeastern France. Allied forces from the 7th US Armypitted against the vaunted, often overly hailed, but numericallysuperior Wehrmacht pierced the perimeter of Hitler's Army Group G.Defending the Vaterland from the formidable defensive bastions in theAlsace were some of Germany's finest combat formations. However, forthe first time in military history an attacker vanquished a defenderentrenched in the Vosges Mountains. While the odds were even for bothsides in terms of personnel strengths and combat multipliers, USdoctrine was more clearly reflected in the organization of its troopsfor combat and US soldiers were far better trained and led than mostof their German counterparts. The result of these differences was thesuccess of American arms in the Vosges Campaign. Infantry officer andauthor Keith E. Bonn conducts a complete analysis of the winter battlein When the Odds Were Even.. While explaining the ground rules forcomparing historical entities, Bonn offers a precise and thoroughlyresearched chronicle of the campaign from its initial successes inearly October to the harsh fight for the Low Vosges in the closingdays of 1944. At this point in the Second World War the Americanspossessed air, logistical, and manpower superiority in the EuropeanTheater of Operations. However, due to the poor weather andimpregnable terrain in the Vosges those advantages were obviated andthe opposing forces were pitted against each other clearly on eventerms. Referring to Clausewitzian principles and doctrinal concepts,Bonn offers the reader an absolute complete case study of this oftenoverlooked battle. This great mountain barrier of the VosgesMountains constituted the last great geographical barrier before theRhine itself. Crossing the Rhine would place the Allies on thedoorstep of the Third Reich. By late 1944 the German Army in the westwas suited neither by organization or personal training for theexecution of its mission to hold back the Allies from the gates ofGermany. While the American's tactical and operational doctrine wasvery similar to the that of the Germans, the US 6th and 15th Corpsclearly out fought the Germans. In the end, the victor would bedecided not by the numbers, air power, or armor superiority, but bytraining and tactical proficiency. And that victor was the US Army.When the Odds Were Even carefully analyzes this campaign and conveysan accurate picture of the comparative combat proficiency of the twoadversaries involved. Bonn's thesis is confirmed by one of Germany'sown Gerhard Graser,, official historian (and combat veteran) of the198th Infantry Division, which had three years of combat on theEastern Front before engaging the Americans in the Vosges when hewrote in his Zwischen Kattegat und Kaukasus: Weg and Kämpfe der198. Infanterie-Division (From the Kattegat to the Caucasus: The Routeand Battles of the 198th Inf Div -- Tübingen, 1961) "The fighting[
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