This week we take the opportunity to offer brief descriptions of four pictorial volumes recently delivered to our offices.
Johnson, Paul Louis. Horses of the German Army in World War II. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2006
Acknowledgments; Introduction; photos; diagrams; Bibliography
Although the Second World War is mostly remembered as a mechanized conflict, in fact horses played an important role, especiallymyths not withstandingin the German Army. A fair amount has been written about cavalry operations in the war, including German cavalry, but considerably less about the wider role of horses. Paul Louis Johnson steps up with what might be the only English-language volume devoted explicitly to equines in the Heere. (Richard DiNardo's interesting study focuses on the operational ramifications of German reliance on horses, rather than on the animals themselves.)
Johnson's approach, however, as with all the books discussed here, relies almost exclusively on pictures. The relatively short blocks of text preceding the photos in the first seven chapters come from post-war material prepared by captured German officers under auspices of the US Army. Other than those reprinted paragraphs, the text comprises only captions.
Chapters one through seven, with photos preceded by the reprinted text, examine the following topics:
- Horses in the German Army
- Suitability of different breeds
- Employment of horses
- Selection and training of personnel
- Supply in the field
- The veterinary service
- The remount system
Chapters eight and nine describe saddles and other equine equipment almost entirely in photos, many of which are color images of military collectibles. Chapter ten takes up about half the book with a large assortment of action shots, especially (but not entirely) on the Russian Front: horses pulling wagons, horsing pulling motorized vehicles out of deep mud, horses on the steppes, horses in the snow, horses in mountains, and cavalry troops and mounts. All of the photos have captions, but they are almost always of a generalized nature without identifying specific units or locations.
Rather a specialized topic, but no doubt this will be well-received by fans of horses, cavalry, and WWII photos.
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Francois, Dominique. 101st Airborne in Normandy: A History in Period Photographs. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2006
Acknowledgements; photos; maps; Epilogue; Bibliography
Appendices: Units of the 101st and their COs; Helmets and miscellaneous gear of the 101st
Did the 101st Airborne Division win World War II single-handedly? Given the number of titles published about the division (not to mention "Band of Brothers" on television), it might be easy to get that impression. Dominique Francois reinforces the notion with his photographic volume of the 101st in Normandy. Approximately five percent of the heavily pictorial book is made up of text with the remainder strictly images and captions.
Despite the title, coverage actually begins with "Reactivation and Training." That chapter extends nearly sixty pages, followed by almost ten pages of "Organic Units" with a brief survey of formations comprising the 101st. The third chapter, weighing in at merely three pages, shows the situation in occupied Normandy.
The next hundred pages, more or less, under the title "Neptune Operation"which seems a bit of a misnomerprovide a multitude of photos covering the first few weeks of the campaign in Normandy. The exact duration is difficult to determine, but some of the photos (apparently in no particular order) are captioned with dates in July and August. While the bulk of the photographs are of the 101st, in some cases the subjects are German troops defending Normandy.
There will always be fans of the 101st and fans of photos of wartime action, and 101st Airborne in Normandy will probably appeal to some of those fans, but in all honesty this book appears to be little more than a hastily assembled mishmash of whatever odds and ends Francois could get his hands on.
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Nordyke, Phil. The All Americans in World War II: A Photographic History of the 82nd Airborne Division at War. St Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2006
Photos; maps; Index
Just in case anyone was under the impression that the 101st Airborne Division won World War II all on its own, Phil Nordyke has been hard at work reminding us the 82nd Airborne Division also played a role in Hitler's demise. Whatever the relative contributions of the two divisions, there's no doubt Nordyke's photographic history of the 82nd proves much more praise-worthy than the pictorial volume Francois put together about the 101st.
Whereas the Francois book on the 101st only covers training and operations in Normandy, Nordyke's book on the 82nd follows the entire history of the unit in World War II from training to North Africa, and from the jump into Sicily all the way to the end of the war in Europe. Each of thirty-six short chapters is titled with a pithy quotation such as "You are about to embark on a great crusade" and "I've never seen a more gallant action" and "Sir, they're all dead."
Within each chapter Nordyke provides a page of text, usually a map or two, and a few pages of black and white photos with captions. Compared to the hodgepodge of images collected by Francois, this material is much more focused on telling the story of the division with carefully selected images and informative captions. Mostly these are shots of the 82nd, but Nordyke includes other photos where it makes sense to do so, rather than as mere padding.
Once again, fans of paratroopers and fans of photo albums will be impressed with this pictorial volume, and in this case they'll actually get a coherent, thoughtfully-constructed work rather than just a scrapbook of more or less random pictures.
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Rolf, Rudi and Jens Andersen. German Bunkers in Denmark: A Survey. Middleburg: Prak Publishing, 2006
Preface; Introduction; photos; maps; diagrams; Literature; Terminology and Abbreviations; Index
Of these four books, Rolf and Andersen have put together the most impressive tome by far, and their effortand the information they providefar exceeds the other three volumes. On the other hand, this is also by far the most obscure topic, and unfortunately not one likely to inspire a great deal of enthusiasm among English-language readers.
The authors seem to have located every German bunker built in Denmark during the war and put together a comprehensive survey of locations, types, and related data. As such, the book contains a significant amount of text although it remains mostly a pictorial volume with a plethora of diagrams and photos.
The opening chapters survey the history of German fortifications during the occupation of Denmark, examine the different types of construction, review the organizations responsible for design and labor, and enumerate facilities for HQs, artillery, and infantry with maps of Denmark pinpointing important locations. With the Germans for the most part repeatedly utilizing a limited number of standardized designs throughout the war, a chapter of almost forty pages details the various types of bunkers, providing diagrams, number built, number preserved, date of design, concrete required, and locations. Another chapter of over a hundred pages reviews all the bunkers geographically with more diagrams, photos of the defenses, and construction details with dates, weapons emplaced, and so on. The cumulative effect of the data, diagrams, and photos makes it appear that Denmark must have been one of the most heavily defended places on the planet by the end of the war, practically encased in concrete.
The authors have done a thorough, highly professional job and they've produced a handsome, glossy-looking book (despite apparent lack of an ISBN). Anyone interested in World War II fortifications will be thrilled with this work. Unfortunately, when it comes to popularity and sales in English-speaking countries, German Bunkers in Denmark won't be able to compete with lesser books about hotter topics.
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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 24 September 2006
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone