The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable story of the heroic rescue of priceless horses in the closing days of World War II

WINNER OF THE PEN AWARD FOR RESEARCH NONFICTION

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.

With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.

Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.

A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.

Praise for The Perfect Horse

“Winningly readable . . . Letts captures both the personalities and the stakes of this daring mission with such a sharp ear for drama that the whole second half of the book reads like a WWII thriller dreamed up by Alan Furst or Len Deighton. . . . The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.”Kirkus Reviews
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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Aug 23, 2016
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9780345544810
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Military / World War II
Nature / Animals / Horses
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Arabs created one of the world's finest breeds of saddle horses, the Arabian, and they have long possessed an immense store of knowledge regarding the care, training, and breeding of this splendid horse. In the nineteenth century, General Melchior Joseph Eugene Daumas had access to their knowledge even though, as he pointed out, "it requires a great deal of patience and tact for a Christian to obtain from the Mohammedans even the most insignificant of details . . ." General Daumas was, because of his unique relationship with the Arabs, probably the first European to produce a comprehensive study of Arabian horses. And to add even greater value to The Horses of the Sahara, he was able to secure for the ninth edition, here translated, extended commentaries on all aspects of Arabian horsemanship by the Emir Abd-el-Kadar, one of the most important nineteenth-century Arab leaders and certainly one of the foremost authorities on the subject.

The Horses of the Sahara will be of interest not only to equestrians but also to historians and other scholars interested in the customs of the North African desert tribes and in the complex backgrounds of European–North African relations. General Daumas took part in the conquest of Algeria by France, so distinguishing himself that he was named Director of the Bureau of Algerian Affairs in the French Ministry of War. During the campaigns and the occupation that followed, he studied and attempted to understand the native peoples, with an objectivity and sympathy unusual among the colonialists of the period. His book provides fascinating sidelights on many aspects of Arab life, including customs, superstitions, religion, and family life.

Sheila M. Ohlendorf was uniquely suited to translate The Horses of the Sahara. An excellent rider herself, thoroughly experienced with the animals and the techniques being discussed, she also spoke fluent French, having received her B.A. degree in languages from Texas Western University (now the University of Texas at El Paso). As curator of the Hall of the Horsemen, the large collection at the University of Texas at Austin, she had access to a wide variety of supplementary authorities, which enriched both her translation and the notes that accompany the book.

A surprise birthday gift plunged Joe Camp and his wife, Kathleen, into the world of horses as complete neophytes without a clue as to what horses needed or wanted. The Camps went searching for logic and sense in the rule books of traditional horse care and what they found was not what they had expected. Written for everyone who has ever loved a horse or even loved the idea of having a horse in their lives, this memoir leads us on a riveting voyage of discovery as Joe and Kathleen navigate uncharted, often politically incorrect territory on their way to achieving a true relationship with their horses.

As the creator of the beloved Benji series, Joe has spent most of his life luring us into the heart and soul of a famous dog, but now in this engaging, emotional, and often humorous story, he deftly lures us into the heart and soul of a horse. In doing so, he exposes astonishing truths and unlocks the mystery of a majestic creature who has survived on Earth, without assistance, for fifty-five million years. In a single emotionally charged moment, Camp communes with his first horse, Cash, in a way that changes him and his relationship with horses forever. In his own words, as he stood alone with his back to this horse: The collar of my jacket was tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. And my heart was pounding. Then a puff of warm, moist air brushed my ear. My heart skipped a beat. He was really close. Then I felt his nose on my shoulder . . . I couldn’t believe it. Tears came out of nowhere and streamed down my cheeks. I had spoken to him in his own language, and he had listened . . . and he had chosen to be with me. He had said, I trust you.

Ingeniously alternating between the stories of two people thrust into an unfamiliar, enigmatic realm and a fabled herd of wild horses brought to the New World centuries ago, Joe Camp’s valuable and inspiring book teaches us that the lessons he was learning apply not only to his horses but to life and to people as well–to all of us.
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