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Today we look at three top quality books. One is a new volume, one is part of a larger series, and one is a revised edition of an old classic. All three are highly regarded at Stone & Stone and strongly recommended.
Jaffee, Walter. The Victory Ships from A to Z. Benicia, CA: The Glencannon Press, 2006
Introduction; photos; line drawings; Bibliography; Victory Ship Index; General Index
Appendices: Legislation, Agreements, and Programs Affecting Victory Ships; Victory Ship Memorials
Having already assembled a heavy-duty book covering Liberty ships, Captain Walter Jaffee has turned his attention to the other mass-produced American cargo vessels of the war years, the Victory ships. Designed for late wartime use and post-war commerce, the original blueprints dated from 1942 but the first ship was not built until 1944. Jaffee provides all the background in his first four chapters:
- The Birth of the Victory
- The Final Design
- The Shipyards
The next five chapters cover the versions produced during the construction program: AP2, AP3, AP4, AP5, and AP7. Chapter Ten is devoted to the four ships lost during World War II, of which three were sunk by Japanese kamikaze attacks at Okinawa while the fourth was destroyed in the Port Chicago explosion in 1944. Chapter Eleven continues in the same vein with the stories of post-war losses. The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to three considerably more substantial chapters:
- US Government Victory Ships
- Foreign Government-Owned Victory Ships
- Commercial Victory Ships
Of those three, the first is by far the longest part of the book. It contains an alphabetical list of vessels from Aberdeen Victory through Yale Victory. For each ship, Jaffee gives the origin of the name, hull number, builder, date keel laid, date launched, date delivered, engine, operator, and type plus a thumbnail history of the ship from launch to scrap.
Here's an entry for a typical Victory:
140. USS Oxford. There are Oxford towns, cities
and counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana,
Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska,
New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Maritime Commission Victory Hull No. 657.
Builder: Kaiser Company, Inc., Vancouver,
Keel laid: April 17, 1944.
Launched: July 12, 1944.
Delivered: September 11, 1944.
Engine: Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company.
Operator: U.S. Navy.
Type: AP5, attack transport.
Upon completion she was designated APA-189.
She was transferred to the U.S. Navy the day of
delivery and commissioned the same day with
Cdr. Paul S. Crandall in command. Her
complement was 536. Armament consisted of
one 5-inch and twelve 40mm guns. Following
shakedown in Seattle and San Diego, she loaded
1,478 troops at San Francisco for the southwest
Pacific. Arriving at Finschhafen, New Guinea on
November 12, she began a series of shuttle runs
between Hollandia and Noumea, New Caledonia
and Florida and Manus islands. After taking part
in the landings at Lingayen Gulf from January 11 -
13, 1945 as part of TG (Task Group) 77.0, she
served as a troop transport operating between
Leyte, Manus and Wake Islands. She was then
part of the initial assault on Okinawa, arriving on
D-Day, April 1, 1945 and departing four days
later. Her subsequent ports of call were Guam,
Pearl Harbor and finally San Francisco, where
she arrived on May 11 to take on replacement
troops. Her next voyage included the Carolines,
the Philippines, New Guinea and Eniwetok,
where she arrived on July 22, 1945. Following an
additional voyage to the Far East with
replacement troops she returned to Norfolk,
Virginia where she arrived on February 26, 1946.
She was decommissioned on April 17, 1946 and
returned to the War Shipping Administration at
Norfolk, Virginia the following day and laid up in
the James River Reserve Fleet. Her name was
stricken from the Navy List May 1. Sold for
scrapping to B. Intershitra, she was withdrawn
from that location on September 11, 1974. USS
Oxford was awarded one battle star for service in
World War II.
In sum, this is the most complete and authoritative compilation of data about Victory ships assembled to date, and not likely to be superceded any time soon. A noteworthy accomplishment by Captain Jaffee, and highly recommended.
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Cole, L. and L. Niehorster. German Army, 1939-1945, volume 9: Divisions (Part 4). Milton Keynes, UK: Military Press, 2004
Index; color chart
Depending on where you look (dustjacket, title page, copyright page, etc) in each volume, the titles of the individual books and the series as a whole seem to vary quite a bit, with The German Army Order of Battle, 1939-1945: Ground Troops of the German Army, Navy, Luftwaffe, Waffen-SS, and Police apparently the full but seldom-used official moniker. By whatever name, this growing series covers in English much of the material presented in Tessin (a series known universally by the name of the author) and Die Deutschen Divisionen by Peter Schmitz et al.
