12th SS Panzer Division HITLERJUGEND
From Operation GOODWOOD To April 1945
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 Casemate 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series takes in-depth looks at the men, weapons and battles of specific conflicts, and are noted for using previously unpublished photographs, frequently taken by the combatants themselves.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 books in this series all share similar content style and physical characteristics, including timelines, profiles of key individuals, maps, explanatory text boxes, which provide clear overviews of campaigns or units which are the subjects of the volumes in this series.
This book addresses WWII Germany’s 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, from the Normandy campaign’s Operation GOODWOOD to war ending actions in April 1945.
Formed in June 1943, this unit was intended to be a part of combatting the expected Allied invasion of France. The manpower for the unit was largely made up of teenaged members of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend), with personnel from 1st SS Panzer Division Liebstandarte providing key leadership positions. This unit spent a good bit of it’s existence fighting alongside and in the same actions as Liebstandarte.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 128 pages
Size - 10.0" x 8.0”
Photos - 150+ B&W period images
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - a timeline, maps, full color vehicle profiles
All text and photo captions are in English
What’s in the Book?
Above - the book’s table of contents outlines the short, active and violent history of the unit.
The 12th SS Hitlerjugend Panzer Division made its reputation for tenacious defense in heavy fighting around Caen, during the opening phases of the Normandy campaign. In August 1944, they were a part of the forces holding the escape route open from the Falaise pocket, enabling roughly 10,000 members of the unit to escape for refitting and reorganization. The unit would be heard from again, as a part of the German forces during the Ardennes Offensive.
Above - there are several useful maps found in this volume, showing actions that the division was involved with. These maps are well drawn and easily understood.
The photographs used to illustrate this book are generally pretty good. Some have been seen elsewhere, and some seem to me to be of a rather generic nature, not specific to the Hitlerjugend panzer division. As with any book of this sort, some of the in-action style images can be just a bit dark, or grainy, understandable given the conditions under which the photographs were taken. Photo sizes range from quarter page size to some full page images and even two-page spreads.
The book includes some thumbnail biographies of notable commanders of the unit, including some of those who survived the war to be tried for war crimes committed by the 12th SS panzer divisions.
The book describes the unit’s actions and activities as can be seen in the table of contents, including it’s reorganization in October, 1944 following the Normandy campaign, the Ardennes Offensive, and counterattacks against the Soviets in Hungary, beginning in February 1945. There are many interesting images of the fighting in Hungary. In April 1945, all German forces were forced out of Hungary, with 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend reduced now to a kampfgruppe fighting in Austria. What remained of the division surrendered to American forces on May 8, 1945.
Above - There are a couple of armored vehicle profiles in this volume, which include a single aspect, full color drawing of the vehicle, technical information, and some general background information on the subject.
During it’s less than 2 years of existence, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend led an active life. As one of Germany’s vaunted SS panzer units, it was staffed with well trained, committed troops, and equipped with the best that Germany had to offer. In a slim volume such as this one, the author has done a good job covering the events and actions that the division was involved with, most of which would take an entire book to describe in better detail.
The author ( and his translator ) have done a solid job of describing the combat history of this unit, given the limits of this volume's size. The photographs are well chosen for interest, with minor issues mentioned above. The tables, maps and color profiles of AFV’s are useful and nice additions to this book.
This book would serve as a good introduction to the combat history of a unit involved in some of WWII’s bloodiest and most critical battles.
Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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