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No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II
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No Less Than Victory: A Novel of World War II

3.8 179
by Jeff Shaara

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After the success at Normandy, the Allied commanders are confident that the war in Europe will soon be over. But in December 1944, in the Ardennes Forest, the Germans launch a ruthless counteroffensive that begins the Battle of the Bulge. The Führer will spare nothing to preserve his twisted vision of a “Thousand Year Reich,” but stout American


After the success at Normandy, the Allied commanders are confident that the war in Europe will soon be over. But in December 1944, in the Ardennes Forest, the Germans launch a ruthless counteroffensive that begins the Battle of the Bulge. The Führer will spare nothing to preserve his twisted vision of a “Thousand Year Reich,” but stout American resistance defeats the German thrust. No Less Than Victory is a riveting account presented through the eyes of Eisenhower, Patton, and the soldiers who struggled face-to-face with their enemy, as well as from the vantage point of Germany’s old soldier, Gerd von Rundstedt, and Hitler’s golden boy, Albert Speer. Jeff Shaara carries the reader on a journey that defines the spirit of the soldier and the horror of a madman’s dreams.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Firmly straddling the ground between war novel and military history, the conclusion to Shaara's WWII European theater series contains the usual mix of real life military leaders and fictional soldiers in combat, recapitulating the last five months of the war, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of concentration camps. Shaara's real-life figures (generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt) mostly appear in stilted scenes to discuss strategy, while fictional characters carry the narrative by doing the fighting. Thanks to Shaara's visceral descriptive powers, we ride on a bombing mission with bombardier Sergeant Buckley as his B-17 flies through the flak-filled skies over Germany. With Private Benson, we feel the cold, deprivation and sense of dislocation of the Ardennes. And we sit in an observation post right on the Germans' doorstep as Captain Harroway calls down artillery fire on the enemy. In the end, Shaara delivers nothing we haven't already read in Stephen E. Ambrose's Band of Brothers or Cornelius Ryan's The Last Battle, but fans of military fiction will definitely gobble this up. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“[An] incisive portrait of war . . . Jeff Shaara [is] one of the grand masters of military fiction.”—BookPage
“A powerful evocation of the war in Europe . . . impossible to put down until the very end.”—Huntington News Network
“Fans of military fiction will definitely gobble this up.”—Publishers Weekly
“Vividly portrays the war’s final act.”—Pensacola News Journal

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
World War II , #3
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt


Bassingbourn Airfield, Near Cambridge, England November 14, 1944

He was already cold, ice in both legs, that same annoying knot freezing in his stomach. The plane shimmied sideways, and he rocked with it, felt the nose go up, could see the ground falling away, the B-17 climbing higher, steeper. Just in front was another plane, and he could see the tail gunner, moving into position, facing him. They were barely three hundred feet above the ground when the plane in front began to bank to the left, and his plane followed, mimicking the turn. Out to the side, the predawn light was broken by faint reflections of the big bombers just behind and to the right, doing the same maneuver. There were sparks from some of the big engines, unnerving, but the mechanics had done their job, and once full daylight came, the sparks would fade away.

They continued to climb, as steeply as the B-17 would go without stalling, every pilot knowing the feeling, that sudden bucking of the nose when the plane had begun to stop flying. But the bombardier could do nothing but ride. During takeoff, he was only a passenger, the pilot in the cockpit above him doing his job. He leaned as the plane banked into a sharper angle, knew they were circling, still close to the plane in front, more moving up with them. Some were already above, the first to take off, but they had disappeared into thick cloud cover, his own now reaching the dense ceiling, the plane in front of him barely visible. Wetness began to smear the Plexiglas cone in front of him, heavy mist from the clouds. In training, he had been told that the bombardier had the best seat in the plane, as far forward as you could sit, right in the nose, a clear view in every direction but behind. Even the pilot couldn’t see downward, had to rely on the planes flying in formation beneath him to keep their distance. But in the dense cloud cover, there was nothing to see, streams of rain still flowing across the Plexiglas, and now, blindness, the clouds thicker still, no sign of the plane in front of him at all.

Behind him to the left sat the navigator, silent as well, staring into his instruments. The blindness in front of them was annoying, then agonizing, the plane still shimmying, small bounces in the rough air, the pilot using his skills to keep his plane at precisely the attitude of those around him. The bombardier leaned as far forward as his safety belt would allow, searched the dense gray above them for some break, the first signs of sunlight, made a low curse shared by every American in the Eighth Air Force. British weather . . .

There had been nothing unusual about this mission, the men awakened at four in the morning, a quick breakfast, then out to the massive sea of planes. The preparation and inspection of the plane had been done by the ground crew, always in the dark, men who did not have the flight crew’s luxury of sleeping as late as four. But as they gathered beside their own bird, eight of the ten-man crew pitched in, working alongside the ground crew for the final preparation, while the pilot and copilot perched high in the cockpit ran through their checklists, inspections of their own. Like the other crewmen, the bombardier had helped pull the enormous props in a slow turn, rolling the engines over manually, loosening the oil. He knew very little about engines, had never owned a car, never earned that particular badge that inspired pride in the mechanics, a cake of grease under the fingernails. But oil seemed important to those who knew, maybe as much as gasoline, and the need for plenty of both wasn’t lost on anyone. If the ground crew said the oil needed to be loosened up, then by God he would pitch in to loosen it up. After some predetermined number of pulls, the chief mechanic gave the word, and the pull of the heavy prop blades became easier, the slow stuttering of the engines, the small generator igniting the sparks that would gradually kick each of the four engines into motion. The crews would stand back, admiring, their efforts paying off in a huge belch of smoke and thunder, the props turning on their own. Even the older mechanics seemed to enjoy that brief moment, swallowed by the exhaust, the hard sounds rolling inside them, deafening, all the power that would take this great bird up to visit the enemy one more time.

With the engines warming up, the pilot had given the usual hand signal, the order to climb aboard. The bomber’s crew would move toward the hatches, and the veterans could predict who would be first in line. It was always the newest man, this time a show of eagerness by the ball turret gunner, a man who did not yet know how scared he should be. As the crew moved toward the hatches, the men who stayed behind had one more job, offering a helping hand, some a final pat on the rump, or a few words meant to impart luck. There were customs now, some of the ground crew reciting the same quick prayer or making the same pledge, to buy the first drink or light the first cigarette. See you tonight. Give those Nazi bastards one for me. Some had written names or brief messages on the bombs themselves, usually profane, a vulgar greeting no one else would ever read. All of this had begun at random, but by now it had become ceremony, and the brief chatter held meaning, had become comforting repetition to all of them. There was another ceremony as well. As the crew passed beneath the nose, each man reached up to tap the shiny metal below the brightly painted head of an alligator, all teeth and glowing eyes. The plane had been named Big Gator, some of her original crew insisting that she be endowed with a symbol of something to inspire fear in the enemy. No one had asked if any Germans actually knew what an alligator was, but the flight engineer had come from Louisiana bayou country, and he had made the argument that none of the others could dispute. Not even the pilot had argued. As long as the painted emblem was ferocious, Big Gator worked just fine. This morning, they were embarking on their thirty-second mission, and thus far, only one man had sustained more than a minor combat wound: the ball turret gunner, replaced now by this new man who seemed to believe he would shoot down the entire Luftwaffe.

With longevity came even greater superstition, especially for the ground crew. There was a desperate awareness of the odds, of fate. Thirty-one successful missions was an unnerving statistic by now, rarer by the week. It was the reason for all the rituals, the most religious among them believing that God must somehow be paying particular attention. If someone said a prayer, the same prayer, it might encourage a Divine smile toward this bird that would bring these men home one more time.

The superstitions were reinforced by the number of combat missions they were required to fly, what had become a sore point to every crewman in the Eighth Air Force. Originally, each crewman was expected to complete twenty-five missions, a number that had become some sort of magic achievement. As a man passed twenty, the rituals became more intense, some drawing one more X on the wall beside their beds, some refusing the poker games for fear of draining away their luck. Then the number of missions had been raised to thirty, and the grumbling had erupted into unguarded cursing toward the air commanders. But the missions continued, the superstitions adjusted, and the new men, the replacements, seemed not to know the difference. After a time, word had come, some officer knowing to pass along the order and then duck for cover. The number had been raised to thirty-five. The protests had erupted again, but the brass had been inflexible and unapologetic. As the bombing campaigns intensified, the flow of new crews from the training centers was too slow to keep up with the need for more and more aircraft. That was the official explanation. But word had filtered through the hangars and barracks that the number of missions had been raised because so many of the crews were being killed. Experienced crewmen had already begun to grumble that thirty-five might become a luxury, that someone far up the chain of command had already decided the number would continue to rise. The men who had seen so many from their own squadrons fall out of the sky were beginning to believe that they would have to fly as many missions as it would take for them to be killed.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of A Chain of Thunder, A Blaze of Glory, The Final Storm, No Less Than Victory, The Steel Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure—two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic, The Killer Angels. Shaara was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Gettysburg.

Brief Biography

Kalispell, Montana
Date of Birth:
February 21, 1952
Place of Birth:
New Brunswick, New Jersey
B.S. in Criminology, Florida State University, 1974

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No Less Than Victory 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 179 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some plot lines or story threads are left incomplete. Balanced view of each side of the war, and discussed from the senior strategists as well as the GI's in the foxholes. Would have been interesting and even more balanced to have had the same foxhole-level story on the German side.
jfk1942 More than 1 year ago
As usual like his father Jeff does a great job of bringing history to life.I liked the characters, especially Benson. & Higgins. I can't wait till next year when he starts the new series on the Pacific.
RevArt More than 1 year ago
I have found this to be the perfect conclusion to the WWII trilogy. Shaara continues to use his unique style to move the plot forward. I found the depiction of the characters engaging. He has the ability to put you into the narrative, feel the cold, smell the gunpowder, and grieve the carnage of war. The narrative moves along at a brisk pace. This is a classic in hisorical fiction. Highly recommended to all who are interested in WWII.
Varonius More than 1 year ago
Both Michael and Jeff Shaara's books fill that unique niche in the book world. Both write historical fiction that is based upon actual events but is not the same old "histories" that offer only the details of the events. Their books let the reader "feel" the events that transpired and help the reader understand what it meant for these men and women to "live" through the history that was taking place. I highly recommend their books as a supplement to the true histories for a better understanding of these events of history. I have read all their books and will continue to read all their future offerings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best, most well-researched fictional accounts of WW2 I've ever read. Jeff Shaara nails it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We are huge Jeff Shaara fans, and my husband loved this book. My dad is a WWII vet (although of the South Pacific, in the Navy), and we went to a book-signing event at our local Barnes & Noble and had Mr. Shaara inscribe a personal message. Dad read it before New Year's! Jeff Shaara picked up where his dad left off in his focusing on small details of real wars and fleshing out real people using imagined encounters with fictional ones. I feel he's easily as talented as his father was. Highly recommended.
THEBRIT More than 1 year ago
Another superb offering from Jeff Shaara! His father's "Killer Angels" first got me hooked and I always wondered at the seemingly "seamless" transition when Jeff took up the task of completing the Civil War trilogy. Father and son were so obviously on the same wavelength. I have never found history to be a "dry" subject but it appears often to be thought so, particularly by the younger generation, but Michael and Jeff Shaara's books should be required reading in history classes at school. Often taught as a boring list of events and dates, history is ultimately about the people and that is where the Shaaras excel.........they take you inside the particpants and allow you to watch the events, as they happen, through their eyes. Close your eyes and you can smell the blood, sweat and powdersmoke and feel the tears. No Less Than Victory gives an extraordinary insight into what it was like to BE THERE, in the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge in that cold and miserable winer of 1944/45. Other, non-fiction, histories will give more detail, but NLTV allows one to experience those happenings on the personal level from the "poor bloody infantry" who froze in the snow and mud to the "brass" at Ike's SHAEF HQ. Make sure you read it in the warm - you'll still feel cold, wet and miserable at times! And if this your first Shaara, then read the others....travel back in time to D Day, Gettysburg, Bunker Hill and a hundred other momentous events and make personal acquaintances of the fascinating cast of characters who shaped history. Yes, this IS the way history should be taught!
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WMB More than 1 year ago
Last in the series. Great book. Great series.
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