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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

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  949 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Russ Moore
May 28, 2013 Russ Moore rated it really liked it
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 presentation of the facts is well-researched and we
Oct 21, 2013 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: world-wars
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 this one.
The book gives in-depth biographies to e
Jul 20, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
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 well researched account describes the Allied rescue ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Rachel rated it liked it
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. The reviews of the book usually report that it is ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 02, 2014 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
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 course they team up with the Austrian resistance an ...more
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 the jacket say, this would make a great movie.
Jun 04, 2015 Thee_ron_clark rated it really liked it
Shelves: action, war, historical
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 a close and the Nazis are near defeat, the camp i
Jun 22, 2014 Cameron rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
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 occupants. In a bizarre twist of allegiances, a former S ...more
May 05, 2016 James rated it liked it
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 end and dead set on killing the French prisoners a ...more
Mar 17, 2014 Bernard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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 heroes and villains, and tanks. Harding gives a lot
Aug 02, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
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.
victor harris
May 30, 2013 victor harris rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 15, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
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.
Review to follow soon
Mark Chandler
Dec 13, 2016 Mark Chandler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome story!!!!

I love history, I love true stories but most importantly I love stories that have got little play in the past. Who could imagine a situation where we and Germans would be allies during WWII? Great reading for history buffs!!!
Chip Cocks
Feb 12, 2017 Chip Cocks rated it did not like it
It was a great story, but the writing was terrible! Also it should've been one chapter not a whole book.
Jimmy Ryals
Feb 12, 2017 Jimmy Ryals rated it liked it
A good story, not particularly well-written.
Jul 17, 2013 Trekscribbler rated it really liked it
Have You Ever Heard of the Battle of Schloss Itter?

Mild confession here, folks: I haven’t read all that many military thrillers. It isn’t that I don’t like then; rather, it’s just that … well … I haven’t read all that many of them. When it comes to nonfiction, I tend to prefer books that deal with either eras and/or specific individuals (and the parts they played). As a consequence, I may not be the best reader to offer up a modest review of THE LAST BATTLE. Or, depending upon your preferences,
Mar 04, 2017 Becky rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Proof that truth is stranger than fiction, The Last Battle chronicles a little-known event in which American and German soldiers banded together to protect French VIP's from fanatical SS troops in the final days of WWII. True, Harding is no Stephen Ambrose, and his writing style comes off a bit dry at times. But the fantastical nature of the story and its colorful cast of real life heroes and villains kept me enthralled to the final page.
I recommend The Last Battle to all WWII history buffs. Af
Mark Congiusta
Mar 07, 2017 Mark Congiusta rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
War is hell(ishly interesting).
Oct 08, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok
The Last Battle
Author: Stephen Harding
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Published In: Boston, MA, USA
Date: 2013
Pgs: 256


Hitler is dead. The Reich has fallen. The SS is still holding a group of French prisoners at a castle in the Alps. Captain Jack Lee and his men are tasked with their rescue. Their backup...a German officer and his men who have no love for the SS and have volunteered to join the fight.


Why this book:

Tyler Griffin
Oct 04, 2013 Tyler Griffin rated it it was amazing
The Last Battle

The Novel, The Last Battle, is a piece written by author Stephen Harding, a military affairs journalist, with a passion for modern day, and historical conflicts. For twenty years he reported around the world for the U.S Army Magazine, and currently is a senior editor of Military History Magazine. He has written a variety of military books, and biographies, both historical, and modern day. For example: “Viking Mersey”, and “Great Liners at War”. Both books of historical timelines
Sep 30, 2013 Mr rated it really liked it
I admire author Stephen Harding’s decision to keep this relatively short book tightly focused on a single unique military engagement in May 1945 while also providing ample context for the people and places central to the action. Many reviewers have applauded THE LAST BATTLE as “a story so wild that it has to be made into a movie.” In fact, it would be right at home as a sequel to “Kelly’s Heroes,” the 1970 war comedy. Hollywood, however, would make a mess of this true story.

Matthew West
Aug 08, 2013 Matthew West rated it did not like it
Truly terrible war drama. Virtually unreadable.

The initial premise is enough to arouse anyone's interest, but Harding's execution is downright dreadful and saps the story of any real suspense.

I am exactly halfway through the novel and there has been perhaps 30-40 pages of action, ie: characters actually doing something. The rest of this WWII encyclopedia is crammed with looooooooong introductions to minor characters that delve into ridiculous detail and do nothing to support the narrative. Hones
Peter Stuart
Dec 23, 2016 Peter Stuart rated it liked it
2 1/2 stars, but you can't do 1/2 ratings.

A side conflict in the May '45 days of the war. A well told story, written in an engaging manner. No spoilers here, but you will be left wondering how the core people of the tail acted as they did.
May 31, 2013 Patrick rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-two
This is a good book about the last hours of World War Two in Europe, when an unlikely battlefield alliance between American and German soldiers kept French prisoners from being killed by die-hard Nazis.

The book would have been even better if Stephen Harding had not taken such pains to highlight the depth and scope of his research. Harding has a dry but interesting writing style more common to long-form magazine articles than to books. He or his editors apparently decided that 53 pages of acknow
Keri Weaver
Aug 19, 2013 Keri Weaver rated it really liked it
This book is already short (less than 200 pages of main text), and in truth not much is actually about "the last battle" for Schloss Itter. (Not really a battle - more of a skirmish, but who's nitpicking?) What really required only a lengthy magazine article has been transformed into a book with lots and lots of historical and personal background: the castle itself, the French VIPs and others who were imprisoned there, the Nazi administration of their detention, the SS and Wehrmacht officers who ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it
The notion is under-explored in pop culture of the reluctant soldier. The young boys and old men (whose surrendering slows the support of the castles defenders) who surrender, saying they never fired a shot; or the multitudes of conscripted Austrians who are Austrians first. And the German army, sickened by the SS. This nuance is missing from our modern re-tellings of WWII stories. The SS, at the end, had almost as many Axis enemies as Allies, at least here anyway.

It is extremely well written. T
Aug 08, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2
In such a large world event, there are countless stories to be told, many of them somewhat beyond belief, but you come to a point where you feel that anything bizarre has already been retold and maybe you've heard it all before. This story puts you in your place, however.

The author does a sufficient job of building up the back story of the numerous characters involved, and keeps your interest throughout the first half of the book, almost all of which is just setting the scene. The battle itself
Hanley5545 Hanley
Nov 11, 2013 Hanley5545 Hanley rated it really liked it
This was well worth the read. The specific context and history of the events,their origins in time and place and politics are well described and the unusual location of the story are all very interesting and captivating. The truth of the story and the deep and specific recording of how it all occurred and how /who acted with what motives and results are also well done. I consider myself well versed in the history of WWII in Europe and how the Nazi/German Wehrmacht operation operated...where and ...more
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As a defense journalist Stephen Harding covered the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and, most recently, Iraq. The author of seven books and some 300 magazine articles, he specializes in military, aviation and maritime topics."
More about Stephen Harding...

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“Though he didn’t yet know it, Lee was about to be thrust into an unlikely battle involving the alpine castle whose icon was obscured by a fold in his map, a group of combative French VIPs, an uneasy alliance with the enemy, a fight to the death against overwhelming odds, and the last—and arguably the strangest—ground combat action of World War II in Europe.” 0 likes
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