There is an old saying that winners write the history; Iím not sure that is entirely accurate, particularly in respect to the Second World War, a subject in which it sometimes seems as if most of the published work is from the side that lost the war. Another book, recently published, that continues this trend is ďThe Lions of Carentan; Fallschirmjager Regiment 6, 1943-1945Ē, written by Volker Griesser.
In the book Griesser compiles the history of the Regiment from its formation in 1943 all the way through to its final surrender at the end of the war. It begins with the unitís formation and training, which was interrupted for deployment to Italy. Following that the unit was engaged in Russia, the Normandy battles, Holland, Belgium, the Ardennes, were they conducted the last wartime drop of German paratroopers, and eventually the final battles in Germany itself. Each of these deployments is conveniently covered in separate chapters. The book gives an excellent description of the wartime service through the use of extensive veterans recollections interspersed with commentary from the author.
Of importance to the modeler are the extensive photographs throughout that focus on the men and the uniforms of the Fallschirmjagers. What was really nice was that most of these photos come from the private collections of the veterans themselves and have thus never been published beforehand.
I particularly enjoyed the treatment of the unitís first combat engagement against Italian troops following the capitulation of the Italian government. What stood out for me in this chapter was the authors, and the veterans, evenhanded treatment of the Italian military. Griesser paints a picture that shows the Italian military to be a much more dangerous and competent opponent than is often portrayed.
Overall the book does a decent job of telling the story of these elite troopers. There are a few caveats however, first was the poor job of editing that left several errors in spelling and syntax in the text. The other caveat is that Griesser is dealing with veteranís recollections from nearly 60 years ago, which means that some of memories may be somewhat exaggerated or embellished. For instance, one memory has a glider coming in hard for a landing during a training exercise in which the drogue chute fails to deploy, the plane manages to successfully maneuver below some power lines, hits two light poles that clip the wind tips off, maneuvers between buildings, has both wings eventually sheared off, after which the fuselage continues to hurtle through the air, eventually coming to rest in a giant cloud of dust and debris that everyone miraculously walks away, all while being watched by a crowd of over 1000 amazed observers. Sometimes it is hard to take those kind of cartoonish recollections seriously in what is supposed to be a serious work.
Despite those shortcomings the book was an enjoyable and entertaining read. It is valuable to be able to see what common soldiers who fought on the other side were thinking and experiencing. Even if their memories are a bit suspect at times the overall feel and emotion is very much correct.
Highs: Extensive photography and veteran's recollections that help to tell the story of one of Germany's elite combat units. Lows: Poor editing, some of the memories should be taken with a grain of salt after so many years. Verdict: Good book that provides a decent path toward understanding the wartime experiences of common soldiers.
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About Rick Cooper (clovis899) FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
I have been modeling for about 30 years now. Once upon a time in another century I owned my own hobby shop; way more work than it was worth. I tip my opti-visor to those who make a real living at it. Mainly build armor these days but I keep working at figures, planes and the occasional ship.