A New York Times Bestseller!
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 Army’s last great cavalrymen, American 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
“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 Perfect Horse” brings all the pathos and excitement of that mission to life again. The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.”
“Whether you’re a history buff, a horse fan, or can appreciate how doing one positive thing can have enormous impact, The Perfect Horse is the perfect read for you. –Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review
“THE PERFECT HORSE tells a fascinating story of bravery and benevolence that has gone far too long without reaching an audience. Full of action, heartbreak and well-developed characters, it has everything needed to be adapted into an outstanding war movie. To anyone with a love of horses or other animals, Letts’ fantastic, almost humanizing characterizations of some of the horses will make this book an instant favorite. And to history buffs, THE PERFECT HORSE provides a totally fresh look at WWII that can’t be found anywhere else.”
“Although it is trite to say that this is a real page turner and a book that is hard to put down, it is so…Ultimately, this is one of those stories that can also be an object lesson in that sometimes humans can come together and put aside their enmities to preserve international and cultural treasures on behalf of generations to come.”
“Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses. . . . The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.”
“Passionately-told and dazzling in scope, The Perfect Horse charges headlong into an unforgettable tale of World War II, when good men are given a final mission—to save beloved horses—at an hour when no one wants to die. In the hands of Elizabeth Letts, the saga of the endangered white stallions has found its perfect guardian. Prepare to grip the reins.”
“Elizabeth Letts is a masterful storyteller. Her beautiful prose, woven together with meticulous research, takes you for a ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. Thank you Elizabeth for bringing this story back from the lost pages of history for us all to experience and appreciate!”
“In the early years of World War II, the finest purebred horses in Nazi-occupied Europe, including the famed Lipizzaner stallions from Vienna, were stolen by the Germans for experiments to develop the perfect horse. In this spellbinding, heart-stopping book, Elizabeth Letts does full justice to the extraordinary drama of the horses’ rescue in the war’s chaotic final days by American troops, who, aided by a handful of horse-loving German officers, slipped behind enemy lines to save them.”
“Elizabeth Letts deftly tells a harrowing tale of a little known war time mission and its unlikely heroes who understood the treasures that they were risking their lives for were more than some of the world’s finest bred horses, but a precious link to civilization itself at a time that it was under perilous threat. This is the best kind of story telling.”
“An enthralling and moving story that I could not put down. Elizabeth Letts’s masterly woven narrative carries readers through the stables of Europe’s grandest horses and traces their harrowing journey through the war and beyond. A riveting and unique perspective on World War II. History buffs and horse lovers will enjoy this amazing tale.”
“Our 56-million-year partnership with horses has undergone many phases, but we have probably always treasured equines, judging by the art on cave walls left by our Ice Ages ancestors. In Elizabeth Letts’ engrossing, richly researched book–a story of horses and heroism during the final days of World War II–we learn that our human instinct to protect our equine friends can cause us to even risk our own lives for their sake. This relatively unknown episode is as moving as it is dramatic.”