With Their Bare Hands, The Battle for Montfaucon in WWI

Published: July 27th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: Osprey Publishing
Reviewed by: Rob Benson - IPMS# 44038
ISBN #: ISBN 978-1-4728-2979-5
Other Publication Information: Hardback, eBook and ePDF formats available
Price: $22.00

Thank you, Osprey Publishing, for providing a review copy of another of excellent World War I history volume. This book is a welcome and well-timed addition as the 100th anniversary of the end of the "Great War" approaches later this year. I hope reader of this book will gain an important appreciation and understanding of the raw, brutal nature of combat, often controversial decisions, poor battlefield judgments, and most of all the grit and persistence of the America Doughboys of the American Expeditionary Forces.

As always, I truly appreciate all those in the IPMS Reviewer Corps, whose work is critical to sharing new and exciting modeling and historical products with the world. Thank you for allowing me to read and review this book.


With Their Bare Hands is not a quick and light read, but is a longer, thorough and enjoying reading experience. While the book is indeed historical nonfiction, the writing style is modern and engaging, with many examples of contemporary and colloquial language retained. The recounting does not start with earshot of artillery, with the exception of a well-placer "teaser" prologue, but in a broad fabric from start to finish, ending in the overarching The Battle for Montfaucon. I spent much time with coffee enjoying this book.

Content Coverage

A quick scan of the table of contents will show an apparent progression of historical ordering that may initially suggest a traditional plodding through facts, but With Their Bare Hands is far from that. The book reads like a gripping novel, anchored in historical events, including perspectives from both side as needed. I personally appreciated the geological description of the battlefield and surrounding region. The political maneuvering, the subsequent reality of decisions made, and ultimately how to fight in a new age of warfare are described in detail, including the complexities of raising an army. The shifting nature of the war, the logistics of getting to the battlefield, and autonomy of command all provided significant challenges.

A minimum of five full chapters are devoted to engagements of all kinds. The fact that any progress occurred at all is impressive, with the confusion and general disorganization often found in the rear areas. Nonetheless, the persistence and fortitude demonstrated by the Americans in eventually reaching the "periscope" is amazing. I thought it ironic that the periscope atop the hill was operational when secured, but rendered useless when the eyepiece was stolen as a souvenir. The author's descriptions of then-and-now buildings and fortifications adds the extra benefit of the author's fieldwork to any visits to the region.

The last chapter is an overview of the concluding days of the war, with not only the challenges of achieving a ceasefire at the front, but the political turmoil on the German side. Wholesale rebellion and desertions were taking place in early November of 1919, and the German government was deeply afraid of Bolshevism. At the cessation of hostilities, troops took to writing to relatives of those who died, and looked forward to going home, with or without a parade.

The epilogue provides an excellent concluding summary and wrap-up, with interesting after-war biographies of the major characters. The United States rushed into WWI by all accounts, with many missteps. Troops trained for unknown combat situations and conditions of trench warfare, but found themselves well outside of expected conditions. Yet they succeeded, demonstrating in six months "lightning fast military innovation." Two appendices follow, along with a comprehensive notes section and bibliography.

Overall Recommendation

I absolutely recommend this book, a great read to which I will return often. Thank you Mr. Fax, you helped me connect with my grandfather, who like "Lobe", did not talk about the war much. I did not know until he passed on about his service in the "Pocket" with Major Whittlesea not far away from With Their Bare Hands. You helped me understand. I hope this book will help others connect with ancestors.

Thanks again to Osprey Publishing; your company's work helps keep history alive. Thank you again to the stalwart Reviewer Corps for your hard work in making these review opportunities happen, Go Team!

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