The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I

By Lockenour, Jay | The Historian, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I


Lockenour, Jay, The Historian


The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I. By Peter Hart. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. x, 453. $34.95.)

Peter Hart's The Last Battle gives voice to the soldiers who fought in the final battles of World War I: the Fifth Battle of Ypres, the Battles of the Sambre, the Selle, and the Meuse-Argonne. It was during these battles that Allied victory emerged in November 1918, as a result of the "accumulated strength and proven fighting prowess of the Allied armies, their underlying materiel supremacy and the gradual collapse of German discipline in the face of inevitable defeat" (ix). By recounting these battles of the so-called Hundred Days Offensive in the words of the men who fought them, Hart provides the reader with a sense of the enormous effort required and the many risks taken even after the watershed battles of the Second Marne and Amiens.

A very significant portion of the text consists of long quotes from the memoirs, letters, and recorded testimony of a wide variety of mainly Allied and American soldiers and airmen. The author is attentive to the experience of African-Americans in the United States Army, but uses very few German witnesses and almost completely neglects the role of colonial troops in the French and British armies (other than Canadian and Australian). While Foch, Haig, Ludendorff, and other commanders make appearances, the vast majority of Hart's sources were at the front as lieutenants, captains, majors, and, in a few cases, private soldiers. …

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