This is the ninth volume overall in the Cole/Niehorster series, and the fourth covering divisions. (The first five dealt with army groups, armies, corps, etc.) Each of the divisional volumes so far has included approximately fifty units, and this is no exception, running from 203rd Infantry Division through 258th Infantry Division. The entry for each division generally fills between two and four pages. The material includes a combination of the kind of data provided by Tessin and Schmitz.
To begin with, the authors identify the division with its name in English and German, such as 205. Infantry Division and 205. Infanterie-Division. A black and white sketch illustrates the divisional symbol. (A chart in the back of the book identifies the color codes used in the sketches.) A narrative history of the division's participation in the war occupies anywhere from a few paragraphs to a full page or more. Tessin and Schmitz provide similar narrative information, but not usually as much.
The remaining information for each division is divided into the following categories:
Cited in Wehrmacht Communique: Giving date and which formation (sometimes a subordinate unit of the division).
Commander: Chronological list of names and ranks of unit commanders with dates served. This matches Schmitz.
Operations Officer: Likewise, a chronological list of names and ranks of officers serving as divisional 1a with dates served. This also matches Schmitz.
Footnotes: For many of the commanders and operations officers, further details are provided about their service and other positions held.
Operational movements, superior formations, operational areas: A chronological table of the corps, army, army group, and theater to which the division was subordinated, the sector in which it was deployed, and the dates during which it served there. This seems identical to both Tessin and Schmitz.
Divisional Troops: An extensive listing of the forming, comings, goings, reorganizations, redesignations, and deactivations of subordinate units. This tends to be more extensive than similar information provided by Tessin and Schmitz.
Division's Knight's Cross Recipients: Alphabetical listing with name, rank, subordinate formation, date, and sometimes additional details. Schmitz gives much the same information.
Due to space limitations, we've chosen one especially short divisional entry as an example:
242. Infantry Division
Constituted on 9 July 1943 at the Gross-Born Troop Training Grounds in
Wehrkreis II as a static division by redesignated as the 298 Infantry
Division, including recovered wounded from 209 Infantry Division, which had been disbanded. Sent to
the West in August. In September was transferred to the South of France. The Division was located
between Marseilles and Toulon with elements on the Hyeres Islands to defend that area from an
invasion. The Division faced the US amphibious assault and fought a defensive battle in the area behind
the beachheads at Pierrefeu, Collabrieres and Grimaud. Then it retreated through Le Luc, Brignoles and
Pignans to Fortress Toulon, where it surrendered in late August 1944.
1943 Jul-1944 Aug: LtGen Baessier, Johannes1
1943 May: LtCol Blanke, Friedl2
1943 Dec: LtCol Leder
1944 Feb: Maj/LtCol Miltzow, Hermann3
1944 May-Aug: LtCol Blanke, Friedl
1. Previously Operations Officer 1 XVI Corps, CoS XI Corps, GoC 9 & 14 Pz Divisions. Died of wounds 1944.
2. Previously on Staff of 20 Mountain Army, also Operations Officer 344 Infantry Division.
3. Later Operations Officer with 344, 719 Divisions & 19 Volksgrenadier Division.
0perational Movements, Superior Formations, Operational Areas
|1943 Sep||in reserve||D||West||Southern France|
|1943 Oct||in reserve||19||D||West||Southern France|
1. Kniess - Corps Command GoC Gen (Inf) Kniess, retitled LXXXV Corps July 1944.
Grenadier Regiment 917 - 3 battalions - 1-8 + 13, 14 & 15 Companies
Grenadier Regiment 918 - 3 battalions - 1-8 + 13, 14 & 15 Companies
Grenadier Regiment 919 - 3 battalions - 1-8 + 13, 14 & 15 Companies
Artillery Regiment 241 - 3 battalions
Reconnaissance Squadron 242
Antitank Squadron 242
Engineer Battalion 242 - 2 companies
Signals Battalion 242 - 2 companies
Divisional Services 242
2 Battalion Artillery Regiment 242 became 2 Battalion Artillery Regiment 669 with 709
Grenadier Regiment 919 transferred to 709 Infantry Division
Grenadier Regiment 765 transferred to Division - 1-8 + 13, 14 & 15 Companies
3 light and 2 heavy artillery battalions (with Italian equipment) were added to the
Division, the Regiment now had 7 artillery battalions
Artillery Regiment 242 reorganised into 4 battalions with 12 batteries
Field Replacement Battalion 242 organised
II/9 Armenian Field Battalion -ex 9 Infantry Division became 4 Battalion Grenadier
Regiment 917 - Regiment now had 19 companies
I/198 Armenian Field Battalion -ex 198 Infantry Division became 4 Battalion Grenadier
Regiment 918 - Regiment now had 19 companies
807 Azerbaidzhan Battalion Mohammedan Caucasian Legion became 4 Battalion
Grenadier Regiment 765 - Regiment now had 19 companies
Division destroyed in debacle at Toulon
Signals Battalion 242 escaped the debacle at Toulon, became Signals Battalion 189 with
189 Infantry Division
Wehrkreis II. Replacement Infantry Battalion. Stargard
6 May 1944: Wehrkreis II. Replacement Infantry Battalion 222. Wismar
Division's Knight's Cross Recipients
LtCol Keil, Gunther. Award Date 27 June 1944. Commander 919 Grenadier Regiment
Capt Simoneit, Max. Award Dale 23 June 1944. Commander HQ Company 919 Grenadier Regiment
What do Schmitz and Tessin provide that this series doesn't? Schmitz includes a large number of detailed maps illustrating each unit's service. It looks like Niehorster and Cole cover everything that Tessin does, and more, but of course this series (at least so far) doesn't deal with units smaller than divisions, while Tessin includes many, many, many smaller units. Furthermore, all the text in Schmitz and Tessin is written strictly in German, while German Army, 1939-1945 is written in English.
Co-author Leo Niehorster is also responsible for another series from Military Press, German World War II Organizational Series. The difference? The Organizational Series books are mostly tables of organization and equipment with plentiful organigrams and lists of weapons and vehicles for units ranging from combat formations to veterinary parks and motorized clothing repair companies. While German Army, 1939-1945 provides details about the subordinate combat formations of each division, it's really about the history of the divisions rather than their organization and equipment.
The Niehorster/Cole volumes aren't inexpensive, and the series remains incomplete, but this looks like an extremely attractive source for masses of information about German divisions. Frankly, it appears that Military Pressmuch as we love 'emis not doing the world's most effective job of packaging, promoting, and marketing what should be a smashingly popular and successful series. Don't wait for an engraved invitation from Milton Keynes. Track these babies down and buy them today.
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Stanton, Shelby. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division, 1939-1945. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006
xiii + 654 pages
Foreword; Preface; Acknowledgments; Explanatory Notes; photos; line drawings; tables; Sources; The Author; Addendum
Appendices: Campaign Key Codes; Abbreviations Used in the Text; Army Ground Forces Installations; Proposed (Ghost) and Deception (Phantom) Divisions
The German Army has Tessin. The British Army has Joslen. The French Army has Les Grandes Unites. The US Army has Shelby Stanton.
In fact the US Army has had Stanton since the first edition of his mammoth OB volume was published in 1984. In the ensuing years, it has served as the principal source for anyone trying to discover the composition, assignments, commanders, and history of American Army ground combat forces from divisions to battalions. Although various reprints with various covers from various publishers have appeared over the years, this is the first revised edition of Stanton's OB. Overall, the book hasn't changed too much. For example, the new edition includes the same endpaper charts as the original. However, there are a few notable differences.
To begin with, the title has shifted slightly from Order of Battle: US Army, World War II to World War II Order of Battle US Army (Ground Force Units), although the dustjacket uses a longer variation of the latter. All eight pages of full color shoulder patches have been moved from the front of the book toward the middle where, because they aren't listed in the table of contents, they seem somewhat hidden. The Foreword by Russell Weigley has been edited and shortened. A Preface has been added in which Stanton explains the purpose of his book and describes the changes from the original. He also indicates, by the way, that he has "largely completed research" for a companion volume on Army Service Forces. The Explanatory Notes have been expanded to include more information, especially in regard to the Addendum to the new edition.
Beyond the front matter, the bulk of the book follows the same pattern as the 1984 version and the contents of the chapters are unchanged, even using the same photos and pagination.
