Review: “No Silent Night” by Leo Barron and Don Cygan

Title: No Silent Night: The Christmas Battle For Bastogne
Authors: Leo Barron & Don Cygan
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: New American Library, 2012

I received my copy of No Silent Night as part of the Goodreads FirstReads program. This has no effect on this review, except to ensure that I was able to get a copy of the book. New purchases are being kept to a minimum for budgetary and storage reasons at the moment…..

In December of 1944, Hitler’s Third Reich launched its last-ditch effort to stop the Allied advance–Wacht am Rhein, or the offensive that would lead to the famed Battle of the Bulge. While this battle was more than overflowing with moments of drama and heroism, one of the most fascinating elements was the battle for the small crossroads town of Bastogne. As the German offensive was once more dependent on Blitzkrieg tactics, good roads were going to be essential for moving their armor, troops and supplies quickly to where they needed to be to support the frontline’s advance deep into Allied territory. Quickly taking crossroads towns like Bastogne would be essential to the German advance–a fact that was not lost on the commanders of either side. While the German flood swept towards Bastogne, the Allied command hurriedly installed the 101st Airborne and any other stray troops they could find in defense of the town and its outlying villages, creating an island of Allied resistance that was quickly surrounded. If the defenders of Bastogne could hold out long enough, they could seriously impair the German offensive. If they failed, the Germans would have a direct supply line for their forward troops. Poorly supplied and seriously outnumbered, the defenders of Bastogne were in for a Christmas they would never forget…….

This book first caught my eye because I was passingly familiar with the story–it was featured in the stellar HBO/BBC miniseries Band Of Brothers (if you haven’t seen that, go do so immediately!) Historical narratives have a reputation (not always deserved) of being dry and uninteresting for the non-historian, but I was pleased to find this was not the case with this book. The authors tell the story of Bastogne’s defense from both sides, following both the American defenders and the German besiegers, and the style is very engaging. While the book is a secondary source, I suspect intended more for the general public than for academia, the authors have done quite a bit of original research including interviews with several of the key characters. I will undoubtedly mine their works cited section for some other works on the subject when I get the chance–several of the memoirs they cite look quite intriguing.

This is the first book either author has written, and I had never heard of either of them before, but the book was quite good. According to the dust jacket, Leo Barron has served in the 101st Airborne in Iraq, holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, and trains military intelligence officers for the US Army. Don Cygan is a history teacher and journalist.

Content: PG-13 for language and violence. Soldiers’ language can be a bit salty, and this is a narrative about war. On the whole its not too gruesome, but there are a couple occasions that are a bit disturbing and illustrate the horror of war.

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