Maj Chris Buckham is an active duty logistics officer in the RCAF who reviews books in his spare time. He maintains a blog of his reviews at: www.themilitaryreviewer.blogspot.com
The Canadian Army was involved in three major actions during the latter portion of the Second World War: the Normandy Invasion, the Battle of the Scheldt and the operations to clear the west bank of the Rhine and northern Germany: Operations Veritable and Blockbuster. Canadian command and troops undertook key leadership and personnel roles in each of these ops.
The author’s book, Forgotten Victory, refocuses attention on the critical Canadian role in the final of the three above listed campaigns. Overshadowed by the Battle of the Bulge, the American/British drive in the South and the Soviet juggernaut in the East, the Canadians nevertheless played a decisive role in creating the conditions whereby the Allies could drive across the Rhine and into the heart of Germany.
Zuehlke takes a holistic approach to his discussions of the operations, as well as the minor ops leading up to them. Thus, the reader is provided with information relating to Command relationships (both formal and interpersonal), logistics demands and concerns, operational considerations and the complexity of combined (what would today be referred to as ‘joint’ operations) involving Allied land and air forces (both tactical and strategic).
It is worth noting that, for this campaign, the Commander of the First Canadian Army, Gen Crerar, commanded an army (comprising mainly Canadians but also other allied forces) of 500,000 men – the largest in Canadian history. Additionally, the author paints a vivid picture of the environment within which the Canadians and their Allies were operating. The winter was brutal and made all the more so by the frequent freeze-thaw cycles that reduced mobility to a crawl; further hampered by the vast flooding operations by the Germans that limited lines of approach to grimy and barely passable high ground pre-registered by German artillery and machine guns.
Zuehlke has an eminently readable writing style encompassing a vast array of information and data that presents a deep and comprehensive picture for the reader. His books have almost exclusively focused on the role of the Canadian Army in the European theater of war, and his appreciation and depth of knowledge is evident throughout the book. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that conveys accurately the horrors and challenges of these operations as well as the heroism, competence, and drive of the officers and soldiers so engaged.
Reviewed by Chris Buckham for War History Online
By Mark Zuehlke
Douglas and McIntyre