An online database
of WORLD WAR
books and information
on the Web since 1995
New & forthcoming
Books by subjects
Latest book feedback
Sell your books
Nations at war
While the publishing industry continues on the one hand to consolidate into fewer and fewer larger and larger conglomerates, on the other hand small new publishers sprout like weeds. Those trends mean that some less deserving books from major publishers receive more distribution and greater sales compared to some worthwhile books from more obscure sources. Today we take a quick survey of four recent books from sources big and small, well-known and unfamiliar, all from Europe.
Tolischus, Michael. Organization and Structure of the Armed Forces of World War 2, part 1, volume 2: German Infantry Divisions and Volkssturm, 1944-1945. Berlin: Epaminondas Publications, 2006
Tables of TOE data; organigrams; maps
This unusual publication comes to us from Berlin where self-publisher Michael Tolischus undertakes the Sisyphean task of assembling TOE data for all the units of all the major combatants of the Second World War. The author divides his material into one Part for each nation. Part 1, for example, deals with German units while Part 2 will cover Soviet units. Within each Part, multiple volumes will be required to treat all the individual formations for that nation's ground forces.
This book represents the second volume of Part 1, and it covers German infantry and Volkssturm divisions raised during 1944 and 1945, along with their components. (It's unclear from the author's materials if the first volume of Part 1 has already been published, orif sowhether it remains in print.) In any event, the pages of this volume are tightly packed with enormous amounts of tabular data.
For the most part, Tolischus focuses on generic information for specific types of units. For example, for the Type 1944 German infantry division, he presents tables dealing with the following components:
For each of those units, a table breaks down the structure into even more detail. For example, for the light infantry (fusilier) battalion, the table encompasses the battalion HQ, light infantry company (bicycle), light infantry company (foot), and the battalion's heavy company. For each of those units, columns show the numbers of rifles and carbines, pistols, submachine guns and assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy machine guns, 81mm mortars, 120mm mortars, motor vehicles, motorcycles, horse-drawn vehicles, horses, and trailers. Thus, we can see that the HQ staff of the light infantry battalion of the type 1944 infantry battalion was equipped with 48 rifles and carbines, 8 pistols, 14 submachine guns and assault rifles, 1 light machine gun, 1 motor vehicle, 2 motorcycles, 16 horse-drawn vehicles, 4 trailers, and 33 horses.
- Divisional signal battalion
- Artillery regiment (full strength and reduced strength)
- Light field howitzer battalion
- Heavy field howitzer battalion
- Infantry regiment
- Infantry battalion headquarters
- Infantry company, infantry platoon
- Infantry battalion, heavy company
- Infantry regiment, infantry howitzer company
- Infantry regiment, antitank company
- Engineer battalion
- Light infantry (fusilier) battalion
- Antitank battalion
- Field replacement battalion
- Supply services
This kind of tabular data goes on for page after page with virtually no other text. For each type of division, however, Tolischus lists all the individual divisions of that type raised during the war, with further notes about their deployment. He also throws in an occasional organigram with more explanation for specific units.
All this information is provided in both German and English. The physical production is not entirely up to professional standards, and the English translations are not without some rough patches, but overall this book (and probably the other volumes and parts of the series) will be a gold mine for TOE researchers.
Read and submit feedback
Zaloga, Steven J. US Field Artillery of World War II. Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2007
Introduction; photos; tables; color plates; Further Reading; Index
Steven J. Zaloga has become one of the most prolific and polished WWII authors currently working in the field, especially providing Osprey Publishing with a steady supply of above-average titles on a wide variety of topics. Of course, unlike Michael Tolischus's nascent Epaminondas Publications, Osprey is one of the best-known military publishers in the world. Thus, every time Osprey releases a new book by Zaloga, readers can be assured of a competent, professional volume.
That's indisputably the case with US Field Artillery of World War II. While Ian Hogg has produced some thicker and perhaps more magisterial volumes on artillery in WWII, Zaloga has crafted a succinct introduction to American artillery that should prove more than adequate for almost all purposes.
The book, divided into an Introduction and four chapters, covers the following weapons in the first three chapters:
- 75mm pack howitzer
- 75mm field howitzer M1A1
- 75mm gun
- 105mm howitzer M2A1
- 105mm howitzer M3
- Schneider 155mm howitzer
- 155mm howitzer M1
- 4.5in gun and rockets
- 155mm GPF
- 155mm gun M1A1
- 8in howitzer M1
- 8in gun and 240mm howitzer
The fourth chapter deals with motorization and mechanization of American artillery.
For each weapon, Zaloga discusses design and development, technical details, evolution and improvements, and employment in action. In addition to the text, tables deal with annual production of each type during the years 1940-1945, technical characteristics (including, for example, weight, length, bore, maximum range, etc), Lend-Lease deliveries to the UK, China, France, and Latin America during 1941-1945, and production of prime movers. As always in Osprey books, the text is accompanied by crisp, well-chosen photos. Illustrator Brian Delf contributes attractive, highly detailed color profiles.
As such, this book represents a technical, "weapon-centric" exploration of American artillery with only the briefest mentions of how the guns were organized and utilized in artillery units, and how the various types were deployed and used tactically in combat. Given its limited scope, this volume entirely excludes anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery.
