by: Gabriel [ ]
I was waiting with excitement and worries at the same time for this book to arrive from Europe. Excitement because it would be my first attempt looking at a coherent and comprehensive history of Romanian Armored Forces during the Second World War. Worries because generally the Occidental authors fail to understand the mentality of the people and in general the history of Balkans and Eastern Europe. I had parts of both.
Description of the book
Title: Romanian Armored Forces in World War II
Publisher: Kagero Publishing, ul. Akacjowa 100, os. Borek, Turka, 20-258 Lublin 62, Poland
Edition: First edition, 2018
Collection: Library of Armed Conflicts #5 (91005)
Author / Editor Eduardo M. Gil Martinez
Translation / Proofreading: Ricardo Ramallo Gil
Cover: Lukasz Maj
DTP: Kagero Studio
Color Profiles: Arkadiusz Wrobel
Nr. pages: 128 text pages full color and b&w illustrations.
The quality of the print and cover is very good, on ultra bright white paper, with an easy to read font and lines spaced at 1.5 points. The color (b&w) pages are also very nicely printed, in high quality whenever the quality of the original photograph permitted a good rendition of the image. Unfortunately, most of the original historical pictures are poorly taken or damaged by time... not the author / publisher's fault by any means. The contemporary pictures are excellent quality, as well as the maps.
The book is nicely and solid bound with a full color gloss cover. The cover extends in folded halves - sleeves, very useful as advertising space and bookmarks. Although not a hard-cover, the book is technically superlative - the best quality paperback available with the current printing methods.
Table of contents
Chapter I - The Birth Of The Romanian Armed Forces;
Chapter II - 1938. Drums Of War In Europe
Chapter III - 1939. World War II Begins
Chapter IV - Romania Falls Under The German Influence
Chapter V - Birth And Attrition
Chapter VI - 1942. From Attack To Defense
Chapter VII - 1943. Reorganization After The Disaster
Chapter VIII - 1944. Between The Sword And The Wall
Chapter IX - 1945. Fight Until The End And Annihilation
The chronological backbone of the book became obvious after its structure and also indicates right away that we have a facts oriented history book, which is a wise approach when navigating the treacherous waters of Eastern European political history.
My excitement was paid back in full by a compelling description of the military actions carried by the Romanian Ground Forces in collaboration with Axis Forces during WWII and, after 23rd August 1944, in collaboration with the Soviets against the Axis. For the factual and photographic part, the book is a valuable addition to any library. For the interpretative and academic parts, the book is severely lacking.
Unfortunately the quality of the text does not match the print quality. There are many mistakes and misspellings in all languages used in the book. The author / editor jumps all too often from a spelling normally to the next in the same paragraph, sometimes in consecutive words.
The declared intention of the author, Mr. Eduardo M. Gil Martinez, is to write a compilation rather than an academic book. So much so, because the text is rather poorly compiled and edited / proofed. The spelling of the names of the places or persons is random and there is no methodology across the book. A serious book dealing with foreign names has a special paragraph, usually in the preface, where the author explains the reasons why he chose one or another spelling version. Of course Mr. Eduardo M. Gil Martinez doesn't want to write an academic book, because he doesn't master the academic tools.
Rumania or Romania? Both names are accepted, Rumania being the old spelling version. But from a methodological point of view, the presence of both in the same paragraph (and even in the same book) it is not correct.
Miguel I, Michael I or Mihail I? None of the above. The Romanian name is Mihai. In an English language publication makes perfect sense to use the English version of Michael I. The Slavic version and Spanish spelling are out of place. Again, there are two names of the same person mentioned on the same page. These kind of mistakes unfortunately undermine the credibility of the book and of the author. The superficiality shrouding the book communicates a haste of putting together a title on which the subject is less known and the information meager. That saddens me because the author apparently was in touch with some Romanian history aficionados which could have helped him avoid many of the mistakes.
Above are only two of the many examples where the author cooks together Slavic, Latin, German and English spellings in a not so toothsome paella. I guess that some cultivated reader will understand which is which but from a printed book I have higher expectations as opposed to an open forum / FB group where any fool can express himself by any means on the principle "I don't care if it's misspelled, they will understand. Gr8 4 me, M8!"
The supporting pictures
One of the most valuable assets of this book is the compilation in a single place of the pictures showing Romanian Armored vehicles during WWII. They are very rare and one has to spend a lot of time in an attempt to find references about the Romanian combat and support vehicles. The Romanians didn't have the propaganda companies the Germans and Russian had. Many of the historical photos originate in Bundesarchiv and the rest of them have hard to find originals, most probably personal photographs of German and Romanian officers. For me most of the pictures presented in the book were well known before, but I still appreciate the fact that they are now gathered in between the same covers and the collection is quite comprehensive.
Many pictures are not directly related to the Romanian Armored Forces, but collected from different museums to exemplify the "kind of" used by the Romanian Army. This is very understandable because the original information is lacking - but the modeler has to be aware that they might not be identical with the original. Even the ones preserved in Romanian museums are restored in discordance with the original and most of the time the paint color and the registration numbers are inspired from Alice in Wonderland or from The Wizard of Oz rather than from reality. There is nothing to blame for the author here - his effort in collecting those pictures have taken him probably many long and frustrating days.
But it is still something I am unhappy about here: the pictures are not numbered, there is not a picture index and the pages containing the pictures are not numbered either. Imagine I need to make a reference now to a specific picture from this book. It would be impossible without getting ridiculous: "The second picture from the third page from the second glossy paper fascicle from the book!" The texts accompanying the pictures are as lousy as the book's text. They were not proofed properly and are abundant with all kinds of mistakes.
The Color Profiles
These are not bad at all. Some might look unimpressive and tasteless, but that was the reality. The Romanian Armored Forces had a "boring" overall green (Romanian khaki or Romanian Green) as the main scheme and the national insignia weren't always displayed. In the case of the vehicles transferred from the German units, the Romanians did not even bother to apply the Romanian khaki - they just went on and sometimes applied the national markings. Furthermore is very difficult to tell, for instance, a German Pz.Kpfw. IV from a Romanian Pz.Kpfw. IV unless you have a lucky picture that shows clearly the King Michael's Cross or the Romanian Tri-colored Roundel for the period before 23 August 1944 or the white encircled star from that date to the end of the war.
There are a few maps mixed up with the pictures. Unfortunately their quality is inconsistent: some are very good, others are mere sketches. No big drama here - the operational maps are among the detailed ones and that comes in nicely. Like with the pictures, there is neither a map index nor straight references from the text to the map. The reader has to complete the puzzle by himself which is not handy at all, especially if not familiar with the operational area.
This is the most important and savory part of the book, actually. There are numbers, statistics and information about the Romanian Armored Forces that otherwise are hard to find.
The tables are meticulously done by types, years, producer, and employment. I wish all of the book had been as well conceived and organized as the tables.
The second Annex is dedicated to the description of the imported and indigenous armor and, again, the modeler will find here the information he needs. I would say this single Annex gives the most of the best from the book and should have been the core of it, not an appendix.
The third and final annex it is probably a poor copy of a ranks table from Wikipedia and the author ungraciously regresses in misspelling and mistakes, perhaps just to finish in the same note he started.
My conclusion after reading (most of) this book
The title was necessary and highly anticipated by the small Romanian modeling community and perhaps by the ones interested in "exotic" markings and vehicles. The book has its value that cannot be denied but it has way to many faults that cannot be denied either.
I am very disappointed myself that I to have write a less than favorable review, but I have to be honest to my readers. If you are interested mainly in original pictures, operational history and Romanian Armored Forces complement from 1938 to 1945, this book is for you. If you are a white collar type, just forget it!
The general (and sour) impression this book gave me is one of a self-published book where the ambition and intent of the author are laudable and generous, but the results are mediocre at the best. In all honesty, I was expecting much more from a printed on paper publication.
Quality of the print / binding: 10/10
Importance vs. subject: 8/10
Information quality: 8/10
Supporting material quality: 8/10
Academic quality: 3/10