Images of war series - Hitler's Defeat on the Western Front 1944-1945

Images of war series - Hitler's Defeat on the Western Front 1944-1945

Hans Seidler
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Hans Seidler is a leading collector of Second World War memorabilia and an authority on German Armed Forces and their equipment.He has published numerous works with Pen and Sword, including: Hitler's Tank Killers - Sturmgeschutze at war 1939-1945, Luftwaffe Flak Divisions and Hitler's Boy Soldiers; all in the Images of War series.

While many would say that D-Day was the beginning of the end for the Third Reich, the damage had already been done on the Russian Steppes where thousands of German soldiers perished in front of a greater enemy defending it's homeland. The better equipped German soldiers were continuously restricted by atrocious weather conditions, irregular ration supplies and a trickle of barely trained replacements. Many divisions, on their return to the west were lucky if they contained half their allotted strength. Equipment was a secondary problem. At the start of the war, the Germans had excellent tanks, guns and uniforms. While the quality of the weaponry was still first rate, getting it to the Eastern front was a logistical nightmare. Uniforms gradually became thinner and less robust and the soldiers, literally froze to death in them.

Following intelligence reports that the Allies were preparing an invasion on the Normandy or Pas de Calais shores, German High Command ordered Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's Army Group B and General Dollmann's 7th Army were moved to the Normandy area and General Hans von Salmouth's 15th Army around Calais, along with General Schweppenburg's Panzer Group West. By late May of 1944, there were an estimated 600,000 beach obstacles laid in both areas and thousands of troops moved to coastal areas. Despite the build-up of forces, the Germans that arrived in these areas were either worn out and under strength from years of fighting in Russia, Africa or Italy; or they were hastily drafted in conscripts, badly trained and poorly equipped. These men were now expected to defend France from the largest amphibious invasion in history.

Swindler tells it like it was with no punches pulled. He is highly critical of the German High Command and divisional commanders for failing to get the necessary equipment to the troops. He also criticizes the planning of the defence of the coastal area. By the time the allied attack had begun, the defenders had received no warning until the first enemy shots were fired at them. The 15th Army were already on maximum alert but the 7th Army were not and therefore could not begin a counter attack. Three Panzer Divisions were within striking distance but not one of them were ordered to the beaches. Instead, an Infantry division and two static divisions were left on their own to repel the Allies.

This book is written by an author who empathise with his countryman and sees the shocking waste of life and destruction as something that could have been avoided. Packed from start to finish with excellent quality black and white photographs, the reader gets an impression of the desperation and futility that is depicted on the faces of the young soldiers, many of whom were barely out of their teens. The fact that these men of the Heer, Waffen-SS, Luftwaffe, Hitlerjugend, Volksturm and many others fought so tenaciously, almost to the last man, in some cases is tribute to the German soldier.

For anyone who is a student of Military History or a model-maker, this book is an interesting insight into the last year of the German "Master plan". I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in the genre. There are plenty of rare photographs to keep the reader interested long with descriptions of all the major conflicts from Normandy until the ultimate surrender. There are also a number of appendices detailing weapons compositions, Infantry and Panzergrenadier Division compositions, orbats for 6th June 1944, Holland Sept 1944, Ardennes, December 1944 and finally, the defence on the Western Front March & April 1945.

Highly recommended. 5/5

Images of War series - Hitler's Defeat on the Western Front, 1944-1945.
Written and compiled by Hans Seidler. ISBN: 978 1 52673 157 9
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