While Zaloga's book can be highly recommended to anyone who wants an introduction to the topic, this seems like an appropriate opportunity to pose a question about the author. When is he going to take a step beyond all these very nice little cookie-cutter books and undertake a larger, more serious, and more challenging WWII project? With all due respect to the author and the publisher, it sometimes seems that his skills as a WWII researcher and author are being under-utilized.
Read and submit feedback
Green, Brett. Gotterdammerung: Luftwaffe Wrecks and Relics, number 1. Hinckley, UK: Classic Publications, 2006
Introduction; photos; color profiles
Classic Publications began as a small operation run by a group of talented air warfare enthusiasts before being gobbled up by Ian Allan Publishing in a not uncommonand not necessarily unwelcomeexample of an entrenched publisher acquiring a promising start-up. To Ian Allan's credit, the Classic imprint continues to release books that for the most part maintain the high standards established by its founders.
In this particular case, however, we're left cold by Brett Green's Gotterdammerung, all the more so because it advertises itself as the first of a series. We remain absolutely convinced that every book has an audience (of whatever size) who will be thoroughly pleased with the work. Nonetheless, for our taste we're simply not impressed by this one.
The vast majority of the volume comprises photos (of varying quality) of wrecked Luftwaffe aircraft with explanatory captions. A handful of color profiles by Tom Tullis supplement the photographs, and the last few pages contain color shots of scale models of aircraft. Someone must have expended a fair amount of energy assembling the photos, and Green's captions are full of technical details (such as "Compared to earlier variants, the Junkers Ju 88 G could easily be identified thanks to its large, squared-off fin"), but this one simply doesn't appeal to us. Almost without exception, books from Classic can be relied upon to feature topnotch layout and graphics, but this one even disappoints in that area.
Of course, we expect to hear howls of protest regarding our pigheaded ignorance and egregious lack of taste from the doubtless large and vociferous community of connoisseurs of photographs of wrecked Luftwaffe aircraft.
Read and submit feedback
Mueller, Peter. Heinkel He 162 Volksjaeger: Last-Ditch Effort by the Luftwaffe. Andelfingen, Switzerland: History Facts, 2006
Publisher's Note; Preface; photos; diagrams; maps; documents; scale drawings; color profiles; Abbreviations and English-German equivalents; Index; Bibliography; Endnotes
This book comes from a relatively small publisher in Switzerland, and it contains a great deal of information without the slick, flashy graphics that might be expected from a larger, more visually oriented operation such as the one behind Brett Green's Gotterdammerung volume. For readers seeking pictorial sizzle, this is not the best book around. For those more interested in data, Mueller's workmanlike job won't disappoint.
Mueller's approach highlights not just the technical aspects of the He 162, but also the context in which the aircraft was developed and the progress of the war as a whole which prevented its deployment in combat. This begins with an overview of the military and economic situation in which the Third Reich found itself in 1944. From that point the author examines the process by which the Reichsluftfahrtministerium issued specifications and called for proposals from aircraft manufacturers, the selection process during which manufacturers were allotted five minutes apiece to present their proposals, and the eventual decisionwhich in large measure seems to have been fore-ordainedto place the contract with Heinkel for the so-called Volksjaeger.
Before moving into the story of actual manufacturing, a chapter of more than a hundred pages delves into the development of the fighter, construction of the prototype, and the beginning of serial production. As he does throughout the book, Mueller supplements his text with reproductions of original diagrams and documents. Among other archival sources, the chapter on development includes about fifteen pages of test flight reports, complete with signatures and handwritten corrections and revisions. Of course, those documents are all in German, and no translations are provided.
That's also true of one of the most interesting documents in the book, the 24-page flight manual. Mueller introduces the manual with these paragraphs:
This reproduction of the operating instructions clearly demonstrates the degree of improvisation in the closing phases of the war. The document was drafted in Vienna and served as a basis for all pilots. It is worthwhile taking a closer look at those instructions: nowadays, even the manuals for [personal computer] flight simulation programmes contain more detail.
Irrespective of how many hours they had already logged, these 24 pages of instructions and a short briefing on the ground were all that pilots received before being sent off on their first solo flight with the new aircraft. Considering the somewhat unconventional in-flight behaviour of the He 162, it is not surprising that flying accidents were almost a daily occurrence.
Although all the documents are in German, the remainder of the book is written in completely serviceable English.
The chapter on "The He 162 in Action" in particular incorporates Mueller's effort to integrate the aircraft into the milieu in which it existed. He reviews the contradictory plans for equipping air units, training pilots, and putting the Volksjaeger into the air campaign. The SS sought to supply pilots. For a time, it was intended that essentially untrained Hitler Youth would be strapped into the cockpit and sent directly into combat. Due to fuel shortages and unskilled pilots, a large proportion of the planes crashed during brief training flights or while being ferried between airbases. In the end, the fighter was another "wonder weapon" that failed to play a role in the war and certainly did nothing to slow or reverse the overwhelming tide of Allied air superiority.
Heinkel He 162 Volksjaeger proves to be a very worthwhile effort from History Facts, and it deserves wider distribution and a larger audience than it's likely to receive. But that, as we mentioned up at the top, is an entirely different story.
Read and submit feedback
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from the publishers.
Thanks to the publishers for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 25 February 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone