We always receivenot that we're complainingmore appealing new books than we can possibly find time to review. Here are very brief notes about four fresh arrivals that deserve more attention.
Archer, Lee and William Auerbach. Panzerwrecks, volume 13: Italy 2. Monroe, NY: Panzerwrecks, 2012
The field of WWII history seems wide enough to support a broad array of books on such diverse topics that any two individuals, both of whom consider themselves avid readers of the genre, might seldom purchase and study the same titles. Thus, the vast and constantly growing library of WWII volumes can include some odd little niches, and there might be none odderbut still viablethan the Panzerwrecks series by Lee Archer and William Auerbach.
Really, who would have guessed there could be so much enthusiasm for so many books featuring photos of battered and broken Axis armored vehicles? But that's exactly what we have here, thirteenth in the series, and the second focusing on the campaign in Italy.
Each page displays one or more photos of Axis (mostly German, but some Italian) AFVs destroyed or disabled (or, in a few cases, captured) in Italy, along with informative captions. That's it. But the photos are fascinating, and it's almost impossible to avoid turning page after page to see all the images Archer and Auerbach have gathered. That's especially true because, as the author's note when they quote a wartime document, the Germans were utilizing a wide variety of unusual vehicles, so that each machine and each photo is unique. Thus, the pages feature, among other types, Elefants, Marders, various StuGs, Nashorns, Panthers, Tigers, and even a T-34 in German service. In every case, Archer and Auerbach remain fastidious about pointing out with casual expertise all the notable aspects and oddities of each snapshot and each wreck.
It ain't diplomatic history. It ain't analysis of strategy and tactics. It ain't memoirs of fighting men. It's just a bunch of photos of smashed panzers with enlightening captions. But it's worth a look.
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Forczyk, Robert. Red Christmas: The Tatsinskaya Airfield Raid 1942. Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2012
Introduction; photos; maps; diagrams; Bibliography; Index
Osprey employs a competent stable of writers who crank out a steady flow of workmanlike titles onamong other topicsthe Second World War. In aggregate, these shelf-loads of slender softcovers constitute an impressive library of WWII titles, butat least for most campaignsnot many of the individual titles stand out as a go-to resource for anyone who wants a full account of a particular event.
Among exceptions to that general rule, Osprey recently published Red Christmas by Robert Forczyk. The author takes a relatively minor but very appealing action from the Russian Front and produces a thorough, engaging, and illuminating addition to Osprey's enormous line. And, in this case, Forczyk's work probably stands as the best book on the topic, at least in English.
Along with the usual maps, photos, diagrams, and assorted illustrations at which Osprey excels, the author explains how the Soviet plan evolved from an armored raid to a capture-and-hold mission beyond the logistical capabilities of the Red Army during that period of the war. Using sources from both sides, he follows Soviet forces and the German response, adding interesting new details. For example, Joel Hayward's Stopped at Stalingrad (which covers the incident in passing) treats Luftwaffe General Martin Fiebig's actions at Tatsinskaya as competent, courageous, and perhaps even heroic. Forczyk, on the other hand, paints Fiebig as "out of his depth in the crisis atmosphere" and blames him for "fail[ing] to prepare Tatsinskaya airbase either for evacuation or defence."
A noteworthy account of an exciting episode, and a near-perfect example of Osprey at its best.
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Pijpers, Gerrit and David Truesdale. Arnhem: Their Final Battle: The 11th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, 1943 - 1944. Renkum, Netherlands: R.N. Sigmond, 2012
Foreword; Preface; Introduction; Acknowledgments; maps; photos; tables; documents; Sources; Index; Appendices
Don't go to R.N. Sigmond for books about anything else, but make them your first stop for their area of specialization, the Battle of Arnhem in 1944. This small Netherlands-based publisher has already released several highly regarded English-language books about Market-Garden, and this is another winner.
Rather like Off at Last, By Land, Sea, and Air, and Leading the Way to Arnhem, the new book covers a British battalion with a strong emphasis on the unit's participation in the 1944 battle. In this case, the 11th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment was formed in Egypt in 1943, spent time in Palestine, and elements dropped on the Italian-garrisoned island of Kos as part of the brief Dodecanese campaign of September and October 1943. Fortunately for the 11th, their troops on Kos were evacuated before the Germans captured the island and the mixed British-Italian garrison.
But by far the bulk of the book concerns the 11th Battalion at Arnhem where it fought as part of 4th Parachute Brigade of the 1st Airborne Division. This excellent material, accompanied by ample photos and maps, lives up to the high standards of R.N. Sigmond and provides a great deal of fresh detail about the battalion in action. Further material deals with POWs, thumbnail biographies, a complete roll of officers and men at Arnhem, etc.
A good unit history as well as another terrific addition to Sigmond's library of Market-Garden books.
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Ketley, Barry. Luftwaffe Emblems 1939-1945. Manchester, UK: Flight Recorder Publications, 2012
Acknowledgements; Glossary; Introduction; photos; emblems; Index
The Luftwaffe continues to hold almost as much fascination as panzers for WWII enthusiasts, and books about various aspects of the German Air Force continue to flow rapidly from publishing houses everywhere, and we certainly receive our share. This book from Flight Recorder, distributed in the US by Specialty Press, devotes all its 192 pages to identifying, describing, and displaying hundreds of Luftwaffe unit emblems in a revised and expanded version of the original 1998 edition.
The author notes that, more than any other air force during the war, the Luftwaffe almost universally utilized thousands of unique, colorful emblems to identify units ranging from higher HQs to pairs of fighters and everything in between. Unlike USAAF artistry, which focused on beautifying aircraft with individual identities (often featuring attractive females in various stages of undress), Luftwaffe emblems were used by aircraft (as well as some ground vehicles) within the unit in order to promote esprit de corps (but sans young ladies).
After a bit of introduction about emblems and heraldry and the origins of Luftwaffe symbols, Ketley launches into page after page of listings of GAF formations. These are divided into sections on fighters, night fighters, bombers, transports, ground attack units, etc. In each case, the author gives the name of the unit (such as 6./KG 2), a full-color illustration of its emblem, a written description of the emblem (such as "a red devil riding a bomb" or "a naked small boy carrying a bomb"), sometimes (but not always) brief notes about the origin and/or location of the unit, and the model(s) of aircraft on which the emblem appeared.
For modelers in particular, this is great stuff, especially the 1000+ reproductions of color emblems, ranginglike the originalsfrom crude to gorgeous, including such unforgettable icons as "a seated man doing unspeakable things into Uncle Sam's hat." As an added bonus, the listing of units also provides some useful information about the deployment of all those Luftwaffe formations during the war.
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Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from the publishers and their distributors.
Thanks to the publishers and their distributors for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 3 June 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone