German forces made impressive advances across vast swathes of Russia after Operation Barbarossa was launched in 1941. Indeed, Blitzkrieg reached the very gates of Moscow. Yet, the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 marked a decisive turning point in the tide of war on the Eastern Front. What began was a long series of setbacks and defeats, with German forces being rolled back inexorably by the massive Russian juggernaut. The territory that was captured so quickly in 1941-42 was soon being fought for all over again, with German troops extracting a very high price as Russian troops advanced towards Berlin. This new book by Gordon Rottman examines pictorially this long fighting retreat of German forces, with the focus being on the closing years of the war from 1944-45.
This book begins with a concise explanation of the situation in 1944-45, and how German units were organized to try and overcome acute shortages of personnel. Additional divisions were raised in the form of Luftwaffe field divisions, Waffen-SS divisions manned by non-Germanic recruits, and Volkssturm (this name translates as ‘People’s Assault’) units filled with those too young or too old for regular units. The book then proceeds to exhibit German soldiers from this time period in a series of black and white photos. While most photographs portray soldiers, several also show equipment like tanks and transport vehicles. The uniforms and weapons of these soldiers as they retreated westward are on full display, and the selection of photos will no doubt provide plenty of modeling inspiration or historical information. The photo content even extends to showing Volkssturm personnel in the closing weeks of the war.
The centerpiece of the book is a series of four color plates by illustrator Dmitriy Zgonnik. These portray grenadiers from a range of units as they appeared in combat, with pertinent comments on their uniforms, personal equipment and weapons outlined in the accompanying captions. There is a lot of interest in the closing years of WWII, and this book offers a fine collection of photos showing the German infantryman as he fought for his own survival and that of his nation.