Nobody Comes Back: A Novel of the Battle of the Bulge

Written by Donn Pearce
Review by John R. Vallely

The German offensive into the Ardennes on December 16, 1944, caught the Allied command completely by surprise. Three German armies combined to destroy four ill-prepared American divisions and threatened to drive on to capture the vital supply base of Antwerp. While initially slow to develop, the American counterattack featured some of the most savage combat for U.S. forces since Normandy and resulted in the virtual total destruction of Germany’s tank and motorized divisions. The battle occupies a central place in American memory of World War II in Europe and is looked upon as one of the greatest accomplishments in American military history.

Donn Pearce, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter for Cool Hand Luke, tells the story of the Bulge through the eyes of young Toby Parker. Parker stands in as a kind of “everyman” as he goes from green GI to combat-wise veteran. Parker is thrown into the fighting at an early stage and is quickly captured. A series of circumstances lead him to assume command of a ragtag group of American soldiers intent upon returning to U.S. lines. Parker faces the challenges and stress of the battlefield in a manner that transforms the young and naïve recruit into a soldier who has seen too much too fast. This “everyman” is finally placed in a rear area hospital, where he sees Army bureaucracy at its most idiotic. Parker has seen quite a war in a very brief time, and the reader is reminded once again of war’s cruelty and ultimate insanity.