German Mountain Troops 1942-45
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series takes in-depth looks at the men, weapons and battles of specific conflicts, and are noted for using previously unpublished photographs, frequently taken by the combatants themselves.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.
This is the second volume in a two book set. Volume I of the set (German Mountain Troops, 1939-42) was favorably reviewed previously by AMPS.
The time frame covered by this book covers the mid to late years of WWII, where these German mountain troop units were ever more increasingly used in “fire brigade” roles far from mountainous areas. The mountain troops were were also increasingly employed near the end of the war in anti-partisan operations alongside other units that had no qualms about committing atrocities.
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 and colorized images as well.
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - timeline of the Gebrigstruppen units actions and movements
All text and photo captions are in English
What’s in the Book?
This volume of the two book set takes up right where the first volume left off, and covers the Gebirgstruppen actions through to the end of World War II. Each regional campaign is neatly covered in it’s own chapter, as can be seen in the above table of contents.
The book also provides a nice time-line (seen above) that makes it quite obvious that these elite troops troops were employed on all fronts, in areas of greatest need, without much in the way of down time. A consequence of the non-stop use of these troops is discussed by the author in his brief but interesting Afterword, where the use of methamphetemines in tablet or chocolate form by overworked, stressed troops is revealed.
The narrative for the chapters is well written and easy to follow. The descriptions of the events is largely “big-picture” style, outlining troop movements and actions. The author does a great job of providing the reader with a solid amount of background information on the how’s, why’s and where’s of the situation existing before and during the actions. In the cases of areas where the mountain troops were engaged in anti-partisan operations, this helps to explain the bitterness and brutality that occurred.
The text throughout the book is cleanly written, clear and easily followed. There are none of the issues that sometimes arise in English language translations of books written by non English speakers. The author very clearly knows his subject matter well, and his writing shows it.
The photographs and other illustrations seen throughout the book are quite well chosen. They range from privately-taken black and white period photographs, full color period images, “colorized” images, formal style portraits, period German Army magazine covers, and images of period propaganda/recruitment posters. In short, the author cast a very wide (and very effective) net for the images used in this book.
The range of subject matter for the images themselves is also wide, ranging from candid action shots to formal portraits of unit commanders, and a great many images of uniforms and equipment.
As a result of the wide range of sources for the book’s images, some of them are just a bit bit less than perfect. This is both quite understandable and acceptable in my opinion, given the interesting subject matter of the images. I found the wide variety of images seen throughout this book to be fascinating.
The image above showcases this volume’s strengths; crisp, well written narrative and a variety of interesting images from various sources to accompany the text. I could almost have written this review simply based on this single image of a two page spread!
I’m really very glad to have had the opportunity to review both volumes of this two volume set. It expanded my knowledge of these elite troops considerably. Previously my sole mental image of Edelweisse flower-wearing Gebirgstruppen was that of German troops planting a flag on Mt Elbrus in the mountains of the Caucasus.
The author does a terrific job of outlining the many campaigns and areas where the German Mountain troops fought throughout the war, and the unique challenges that some of these areas brought. The level of detail that he provides struck me as just right. The text flows well and is easily followed, and the images that accompany this text are quite well selected by the author.
I found this book (indeed, both volumes in the set) to be greatly interesting, full of fascinating content!
Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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