Sharp, Lee. French Army, 1939-1940: Organisation, Order of Battle, Operational History, volume V. Milton Keynes, UK: Military Press, 2006
Pages: vi + 168
Introduction; Abbreviations/Glossary; Numbering of French Military Units; Comparative Table of Ranks; tables
Niehorster, Leo. United States Armed Forces Order of Battle, 7 December 1941, volume 3: US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Coast Guard. Milton Keynes, UK: The Military Press, 2007
About the Author; Introduction; Abbreviations for Hull Types; Terms and Abbreviations; Symbols; Bibliography; Index of Persons
Appendices: Convoys at Sea; Navy Shore Establishments; Marine Details at US Navy Shore Establishments; Marine Details on US Navy Vessels; USN, USMC, and USCG Aircraft; US Army 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions
The fine folks at Military Press are known for publishing a multitude of excellent OB and TOE books. It also looks like they've never met a manuscript that couldn't be turned into an ongoing multi-volume series. Among their most recent releases are two items that fit into both categories. The book from Lee Sharp is the fifth in his series covering French organization, order of battle, and operational historywith more to comewhile the book from Leo Niehorster is the third and final installment of his series covering the complete order of battle of the US armed forces on 7 December 1941.
We've already reviewed and praised other books in these two series, and we're ready to praise these two additions.
Sharp's project is the more ambitious of the two, with five volumes down and several more to go. Furthermore, his plans include not just OB and TOE material for the French army in 1939-1940, but also operational histories of French ground unitsin many cases on a day-by-day basisduring the 1940 campaign. While some of his earlier volumes on the larger and more familiar units tended to reiterate material already available (well, it must be admitted, not readily available) in the French Les Grandes Unites Francaises series, his more recent volumes have moved into more esoteric territory.
That's true of volume five, which deals with French anti-aircraft formations, cavalry formations, and colonial units. Each of those topics is divided into multiple categories. The anti-aircraft chapter, for example, includes information on anti-aircraft commands and staffs, railway anti-aircraft batteries, divisional anti-aircraft batteries, searchlight formations, and so on. For each specific type of formation, Sharp provides detailed TOE data plus a list of all the units of that type including information such as when the unit was mobilized, to what HQ it was attached, etc.
For the "Divisional Anti-Aircraft Batteries (Batterie DCA divisionnaire)," for example, Sharp includes a table of organization displaying numbers of officers, NCOs, gunners, trucks, heavy tractors, guns, bicycles, etc in the various sections of the "25mm CA Model 1938" divisional battery as of April 1940. Here's what the table looks like:
Sharp also lists all fifty-one batteries (701st through 751st) with date mobilized, parent unit (usually a division, but also the Polish armored brigade and 7th Army), and date assigned to the unit.
Cavalry formations and colonial units receive the same treatment. Included among about twenty different kinds of cavalry units, Sharp covers in the second chapter cavalry brigades, Spahis brigades, mechanized cavalry regiments and battalions, armored car regiments, irregular cavalry units, anti-tank units of the cavalry arm, and "veterinary, remount, and other horse units and establishments."
Among the AA, cavalry, and colonial forces some especially interesting units appear, such as Foreign Legion cavalry (two regiments mobilized in August 1939), "emergency, naval, and foreign AA batteries" (French field guns adapted for AA use, naval AA guns transferred to the French Army, and 3.7" AA guns purchased from the British), irregular cavalry formations (including North African desert patrols, the groupement de cavalerie de ligne du Levant, Druse cavalry, Tcherkesse cavalry, and camel platoons), and assorted units in French Equatorial Africa, French West Africa, French Somaliland, Madagascar, and French Indochina.
Leo Niehorster doesn't offer an array of units quite so exotic, but he manages to uncover some relatively obscure American formations.
The first two volumes of his series covered US Army and Air Force units as they existed on the Day of Infamy. This volume finishes the job with the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. As with the ground-pounders and fly-boys, Sharp digs deeply into OBs from top to bottom and uncovers an impressive amount of detail. Here he begins with the "US Armed Forces Command Structure," the Secretary of the Navy, and the Department of the Navy.
All the departments, bases, establishments, HQs, and formations are displayed with organizational diagramsorganigramsthat make it easy to see their structure at a glance. Within each organigram, as he did in the first two volumes, Niehorster uses a shadow effect to indicate which components receive their own organigrams on subsequent pages. For example, for the Secretary of the Navy, the organigram shows about nine offices directly within the purview of the Secretary, including the Public Relations Office, Statistics Division, and Board of Inspection and Survey. Further, the organigram lays out the components of the Under Secretary of the Navy, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air, and so on. Of these offices under the Secretary of the Navy, the organigram box for the Chief of Naval Operations is shadowed, indicating that office will have its own diagram with further information.
Sure enough the next page contains a detailed organigram for the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Among its many cells, the boxes for "Guam Island Command" and "American Samoa Island Command" are highlighted, so the following page contains expanded organigrams for those commands.
In that fashion, Niehorster moves through the structure of the Navy, including the Asiatic Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, the Atlantic Fleet, and all the naval districts. Each fleet organigram includes multiple separate diagrams for various subordinate formations such as "Submarines, Asiatic Fleet," "Aircraft Battle Force, Pacific Fleet," and "Battleships, Atlantic Fleet." Here's an example:
After about forty pages on the USN, the chapter on the USMC cover the Marine Corps headquarters, 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, 1st and 2nd Marine Air Wings, 1st through 7th Marine Defense Battalions, 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional), 4th Marines, Marine Forces in Northern China, and assorted Marine bases, stations, and facilities. While the naval organigrams rely on text within all the boxes, the Marine organigrams utilize familiar ground unit symbology. Here's the 1st Marine Division:
For the Coast Guard, the organigrams return to text instead of symbols, covering headquarters and all the USCG districts from Boston to Honolulu.
Niehorster concludes the book with several appendices:
- Convoys at sea escorted by the USN, including the Pensacola convoy en route to the Philippines, the Quincy convoy en route to Cape Town and Bombay, and the Louisville convoy en route from the Philippines to Pearl Harbor
- A seven-page alphabetical listing of US Navy shore establishments
- A two-page alphabetical listing of USMC details at USN shore establishments
- USMC details on USN vessels
- USN, USMC, and USCG aircraft and airships
- Abbreviated organigrams for the US 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions
As both authors have repeatedly proved with earlier volumes in their respective series, all these books are packed with thoughtfully presented information not readily available elsewhere. While neither Sharp nor Niehorster offers the pleasure of engagingly written prosethese are, after all, books of OB and TOE data displayed in tables and organigramsanyone with even the slightest yearning to know more about French and American armed forces of World War II will find both books filled with interesting and valuable material. The only very minor constructive criticism we can offer on such workmanlike efforts would be that Niehorster's organigramsoften surrounded by substantial tracts of empty spacecould have been somewhat larger in order to improve legibility.
Setting our magnifying glass aside, however, we heartily recommend both books.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from The Military Press.
Thanks to Military Press for providing these review copies.
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Reviewed 22 April 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone