Aachen, the U.S. Army's Battle for Charlemagne's City in World War II, Robert W. Baumer


Aachen, the U.S. Army's Battle for Charlemagne's City in World War II, Robert W. Baumer

Aachen was the first major German city to fall into Allied hands during the Second World War, and its defence thus became a major focus of German attention as the Allies broke through the German border defences.

The first two thirds of the book focus on the battles to encircle the city and the German attempts to stop them. An attack on Aachen wasn't part of the original US plan - the rapid advance across France had encouraged the Allies to believe that the war was effectively won, and the original plan was to plunge onto the east and try and destroy the German industrial base in the Ruhr, but German resistance stiffened on the border, and a slower, more methodical, approach became necessary.

This book is at the very detailed end of military history, providing pillbox by pillbox accounts of individual attacks. On occasions we lose track of the overall course of the battle - I'd have started each section with a brief summary of what happened, before diving into the very detailed squad and company accounts, which are interesting in their own right, but don't tell us much about the main picture. The text does include some very impressive individual exploits - those of Captain Bobbie Brown really stand out.

We also see how the Americans had to develop a doctrine for urban warfare as they were actually fighting in Aachen, not having really considered it before the war. They were probably helped by the limited strength of the defenders, who had four Panzer IVs and very little artillery when the city was surrounded, but also learnt very quickly. The last third of the book, covering the conquest of the city, goes past very quickly, as did the US conquest of the city!

It's interesting to see how little impact Hitler's repeated demands for a fight to the death had on the German commanders in Aachen, even the hand picked Colonel Wilck, whose first act after arriving was to ask for permission to fight his way out!

This is perhaps a little too detailed in places, but otherwise a good account of this iconic battle on the borders of the Third Reich

1 - 12 September 1944
2 - VII Corps Breaches the Westwall
3 - Penetrating the Schill Line
4 - Stalemate at Stolberg
5 - XIX Corps Crosses the Wurm River
6 - XIX Corps Breaks through the Westwall
7 - XIX Corps Widens the Bridgehead
8 - South towards Alsdorf
9 - Verlautenheide, Crucifix Hill, and the Ravelsberg Fell
10 - Ultimatum and the First Attacks on Aachen
11 - The Northern Jaw
12 - The Gap Closes
13 - Surrender

Author: Robert W. Baumer
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 432
Publisher: Stackpole Books
Year: 2015

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