The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe

The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe

3.6 16
by Stephen Harding
     
 

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May 1945. Hitler is dead, and the Third Reich little more than smoking rubble. No GI wants to be the last man killed in action against the Nazis. But for cigar-chewing, rough-talking, hard-drinking, hard-charging Captain Jack Lee and his men, there is one more mission: rescue fourteen prominent French prisoners held in an SS-guarded castle high in the Austrian Alps.…  See more details below

Overview

May 1945. Hitler is dead, and the Third Reich little more than smoking rubble. No GI wants to be the last man killed in action against the Nazis. But for cigar-chewing, rough-talking, hard-drinking, hard-charging Captain Jack Lee and his men, there is one more mission: rescue fourteen prominent French prisoners held in an SS-guarded castle high in the Austrian Alps. It’s a dangerous mission, but Lee has help from a decorated German Wehrmacht officer and his men, who voluntarily join the fight.

Based on personal memoirs, author interviews, and official American, German, and French histories, The Last Battle is the nearly unbelievable story of the most improbable battle of World War II—a tale of unlikely allies, bravery, cowardice, and desperate combat between implacable enemies.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Last Battle

“A tale as compelling as it is unlikely. The Last Battle demonstrates that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction, particularly in war. Well-researched and well-told.”—Rick Atkinson, author of The Day of Battle

“Stephen Harding has a laser-beam instinct for the detail that tells the story, he’s a fine writer, and, most important, knows a good story when he sees one. All the above is true of The Last Battle, one of the more remarkable battles in a truly vast war, now very nicely illuminated.”—Alan Furst, bestselling author of Dark Star and Night Soldiers

“A little-known but fascinating story brought brilliantly to life.”—Alex Kershaw, bestselling author of The Liberator

“I love untold stories from World War II, and this is a great one. Brilliantly told, meticulously researched, and filled with larger-than-life heroes and villains. The Last Battle is such a compelling read, I couldn’t put it down.”—Patrick K. O’Donnell, bestselling author of Dog Company

The Last Battle combines good history and good storytelling. Harding writes with the skill and grace of a novelist but also the authority of an historian who has done some rather remarkable research into a previously lost chapter from World War II’s final days. I had trouble putting this book down, and I think you will, too.”—John C. McManus, author of September Hope

“The Nazis capture two former Prime Ministers of France (who detest each other) and lock them in a medieval castle in Austria. A handful of intrepid American soldiers sets out to rescue them. And then...well, you’ll have to read The Last Battle to find out what happened. It’s going to make a fantastic action movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger, call your agent!”—Peter Carlson, author of K Blows Top

San Diego Union Tribune, 4/28/13
“At the heart of The Last Battle is a largely unknown story that (a) seems implausible, (b) would make a great movie, and (c) reminds us that almost 70 years after the end of World War II there are countless tales still to be told…Harding’s skills as a researcher and dedicated historian are apparent…[A] moment-by-moment real-time report of the events from the viewpoints of the Americans and prisoners…Page-turning…Harding has brought the implausible story to life.”

New York Journal of Books, 4/29/13
“Well done and eminently readable.”

Daily Beast, 5/12/13
“The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding's The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie…Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?...Harding is a respected military affairs expert…and his writing style carries immediacy as well as authority…Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once…While the book concentrates on the fight for Castle Itter, it also sets that battle in the wider strategic contexts…This book is thus a fascinating microcosm of a nation and society in collapse…Part Where Eagles Dare, part Guns of Navarone, this story is as exciting as it is far-fetched, but unlike in those iconic war movies, every word of The Last Battle is true.”

Roanoke Times, 6/9/13
“If, in these halcyon days, a Hollywood screenwriter had approached a major producer with a movie script so packed with improbabilities, so extraordinary in its premises and fanciful in its conclusions, he — the screenwriter — would very likely have been shown the door….sheer tension and melodrama…Stephen Harding, a career journalist and military historian, has put together a fine tale of heroism and cowardice, petty bickering and unselfish sacrifice, and if Hollywood does not snap it up for an epic film, that’s its loss….A page-turner.”

