German Mountain Troops 1939-42
Casemate publishes an astonishingly wide array of military history books, on virtually every topic from every conflict dating back to the first human that picked up a rock and bashed his neighbor with it. Their "Illustrated" series takes in-depth looks at the men, weapons and battles of specific conflicts, and are noted for using previously unpublished photographs, frequently taken by the combatants themselves.
The subject of this book is the Gebirgstruppen, German World War II "mountain units" made up of men trained and equipped to fight in mountainous terrain. Due to their overall effectiveness, training and esprit de corps, these elite units ( some 15 divisions, eventually ) were pressed into service on all fronts, from north of the Arctic Circle to the sands of Libya. The time frame covered by this book encompasses the early campaigns of WWII, from 1939-42.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 128 pages
Size - 10.0" x 7.0"
Photos - 150+ images, black and white, with a substantial number of full color images as well.
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - timeline of the Gebrigstruppen units actions and movements, some tables in appendices.
All text and photo captions are in English
What's in the Book?
In the Author's Note, the author details the use in this book of largely amateur-taken, previously unpublished photographs. He also discusses the occasional use of colorized images, used at times to better present the period conditions.
As seen above, the book's Table of Contents clearly shows in a chronological manner which early WWII campaigns that the Gebirgstruppen units were actively involved in, which in some cases include actions that were largely overshadowing by later, larger campaigns.
The campaigns themselves are discussed in a relatively concise, compact manner, giving the reader a good amount of background of the particular campaign, and the involvement of Gebirgstruppen units in it. As this is an illustrated history, a large number of fascinating images accompany the text. These images includes full color looks at headgear, uniforms and the famed edelweiss insignia worn by these troops.
There are a mix of black and white / full color images found throughout this volume. At least in my opinion, the full color images somehow show the starkness of some of the regions ( particularly in the north of Norway ) where the mountain troops operated a bit better than black and white images.
A Note on the Images - bear in mind that the photographs presented in this book are quite a mixed bag. There are original black and white photos, original full color images that may be just a bit faded or dark, some images that were "colorized" after the fact, and there's also even a modern photo or two in the book. While image quality can vary just a bit here and there due to decades passing, or the initial conditions varying greatly when the image was first made, the images in the book are all highly interesting. The images selected by the author are well suited to illustrate the chapter subjects.
An interesting facet of this volume is the thumbnail biographies of several of the leaders of the Gebirgstruppen units, such as the gent pictured above; Eduard Dietl, one of the best known commanders of these troops.
Throughout the book, the text is cleanly and clearly written, allowing the reader to follow the actions described easily.
Seen throughout the book are images of the mountain troops in various actions on all fronts, along with their vehicles, artillery, and all sorts of equipment. Photo sizes in the book range from quarter page sized up to roughly one half page sized images, most of them tend to be on the smaller end of the spectrum. Regardless of size, details can be made out in most images, including the smaller ones.
The book also has reproductions of contemporary artwork, showing the troops in various actions.
The book closes with three interesting appendices ( one seen above ), a listing of sources for those interested in further reading on the Gebirgstruppen, and finally, an Index.
This book is a really good look at some of Germany's finest elite units, units that didn't quite gain the widespread fame ( or notoriety) of some of Germany's other elite bodies of troops. The Gebirgstruppen served the German war machine very well, in some harsh environments. The book does a very efficient job of giving the reader a solid look at the varied early war actions that these troops participated in.
The images in this book are wide ranging in terms of activities shown, and locations where taken. One thing that they all have in common is that they are uniformly interesting. Quality of the individual photos do vary somewhat as discussed above, this is not a problem in my view.
Text work and photo captioning is very nicely done, cleanly and clearly written.
I found this book to be a very illuminating study on some of WWII Germany's finest combat troops in their most successful actions of the early war period. I hope that a second book is coming, covering 1943-45!
Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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