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
This is the perfect book to make the perfect horse come alive. The best horses in Europe are brought together to save them from the war. Then some heroes help save these horses from the Germans who want to claim them. Both the men who risk their lives for these horses, and the horses themselves, are brought to life in a story well told.55
Wonderful book, learned so much that I did not know about these horses and what they went through. Hard to put down.55
I so enjoyed this book-bringing me back into history and into the culture of horse breeding. It never occurred to me to think of these prized horses when so much death and destruction prevailed. It was an Interesting read, taught me a lot of what I never knew and pulled at my heart strings. A must read book.55
A special book about special horses..God created horses so man could love something that brought him closer to heaven. Horses return love that is magic. When I get to heaven I know my horse Sugar is waiting for me.... I'll be there someday Sugar and we can be together forever....55
I have loved the Lipizzaner horses from Disney's Miracle of the White Stallions! I live in Florida and have visited their stable in Myakka. I spent a fortune to go on a travel group to see the Lipizzaners in Lipica, Slovenia. I read this book and was so glad to see the photos from way back when. I needed tissues when they moved all the horses. I never knew WitezII was mixed with them. I never knew Alois fought in WWI and couldn't use his throat much from a bullet in his neck. I can't believe they were shifted so much. I am glad that I got to see the mares and stallions on their farms. I bet you don't know they are born dark and turn lighter as they age. I am so glad they were saved but cried for the ones lost forever. I hope you like horses and want to read about these Special Horses. I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.55