ARMY Magazine, 9/1/13
“The book is a very quick read…The Last Battle has the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster… Harding is a gifted storyteller and effective military historian who details the battle and its background with precision…This compact work is an unqualified success and will prove immensely enjoyable for virtually any reader of ARMY.  With the pace of a tightly-written novel, Harding writes with the determination of a true crime novelist and thoroughness of a first-rate historian.”

CollectedMiscellany.com, 8/15/13
“Harding recounts a fascinating piece of World War II history…Harding writes an engaging story about a battle that helped save many of France’s political elite from certain death.”

On Point: The Journal of Army History, Winter 2014
The Last Battle provides a fascinating glimpse into a situation so bizarre and deadly that Hollywood could not have dreamed it up, though they will probably be happy to buy the movie rights…truth is stranger than fiction.”

Examiner.com, 1/17/14
“One of the most bizarre and fascinating tales to come out of World War II is documented in the highly praised new book The Last Battle.”

War History Online, 1/19/14
“The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding’s The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie…Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once.”

Military Review,9/1/14
“Harding does an excellent job in his research and pieces together the few available fragments to tell a story of trust, uncertainty, and moral righteousness.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306822094
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
61,844
File size:
5 MB

Meet the Author

As a journalist specializing in military affairs, Stephen Harding has reported from Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Iraq. Currently senior editor at Military History magazine, he lives in Virginia.

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The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
MidoriMusic More than 1 year ago
This book was an enjoyable read for the WWII history buff. It was a bit too involved with details that did not lend to the story line and took us into French politics and infighting too much. It was, however, most informative about the confusion that took place at the end of the war. I think we forget that it was not an easily wrapped up package. The author helped to clarify this feeling of confusion and gave us some food for thought as we wrap up our own decade of conflict.
dodger99 More than 1 year ago
Outstanding historical narritive! The author takes no artistic liberties and tells it like it is. Setting the stage for a telling of real life events that Hollywood could never do better, and all of it really happened!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a Military History buff, fan and historian for most of my life. I specialize in World War II, this is one story I had never heard about before perhaps because it is so little known. Mr. Harding weaves a tale that appears to be fiction since it is so amazing,. Actually, it is quite true.  Members of the American Army, the German Army and the SS working together to save French VIPs scheduled to be assasinated.  Mr. Harding is a very gifted writer, he writes in such a way to keep the reader engrossed and wanting to know more. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is well researched and well written story of a very unusual battle. The basic outline of the story is clear from the publisher's write-up and I won't repeat it. While very good, I wish that better maps and drawings of the area in general and of the battles and movements described in the book had been included and this lack is the main reason I did not give it five stars. Given that most of the people who participated in this action on either side are now dead, Mr. Harding is to be commended for his work in capturing this story before it was lost to history. It is too much to hope for I know, but it would be very interesting if any of the SS troops could be found to explain more about what orders, if any, they had received and led to the attack. I hope that if the publicity surrounding the book brings forward more participants that a revised edition could be released (with better maps!). This story, improbable but true, seems tailor made to be filmed, so I wouldn't be surprised to see that in a few years. Buy and read this book now and you will agree.
USAF-SAC More than 1 year ago
I found the first 80 to 90 pages of interest only to a serious student of WW II History. The rest of the book gave an excellent account of "The Last Battle", except for the last 80 to 90 pages would be of interest only to a serious student of WW II History. Too detailed to make it a pleasant read.
gaznam More than 1 year ago
A different World War II story. Very interesting and unusual story of how the American and Germans worked together near the end of the war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The majority of the book talks about the backgrounds of all the key players in the battle. The problem with this is that the battle takes up maybe 10 pages in the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a ww2 addict and ive never heard about it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! The book was so well written and very informative. Truly a great read. -Lauren S.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
writer-historyreader More than 1 year ago
Too much of this book could have been yanked from Wiki as it fills in the background of the folks involved. The actual battle is rather slim. We're told that there was a lot of risk involved, but most folks traveled around the battle area without having any problem. There's nothing from the hostile German side and little evidence of more than one bit of artillery. There seems to be too much hype and not enough beef here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gets better but starts slow  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sh licked his ears comfortingly.