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This latest title in this new series describes the use of the Luftwaffe’s Fallschirmjager in the early, so-called “Blitzkrieg” era. This gives the author the opportunity to describe the service’s only “real” airborne operations in Norway, Holland, Belgium and their swan song, the invasion and conquest of the island of Crete. After that operation, which bled the service nearly to death, Hitler refused to countenance any further mass airborne assaults. From then on, the service was usually used as elite light infantry.
The author describes in excellent detail the conception, formation and training, organization, weapons and equipment, tactics and finally, aircraft as used by the Fallschirmjager Korps. The units described include the 22. Infanterie Division (Luftland), as well as the 7. Flieger Division and the Luftlande-Sturm Regiment. What sets these two sections apart from the usual Orders of Battle charts as seen in most books of this kind is not only the great detail that is given, but the apparent fact that the charts are the actual strengths of the units at the times given, rather than the usual “paper” formations.
The section describing the aircraft used (JU-52/3m transport and the DFS-230 assault glider are especially welcome, as are the various sections on C3I (command, control, communications and intelligence) and heavy weapons, including the specially developed 7.5cm IG 40 and 10.5cm IG 40 recoilless guns. Conventional artillery, some quite unsuited to the role assigned to them, are also detailed. The lighter crew- served weapons, common to all German formations are also covered as are individual weapons. The peculiar limitations of the parachutes then in use forced the Fallschirmjagers to jump lightly armed with only a small pistol; the troops would then retrieve their normal weapons and equipment from the canisters that were dropped with them. This would lead to some tense moments for them as they attempted, sometimes under enemy pressure, to properly arm and equip themselves to accomplish the task at hand.
The author, long known as an authority on “things German”, certainly proves it again with this latest effort. Indeed (nasty old man that I am) I could only find one item were he went astray, but that’s probably because it is out of his area of expertise In the comparative table of ranks, the author shows German, British and US ranks. However, some titles of the US ranks simply are not correct. US Generals are NOT officially referred to as “Three-Star General so-and-so”! A “One-Star General” is a Brigadier General (which the author does allude to). A “Two-Star…” is a Major general, a “Three-Star…” is a Lieutenant General, a “Four-Star…” is a General. The seldom-used (and currently dormant) rank of “Five-Star General” is entitled “General of the Armies”, or in the case of someone like Hap Arnold, “General of the Air Force”. Also, since the US Army did not have a rank the equivalent to a Lance Corporal, the author filled the space with the rank of “Acting Corporal”.
But, the prospective purchaser of this book really should not let these little errors deter them. This is indeed a tight little package that delivers what the title suggests; and it does so quite nicely.
Frank De Sisto