Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book review - The Last Battle

The Last Battle tells the history of an obscure fire fight that took place in Austria in early May, 1945. It was unique in that US and German soldiers fought side by side against a determined group of die hard SS troops.

A small castle in an obscure town in Austria was used by Germany as a prison for high value political prisoners. The prisoners, a group of high level French politicians, were housed in relative comfort but were still prisoners of the Reich. There were held as political bargaining chips and included names like Daladier, Weygand, Reynaud and Clemenceau.

When it became clear that the war was lost, the German SS commandant left the prison and the prisoners unprotected. Alerted to the situation by Austrian partisans and fearing that roving bands of die hard SS might act on orders to kill them, an American tanker was ordered to secure the castle and protect the prisoners. When he arrived, he found that a few German soldiers had also decided to protect the French politicians and the two former enemies joined forces against the SS.

This obscure battle in a remote Austrian town had a profound effect on the future but details about it had been lost to history until Stephen Harding's research brought it to light.

Harding spends a great deal of time describing the prisoners and the key players. This makes reading a little slow but it is necessary to set the background for what is to happen. The battle itself was probably rather routine for the time and was relatively short, ending when a larger group arrived and the SS retreated in the face of a superior force. What is unique is that German and US soldiers fought side by side in the last day of the war.

Harding tries to provide an after the war follow up on the people involved. This was easy to do for the French politicians. He was also able to learn a little about the post war life of the US commander. But the life of the other soldiers after the war is unknown.

This is worth reading to learn about a unique piece of history.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Thanks for the heads up, got a LONG trip coming and need reading material!