I. US Army Organization in World War II
II. Divisions of the US Army in World War II
III. Infantry of the US Army in World War II
IV. Armored Forces of the US Army in World War II
V. Cavalry of the US Army in World War II
VI. Tank Destroyers of the US Army in World War II
VII. Field Artillery of the US Army in World War II
VIII. Coast Artillery and Antiaircraft Artillery of the US Army in World War II
IX. Engineers of the US Army in World War II
At the divisional level, each unit receives approximately two pages of coverage. Stanton begins with the title and type of division, such as 1st Armored, and includes a black and white sketch of the divisional insignia. This he follows with a chronological list of the unit's movements showing dates and locations. The next section lists all the campaigns in which the unit participated, followed by the unit's location "as close as possible to 14 August 1945." The next section shows the unit's "typical organization" for one or more periods during the war. This includes a list of the regiments, battalions, and some smaller units organic to the division or temporarily attached. Note that most of these units have their own separate listings elsewhere in the book. The next section, "Overseas Wartime Assignments," lists by date the higher HQ to which the division was subordinated. Unlike the Cole/Niehorster listings for German divisions, this shows only the next higher headquartersusually a corps, but sometimes directly to a higher HQto which the division was assigned, not the entire chain of command and not the sector where the unit was deployed.
Divisional listings continue with names, ranks, and dates for commanding officers. Next comes a summary of killed in action, wounded in action, and died of wounds for the division. Finally, Stanton writes a combat narrative, as much as a full page in length, about the division's wartime service.
Here's what the 1st Armored Division looks like, but with the lengthy combat narrative shortened to just the first few lines:
1st Armored Division
15 Jul 40 redesignated from 7th Cavalry Brigade at Ft Knox Ky and participated in VII Corps
Arkansas Maneuvers 18-28 Aug 41; moved to Cp Polk La 1 Sep 41 as part of Second Army
Louisiana Maneuvers; relocated to Ft Jackson S.C. area 30 Oct 41 to participate in the First
Army Carolina Maneuvers; returned to Ft Knox Ky 7 Dec 41; staged at Ft Dix N.J. 11 Apr 42
until departed New York P/E 11 May 42; arrived North Ireland 16 May 42 and England 29 Oct
42; arrived North Africa 22 Dec 42 less elements which assaulted 8 Nov 42; arrived Italy
28 Oct 43; returned New York P/E 24 Apr 46 and inactivated at Cp Kilmer N.J. 25 Apr 46.
Campaigns: Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno.
North Apennines, Po Valley
Aug 45 Loc: Salzburg Austria
Typical Organization (1941):
1st Armored Brigade HHC
1st Armored Regiment (Light)
13th Armored Regiment (Light)
69th Armored Regiment (Medium)
68th Field Artillery Regiment (Armored)
81st Reconnaissance Battalion (Armored)
27th Field Artillery Battalion (Armored)
6th Infantry (Armored)
Hqs Company, 1st Armored Division
16th Engineer Battalion (Armored)
47th Medical Battalion (Armored)
141st Signal Company (Armored)
19th Ordnance Battalion (Armored)
13th Quartermaster Battalion (Armored)
12th Observation Squadron f attached)
Typical Organization (1944/45):
1st Tank Battalion
4th Tank Battalion
13th Tank Battalion
6th Armored Infantry Battalion
11th Armored Infantry Battalion
14th Armored Infantry Battalion
HHB Division Artillery
27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion
81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mecz
Hqs Company, 1st Armored Division
HHC, Combat Command A
HHC, Combat Command B
Hqs, Reserve Command
HHC, Division Trains:
47th Medical Battalion, Armored
123rd Armored Ordnance Maintenance Battalion
Military Police Platoon
16th Armored Engineer Battalion
141st Armored Signal Company
501st Counter Intelligence Corps Det
Overseas Wartime Assignments:
NATO-22 Dec 42
British 5 Corps - Jan 43
II Corps-11 Jan 43
NATO - May 43
II Corps - 28 Oct 43
VI Corps - Jan 44
Fifth Army - 8 Jun 44
IV Corps-16 Jun 44
II Corps - 7 Oct 44
IV Corps-19 Feb 45
II Corps -1 Apr 45
IV Corps - 5 Apr 45
MG Bruce Magruder: Jul 40
MG Orlando Ward: Mar 42
MG Ernest N. Harmon: Apr 43
MG Vernon E. Prichard: Jul 44
MG Roderick R. Allen: Sep 45
Killed in Action: 1,194
Wounded in Action: 5,168
Died of Wounds: 234
1st Armored Division Combat Narrative
CCB of the division landed east and west of Oran North Africa 8 Nov 42 and entered the city 10 Nov 42. On 24 Nov 42
CCB moved from Tafaroui Algeria to Bedja Tunisia and raided Djedeida Airfield the next day, reaching Djedeida
28 Nov 42. CCB moved southwest of Tebourba on 1 Dec 42, engaged German forces on El Guessa Heights 3 Dec 42, but
its lines were pierced 6 Dec 42. CCB withdrew to Bedja with heavy equipment losses 10-11 Dec 42 and was placed in
reserve. CCB next attacked 21 Jan 43 in the Ousseltia Valley and cleared that area until 29 Jan 43....
In a volume of this magnitude, a few oddities are bound to creep in, and these divisional listings are no exception. For example, in the original edition and the new volume, both the 30th Infantry Division and the 35th Infantry Division include three identical lines:
116th AAA Gun Battalion (attached 20 Jul 44-3 Aug 44)
448th AAA Auto-Wpns Battalion (attached 9 Jul 44-26 Apr 45, 3 May 45-9 May 45)
459th AAA Auto-Wpns Battalion (attached 19 Jul 44-27 Jul 44)
Unfortunately, the author provides no insight into how each of those three AA battalions was simultaneously attached to two different divisions at exactly the same time.
In any event, while divisions get a fairly expansive treatment, brigades and regiments receive less detail. This generally means a sketch of the unit insignia (where available), a list of movements and locations, campaign ribbons, and August 1945 location.
Here's the entry for the 1st Armored Regiment:
1st Armored Regiment
15 Jul 40 redesignated from 1st Cavalry Regiment at Ft Knox Ky as 1st Armored Regiment
(Light) and assigned 1st Armored Division; moved to Cp Polk La 1 Sep 41 and to the Ft Jackson
S.C. area 30 Oct 41; returned to Ft Knox Ky 7 Dec 41 where redesignated 1st Armored Regiment 1 Jan 42; staged at Ft Dix N.J. 10 Apr 42 until departed New York P/E 13 May 42; arrived
Northern Ireland 11 Jun 42 and elements assaulted Oran North Africa 8-10 Nov 42, the regiment completely ashore by 21 Dec 42; landed in Italy 8 Nov 43 where regiment, less 2nd Bn,
redesignated 1st Tank Battalion 20 Jul 44 and 2nd Bn disbanded.
Campaigns: Algeria-French Morocco, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno
Stanton also includes battalions in his OB, butas you would expectthese listings are by comparison brief and stylized, generally requiring a key to unravel all the information: when formed, when redesignated/inactivated, wartime location(s), campaigns (shown as ID codes) with dates, TOEs (shown as ID codes) with dates, and location in August 1945.
Here's the 1st Tank Battalion:
1st Tank Battalion
20 Jul 44 Bolgheri Italy (1st Armd Regt) / 1 May 46 Germany redes 1st Constab Sqdn
Italy: 20 Jul 44 - 31,33,35 (N-20 Jul 44; X) (1st Armd Div)
Given that Stanton includes such a huge number of formations in his OB, this data stretches on for page after page. If you've ever wondered about the extent of US Army engineering assets, take a look at almost thirty pages of various engineer battalions, ranging from combat engineers to construction, water supply, pipeline, pontoon, boat maintenance, camouflage, topographic, railway, aviation, aviation camouflage, aviation utilities, aviation topographic, general service, and the 7057th Engineer Separate Battalion (Italian).
What has been added? Other than a few changes to the front matter, the chapters appear to be identical, so the Addendum is what makes this a new edition. It features, in page sequence, additional details for many unit entries. For example, when some of an infantry regiment's componentsbut not the entire regiment or the regimental HQwere temporarily detached and deployed elsewhere, that information was not previously available in the book. Now it is. Further information on regimental antitank and cannon companies has also been added. On top of that, various corrections have been included. (By the way, no mention is made of the simultaneous assignment of those three AA battalions to two divisions.) In all, the Addendum amounts to roughly thirty pages of changes and additions. While the Addendum certainly improves the overall accuracy and completeness of Stanton's material, the downside is that those changes haven't been integrated into the main text. Instead, every time a reader refers to a particular unit's entry, he'll need to remember to flip to the back of the book to see if anything has been added or changed.
Nevertheless, we can continue to highly recommend World War II Order of Battle as the ultimate publication for information about US Army ground units in WWII. This is the go-to book for anyone who wants to know about American divisions, brigades, regiments, and battalions at war.
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Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from the publishers.
Thanks to the publishers for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 21 May 2006
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone