12 November 2018

Alarmstart East - The German Fighter Pilot's Experience on the Eastern Front 1941-1945

Patrick Eriksson has been an associate member of the German Fighter Pilot Veteran's Association since 1974. This membership gave him the opportunity to record the experiences of members of the Luftwaffe first-hand, before it was too late. This volume, the second in the Alarmstart series, provides detailed coverage of the experience of Luftwaffe fighter pilots on the Eastern Front from 1941-45 in their own words.

The campaign in the East is broken down into sections (detailed below), which contain accounts of personal experiences, including opinions of Russian pilots, planes and tactics. The list of German veterans whose experiences are recounted stretches over three pages, and includes men who served in many different Jagdgeschwader. The extensive notes on each chapter, and the six pages of bibliography, websites and archive references are evidence of the research that has gone into this book. 

The author assumes a degree of knowledge of the Luftwaffe and their structure, and the lengthy chapter on the Victory Claims Debate might not be to everyone's interest, however if you have a passion for finding out more on the Luftwaffe experience on the Eastern Front - this book should definitely be worth considering. It also has some unique additional information which added another aspect to the coverage, such as details of the ships damaged by the Russian airforce in Libau harbour, during the evacuation of Kurland in December 1944.

Table of contents:
  • Training to be a Fighter Pilot
  • Character of the Russian War
  • Air War on an Epic Scale - Statistics
  • Operation Barbarossa and the Russian Winter Offensive (22 June 1941 - February 1942)
  • 1942: New Offensives by the Wehrmacht; Stalingrad
  • 1943: Year of Decision, the Tide Turns; Kuban and Kursk
  • Endless Retreats; the Bagration Debacle (January - August 1944)
  • Late 1944 - 1945: The End of the Campaign in the East
  • The Startkladde of 7/JG 51: Understanding German Fighter Tactics and High Claims in the East
  • The Victory Claims Debate
  • Conclusions 
Available from:
Amberley Publishing

10 November 2018

Panzers in the Defence of Festung Posen 1945

Panzers in Defence of Poznan 1945 by Maciej Karalus and Jarosław Jerzak is the first book published in English to describe the bitter battle for Festung Poznań in 1945. That Polish city, occupied by the Nazis since almost the very beginning of the Second World War in 1939, was declared a fortress (Festung) on January 20 1945, and for the whole month it saw heavy fighting between Wehrmacht and Waffen SS troops and the Red Army advancing directly towards Berlin.

Among the garrison of the fortress a special part was played by a small heavy Panzer unit which possessed just 1 Tiger tank, 2 Panthers, 1 Panzer IV and a handful of Sturmgeschütze. Despite the difficulty and sparsity of sources, the authors were able to acquire an impressive wealth of information and memoirs, as well as rich iconography.

Before Poland was able to regain her full political autonomy in 1990, the fighting in Poznań was described only by Zbigniew Szumowski and Stanisław Okęcki. These, however, were poor compilations, only marginally touching upon the participation of German Wehrmacht. These authors looked upon this subject through the lenses of Soviet documentations and historiographical propaganda of their times. Sadly, they could not or would not make use of the documents in German archives. Their cardinal mistake was to overestimate the strength of the forces at play (especially on the German side), and the glorification of the Soviet victory, foregoing an honest analysis of the losses of human life as well as equipment on both sides.

This is the first book in English that allows the reader to follow the street fighting in Poznań through the eyes of the Wehrmacht soldiers, documenting the story of the German armoured forces engaged in the battles for the city.

This is a well produced book,  with some interesting images (mostly after the battle photos) and includes footnotes and useful appendixes. The first hand accounts from German participants (including civilians) are of note, and are one of the highlights. But this is really a book for those with a specific interest in the battles of 1945 on the Eastern Front. The authors have thoroughly researched the actions of this battle, but this also limits the scope of the book to this specific action - which is perfect if you already understand the bigger picture, but rather restricted if you do not. The other slight shortcoming is the translation. The German accounts in particular suffer from translation from German to Polish, then to English and as a result are sometimes stilted and literal in the language used. But despite these small points, it is good to see books like this being made available to an English speaking audience and I hope to see more in the future.

Available from:
Casemate Publishing

6 November 2018

Hitler's American Friends - The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States

Americans who remember World War II reminisce about how it brought the country together. The less popular truth behind this warm nostalgia: until the attack on Pearl Harbor, America was deeply, dangerously divided.

Bradley W. Hart's Hitler's American Friends exposes the homegrown antagonists who sought to protect and promote Hitler, leave Europeans (and especially European Jews) to fend for themselves, and elevate the Nazi regime.

Some of these friends were Americans of German heritage who joined the Bund, whose leadership dreamed of installing a stateside Führer. Some were as bizarre and hair-raising as the Silver Shirt Legion, run by an eccentric who claimed that Hitler fulfilled a religious prophesy. Some were Midwestern Catholics like Father Charles Coughlin, an early right-wing radio star who broadcast anti-Semitic tirades. They were even members of Congress who used their franking privilege―sending mail at cost to American taxpayers―to distribute German propaganda. And celebrity pilot Charles Lindbergh ended up speaking for them all at the America First Committee. Hitler's American Friends is a powerful look at how the forces of evil manipulate ordinary people, how we stepped back from the ledge, and the disturbing ease with which we could return to it.

Each chapter covers a different group in detail, and provides a thorough introduction to the surprisingly numerous groups who support fascism and the rise of Hitler. Anyone with an interest in the World War II period and the rise of fascism should find this a fascinating read, as the author explains the politics, ambition and nefarious activities of these groups in an easily digestible way.

Table of contents:
  • The Bund
  • The Silver Legion and the Chief
  • The Religious Right
  • The Senators
  • The Businessmen
  • The Students
  • America First!
  • The Spies

Available from:
St Martin's Press

11 October 2018

Hitler's Atrocities Against Allied POWs

Seventy years ago, the Nuremberg Trials were in full swing in Germany. In the dock were the leaders of the Nazi regime and most eventually received their just desserts. But what happened to the other war criminals?

In June 1946, Lord Russell of Liverpool became Deputy Judge Advocate and legal adviser to the Commander in Chief for the British Army of the Rhine in respect of all trials held by British Military Courts of German war criminals. He later wrote;

'At the outbreak of the Second World War, the treatment of prisoners was governed by the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention of 1929, the Preamble of which stated that the aim of the signatories was to alleviate the conditions of prisoners of war.

'During the war, however, the provisions of the Convention were repeatedly disregarded by Germany. Prisoners were subjected to brutality and ill-treatment, employed on prohibited and dangerous work, handed over to the SD for "special treatment" in pursuance of Hitler's Commando Order, lynched in the streets by German civilians, sent to concentration camps, shot on recapture after escaping, and even massacred after they had laid down their arms and surrendered.'

This book, authored by the chairman of the National Ex-Prisoner of War Association, Philip D. Chinnery, provides a comprehensive overview of the mistreated meted out to British, American and significantly Russian POWs held by Germany and her European allies. The title is somewhat misleading, as it implies a systematic and planned abuse of POWs by the Nazis, and while that was certainly the case against Russian prisoners, and indeed was also carried out in certain infamous POW camps and against certain types of prisoners such as Commandos, many of the detailed examples cover specific incidents of offhand cruelty and mistreatment. The stories recounted have been researched at the Public Records Office in Kew, and NARA in Washington, and the notes on each chapter give detailed references.

The grim list of murders and cruel treatments include well known episodes such as the killing of US POWs at Malmedy in the Adrennes, and Canadian POWs in Normandy, but also covers incidents in North Africa, attacks on Allied airmen in Germany, executions of SAS men, and many additional war crimes. This is a sobering and harrowing book, detailing many forgotten crimes committed against POWs who should have been offered the protection of the Geneva Convention, but tragically were not.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

2 October 2018

LST 388: A World War II Journal

Robert von der Osten (1920-2016) served as a Radioman 1/C onboard Landing Ship Tank (LST) 388 during World War II. Through his journal entries, von der Osten details his experiences of the war, from his training days in the newly created amphibious force, to practice beachings on the Chesapeake Bay; from the ports of North Africa and the United Kingdom, to the hostile shores of Sicily, Salerno, and Normandy. 
During World War II, Robert von der Osten kept journals from his time in boot camp to the invasions of Sicily, Salerno and Normandy. In the years following the war, Robert continued to add to his collection of war-related materials to one day turn into a book. With every attendance at a US LST Association Annual Convention, at every new book that came out explaining events of WWII in a new way, and every newspaper or magazine article that related in any way to his experience aboard the USS LST-388 during WWII, the collection expanded. 
This collection of material has helped to build the book LST 388: A World War II Journal. Completed with the help of his youngest daughter Barbara von der Osten, the book is full of dated journal entries, over 50 photos - many taken by Robert von der Osten or by another Radioman aboard the ship (Bill Schellhorn), maps and extracts from the ships radio log.
An additional point of note is that von der Osten was a second generation German-American, and the introduction of the book details a brief encounter with the German-American Bund in the late 1930s - an unusual story seldom heard. 
Providing a unique insight into both the role of LSTs in the Allied landings in Europe, and the personal account of a young member of the crew, LST 388: A World War II Journal is a great addition to the literature of World War II. 
See more at: LST 388 
Available from:

24 July 2018

The First Bridge Too Far - The Battle of Primosole Bridge 1943

For the very first time, the Battle of Primosole Bridge is brought to life in a well-researched narrative solely dedicated to one of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles for British airborne troops of World War Two.

Primosole Bridge in Sicily (13-16 July 1943) provided the stage for the first instance of opposing elite paratroopers parachuting into battle and then fighting each other in a see-saw battle raging under the blazing Mediterranean sky. It's a story of courage and determination. A story of legendary military units and their commanders. A story that now, on the eve of its 75th Anniversary, finally needs to be told.

The British paratroopers of the famed Parachute Regiment's 1st Parachute Brigade, known as the ‘Red Devils', fought their equally esteemed German paratrooper opponents, known as the ‘Green Devils', in a battle of attrition central to the entire success of the Allies' first invasion of Hitler's Fortress Europe. These two sets of elite Devils fought each other to a stand-still in Hellish conditions. The paratroopers found themselves cut-off behind enemy lines with dwindling ammunition and ever-growing enemy forces encircling. Their courage and determination in standing up to overwhelming odds allowed the ground forces to arrive and capture the bridge in the nick of time before it was destroyed. The hard-won experience gained by the 1st Parachute Brigade was again tested only a year later at the Battle of Arnhem, the battle christened a bridge too far. It was in fact an almost identical battle, but on a larger scale, to the ferocious fight that the British paratroopers had faced only months previously. The Battle of Arnhem is well documented. The Battle of Primosole Bridge, which provided the foundations for the men and planning for the legendary events at Arnhem, is virtually unheard of and needs to be told at last in order to honour the sacrifice of the Britain's unsung war heroes.

Available from:
Casemate Publishing

6 June 2018

Allied Armor in Normandy

Throughout the summer of 1944, the Allied forces readily employed tanks and armored vehicles to gain ground in the bloody campaign of Normandy. Heavily armed, they provided a kind of support which no number of infantrymen could offer, battling their way through enemy lines with their guns blazing. From the US 2nd Armored Division named ‘Hell on Wheels’ to the British ‘Achilles’ tank, the encounters they had in battle were explosive.

This volume of the Casemate Illustrated series explores the Normandy invasion from the perspective of the Allied Armored divisions, looking at how armored vehicles played a central role in the many battles that took place. It includes over 40 profiles of tanks and armored vehicles, from the American Sherman and Stuart tanks to the bulldozers and amphibious vehicles designed for the beach.

With detailed diagrams and many photos illustrating the composition of the Allied armored divisions and tank regiments present at Normandy, this volume explains the crucial part played by tanks in gaining a foothold in Normandy after the D-Day landings, as well as the significance of many other types of armored vehicles.

Table of Contents
  • Timeline of Events
  • Allied Armored Divisions in Normandy
  • American Armored Divisions
  • British Armored Units
  • Allied Tanks in June
  • Initial British Offensives
  • Caen: From Stalemate to Breakthrough 
Originally published in French as one of the Militaria Magazine Hors-Serie, this title provides a good all-round introduction to Allied armored vehicles and units that participated in the Battle of Normandy. Those who already have knowledge of the topic may not find a lot of new information here, however if you want to learn more about the subject or want to gain a broad understanding of the use of armored units in Normandy, this is a good introduction.
 Available from: