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Passchendaele: The Untold Story, by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., and London, 1996, $30.

The drive to capture Passchendaele in the autumn of 1917 was originally conceived by British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig as a strategic offensive directed at turning the German defensive line, based on the false assumption that the German army would collapse from just one more blow. Instead, over the next four months, Haig’s beleagured troops fought a series of costly tactical engagements on a massive scale in the muddy Flanders fields.

This powerful history of one of the most brutal campaigns of World War I loses no punch due to the passage of time and continues to offer lessons for politicians and soldiers alike.

John I. Witmer