Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Waffen SS in Russia 1941-44

 The Waffen SS holds an enduring fascination for students of WWII, and this new Concord volume caters to this interest. In particular, the book focuses on the Waffen SS fighting on the Eastern Front. William Fowler is a new author to Concord, and he has done a superb job of collating relevant photos and providing informative captions.

 The volume begins with a description of the role played by this elite fighting formation commanded by Heinrich Himmler. After the initial giddy successes subsequent to the 1941 invasion of Russia, the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS both eventually ran out of steam at the very gates of Moscow. The SS had grown from a force of 141,975 fighting men in September 1942 to 280,000 soldiers a year later. This statistic illustrates the importance attached to the formation, and how resources for it were prioritized. New divisions with names like 'Nordland' and 'Wiking' were established, joining others like 'Totenkopf' and 'Das Reich'. However, the ability of the Waffen SS to extinguish hotspots could only delay Germany's inevitable defeat. This book, through the extensive collection of photos, traces the exploits of these elite soldiers in all areas of the Russian frontline and in all kinds of weather conditions. The black and white pictures show all manner of equipment and weapons in use.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Siege of Sevastopol and the Crimea Campaign 1941-42

The Charge of the Light Brigade is a famous event that took place during the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimea in the mid-1800s. However, this region was the site of even more destructive fighting between Germany and Russia in WWII. Concord's latest book presents in some detail this particular campaign in the 1941-42 timeframe.

The attacking German 11.Armee was commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein, and his goal was to overrun the Crimean Peninsular and take Rostov. The battle was joined on 24 September 1941, with the capture of the naval fortress of Sevastapol on the southwestern tip of the peninsular set to be the ultimate prize. The Russian Black Sea Fleet defenders fought bitterly as they reinforced the defenses of Sevastapol and the Crimea. As the fighting wore on, Soviet troops launched counterattacks during the winter of 1941/42. A series of thrusts and counter-thrusts ensued, with Germany only able to clear the Crimea on 18 May 1942. Manstein was able to set his sights on Sevastapol, with its defenses including pillboxes, gun emplacements, anti-tank ditches, minefields and wire entanglements. Although German units encircled the city and an 80cm "Gustav" railway gun and 60cm Morser Karl bombarded the city, it took weeks of fighting before the second defensive line was breached during Operation Sturgeon Catch. The city was bombarded mercilessly until it finally fell on 3 July.