The Last Battle by Stephen Harding

The Last Battle

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 Germans. 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 ...

Details The Last Battle

TitleThe Last Battle
Release DateMay 7th, 2013
PublisherDa Capo Press Inc.
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, War, World War II, Military, Military History, Military Fiction, Historical, North American Hi..., American History, European History, Literature, 20th Century

Reviews The Last Battle

  • Katie
    I wanted to like this book very badly. I was extremely interested in the premise- and the story itself, by the way, is pretty fascinating- but the author brought a terribly dry tone to his writing. I enjoy history books and it is very rare for me to consider them boring. This was a boring book, in spite of its (deeply interesting) subject. People who are reluctant to read history are reluctant because they think all history books are written like...
  • Russ Moore
    Why haven't I heard of this battle before?Take ten American GIs, one Sherman tank, fifteen German soldiers, fourteen quarrelsome French dignitaries, a handful of concentration camp survivors, and two hundred execution-minded Nazis; put them together against the backstop of a medieval German castle on last day of fighting in WWII's Europe, and you have the makings for a fantastic screenplay. Stephen Harding is clearly a dedicated historian - his p...
  • Cheryl
    In the weeks after the suicide of Hitler, an end to World War II had not officially been declared. As the Allied forces continued their push into Germany and Austria, they encountered small groups of loyal Nazis who were willing to fight to the death to stop the Allied advance. Unbeknownst to American troops, a small group of French VIP prisoners and their "numbered servants" were being held captive in an old castle in the Austrian Tyrol. This we...
  • KB
    Stephen Harding's The Last Battle chronicles an obscure event that occurred in the closing hours of World War II in Europe, during which a motley band of American soldiers, German defectors, and elderly high-profile French political prisoners were besieged within a medieval Austrian castle by fanatical Waffen-SS Nazis.The narrative ably conveys the pervasive sense of desperate chaos that reigned throughout the war zone in May of 1945 as Germany's...
  • Rachel
    I happened to watch The Book Thief the night before I read this book. The film was based on a book (which I haven't read so I can't testify as to how closely the film mirrored the book)about a German family who sheltered a Jewish refugee--at least for a time--and sheltered the daughter of a woman who was arrested for being a communist. The Last Battle is about some German soldiers who protected some French prisoners against other German soldiers....
  • James
    3.5 Stars - A well-researched examination of a very interesting chapter in WWII, one of the very last chapters, in which a medieval castle holding French political prisoners in Austria is captured and defended by a small band of American tankers, local resistance fighters, and friendly German soldiers who have long recognized the folly of their Nazi leaders, all pitted against 200 fanatical Nazi Waffen-SS troops fighting for Hitler to the bitter ...
  • Margaret Sankey
    In an area of Austria I know very well, the Nazis confined a bunch of squabbling French VIP prisoners (Gamelin, Clemenceau's son, De Gaulle's sister, Weygand, Daladier, Jouhaux) of varying political stripes to a fortified schloss under a crappy SS jailer. Days after Hitler's suicide, with Waffen-SS units wandering the hills and likely to kill the prisoners, messages got out to both a local German army unit as well as an American tank column. Of c...
  • J. Bryce
    A unique book about the last-days-of-WWII operation to free six French VIPs (politicians from pre-war days) from an SS-held castle in Austria. Along with sympathetic Wehrmacht (i.e., regular German Army -- not Nazi) soldiers, a small element of the US Army fought a day-long battle against SS troops still loyal to the dead Hitler and the Third Reich.Not particularly well written though not bad, but recommended for the interested. As many blurbs on...
  • LibraryCin
    3.5 starsThere is a castle in Austria called Schloss Itter. During WWII, there were French VIPs (mostly politicians) who were kept prisoner in Schloss Itter; needless to say, it was a fairly comfortable place to be kept prisoner during the war. When the war was over, though, they needed to be rescued. So, after the war had officially ended, American soldiers came together with a few German soldiers to get the French VIPs out, but there was a batt...
  • R.L.M. Sanchez
    Perhaps the least publicized and most bizarre battle of WWII. During the interim between Hitler's suicide on April 30th, and Nazi Germany's surrender on May 7th, the Nazi Schutzstaffel, or SS, were given orders ranging from eliminating evidence of concentration camps, to executing political prisoners. The Battle of Castle Itter marks the one battle in WWII where US GIs and the German Wermacht, fought together to route a radical company of Waffen ...
  • Laurence
    Most of this is back story, the actual battle is actually pretty straight forward. With the right direction it could make for a good WWII movie. It was short, otherwise it wouldn't have been worth it.
  • Thee_ron_clark
    The Last Battle is an interesting and true story of the final battle between American and Nazi soldiers during World War II. The part that makes it much more interesting is that Austrian soldiers switched sides to assist the American soldiers in a pitched battle against Nazi hardliners.This book leads up to the final battle that takes place at an Austrian castle used as a German POW camp for high-profile French prisoners. As World War II comes to...
  • Michele
    A very well researched book about the the almost unbelievable story of one of the strangest battles of WWII. Its the story of unlikely allies at the close of the war; a small group of American Tanker soldiers, some war-tired German soldiers and a group of quarreling French VIP prisoners vs Fanatical Nazi SS troops in the Austrian alps at a medieval castle, Schloss Itter. I could have used some additional maps, but overall, well done.
  • Phrodrick
    It is said that war consists of long periods of too little happening and a few moments of too many things happening. Such is the case with Stephen Harding’s The Last Battle. Journalist that he is he has found one of the least likely events of World War II and given us a chance to meet the people who lived it. While I tend to agree with those reviewers who felt the buildup was over long and the point of the story delayed. I cannot report this as...
  • Phil
    This book is one of those gems I just happened upon without holding any great expectation about it. The book turned out to be a fascinating vignette of an obscure battle found near the very end of the World War in Europe.There is so much intriguing about the story, I find it difficult to write about it for fear of spoiling the tale for other readers.Here is the gist of the story. Schloss Itter is a castle in Austria picked by Himmler to house VIP...
  • Martin
    A good book, but the Author's obvious desire to get a movie made gets in the way of a good solid history. It's good but not exceptional, although some may enjoy the dramatisation. In 1945 in Southern Austria, a group of high value French Hostages/Prisoners are trapped in a Nazi Prison. The Allies want to save them, some retreating Waffen SS might like to kill them, and a handful of German soldiers and Austrian resistance fighters thought they wer...
  • Daniel
    An amazing story about a siege at the end of the war where an American tank commander and an infantry squad teamed up with a German SS officer and a group of German Wiermark soldiers to rescue French VIPs,(2 prime ministers, 2 generals of the army, a socialist union leader, a famous tennis star and others) in a Austrian castle turned VIP concentration camp against the last gasp of a frantic and still zealot SS army intent on killing the VIPs all ...
  • Jim
    A pretty decent account of a little-known military engagement that united American, German, and partisan forces to protect a group of high-value French prisoners from Nazi troops in the waning hours of the war in Europe. A little too much background on the French, methinks. Much bravery displayed against poor odds, aided by some last minute luck. Overall, a good piece of history.
  • Joe Debenedictis
    Super detailed book, very good
  • Cameron
    A story that had to be told, The Last Battle is about the attempt by an American tank commander (Jack Lee) to rescue a group of high-ranking French politicians who were imprisoned by the Nazis in an Austrian castle in the mountains east of Innsbruck. During the final days of the war, an SS unit was dispatched to execute the prisoners, and Lee--with a small contingent of American infantry and one tank--scrambled to defend the castle and its occupa...
  • John Collins
    I was fascinated by the subtitle of this book, because I’d never heard of this event before. That’s surprising, then throw in the compelling storyline of Germans and Americans joining together to protect French prisoners in an Austrian castle, and I had to read it! However, I’m hesitant to rate this book higher because the story is dragged down by what seems like excessive contextual and background information. About three quarters of the b...
  • Bernard
    How is this not a major motion picture yet?Stephen Harding's tale of World War II has everything you'd want: exotic locations, a sharp gun battle, shifty politicians, actual stone-cold-killer Nazis, and a daring rescue at the end. And it's all true. Harding weaves an intricate and engrossing tapestry about the end of the war in Europe and the liberation of some high-value political prisoners who'd been stashed in Austria by the Nazis. There are h...
  • S.R. Dixon
    I was attracted to the basic premise - what would bring German and American soldiers together to fight side-by-side? The answer, in short, is Nazi fanaticism even as the defeat of the Reich is inevitable. An intriguing premise for what turns out to be a rather average book.As resource material for the era, Stephen Harding provides a thoroughly researched book. Perhaps too thoroughly researched. The book bogs down from time to time with exhausting...
  • Carl Palmateer
    A curious story about a mixed up little skirmish in the short period between Hitler's death and the end of the war. A VIP prison housing eminent French personages is in limbo and thus in danger. Some want to use them to gain better treatment from the Allies, some want them dead. A strange collection of Wehrmacht, SS, Partisans, and US troops gather to protect them from an SS unit with orders to kill them while awaiting the arrival of the cavalry....
  • Dawn
    A few weeks after Hitler is dead and days before the European war is officially over, American troops in Austria are alerted to the fact that 14 French VIP prisoners and several "numbered" prisoners are being held in the Schloss-Itter Castle. About 10 soldiers, a Sherman tank, and a handful of defected German soldiers join forces to rescue them in the final battle of the war. If you can get past the first few chapters, it's a fascinating, incred...
  • Jim
    Well researched and well written. My only criticism is that the length is a little short (173 pages) even after a thorough background and history on every participant and the castle. The fight, as it turns out was a small affair relative to the larger war, but fascinating since you had Germans fighting alongside Americans against other Germans, protecting French and other nationalities prisoners. Overall an excellent read.
  • Niles
    There's more clashing of personalities than of military forces in this book. But the author does a great job of relating the setting and characters in a way that makes it enjoyable to read. History buffs will enjoy the biographical aspects, as well as just what an interesting confluence of events and people that this battle was. However, those who are not history buffs may find there to be too much history and not enough action.
  • victor harris
    Very interesting story, could have been handled better by reducing some technical clutter that belongs in a glossary. Also could have used some more maps when describing the assault near the end of the book. It was difficult to determine who was located where. Still worth the read as it is one of the most unusual and overlooked stories of the war.
  • Glen
    Such a fascinating story. Surprising I haven’t heard of it before. How has it not been made into a movie? The book. Why 4-Stars? It was well written but not superior. Lacked detail in some areas where it needed it. It was a little short for this significant of an event. But overall, it was a pleasure to read.
  • Steve
    An extremely readable tale of the defense of Schloss Itter at the end of WWII by a motley group of Americans, Germans and Austrian resistance fighters to protect some French VIP prisoners.