In 1967, the United States announced plans to withdraw 28,000 troops, roughly two divisions, from Europe in 1968. To demonstrate its continued commitment to NATO, the US agreed to a large scale force deployment of not less than three brigades of a single division to Europe in an annual exercise. Thus was born Return of Forces to Germany (REFORGER), which tested both the ability of conventional forces to fight in a conventional war scenario and demonstrated American determination. The first REFORGER began on 6 January 1969. This latest Tankograd Publication addresses the politics, background and nature of the exercises and includes detailed summaries of exercises 11-17, FTX 'Certain Sentinel' in 1979 through FTX 'Central Guardian' in 1985.
The author, Walter Böhm, presents us an interesting 64 page book illustrated with 130 color photos on the deployment and employment of NATO forces during the REFORGER exercises. The German/English text is well written and contains interesting notes on the specific units engaged in the exercises from 1979 to 1985. As a veteran of seven REFORGER exercises, I found the text a welcome refresher course on this arduous annual event. Whether stationed in Germany or deploying into it for REFORGER, the two weeks spent in the field during a German winter were a memorable event.
Forces within Germany went on numerous command post exercises (CPX) in preparation for participation. A large exercise controller group spent weeks in preparation. Prior to the exercise, deploying units came to Europe to perform ground reconnaissance of their tactical assembly areas and to view the equipment they would draw for the exercise. Once in Germany, the deploying unit drew equipment from sites located along the Franco-German Border, deployed units then rail loaded to assembly areas located close to the East German Border. Visits by the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM) to the exercise area were closely monitored. Böhm recounts several interesting incidents between NATO troops and their Soviet visitors.
I was particularly drawn to the photos selected for this volume. They are a superb collection of vehicles types and color schemes. Additionally the troop photos are impressive. As you look at these color photos recall that the exercises were conducted during the coldest months of the European winter. The frozen ground ensured that there was minimal damage to farmlands. At least, this was the intent. But, as you see from numerous photos, the ground was torn, bridges were destroyed, houses were banged into, street ripped up and tree knocked down as the force maneuvered through quaint German towns and villages. The cost of repair was borne by the American taxpayer in the form of maneuver damage claims.
In addition to the executive summaries provided on each exercise from 1979 to 1985, Bohm presents an outstanding photo collection of Cold War American and NATO equipment. One can view make shift white camouflage applied to numerous types of vehicles, Sheridan tanks in there OD best and the first issued M-1 Abrams in the possession of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Additionally, there are numerous photos of artillery pieces wearing their winter covers, engineer equipment and wheeled vehicles. There is also an interesting photo of a 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment M-113 in “dual – tex” camouflage with an unusual tactical marking on the ramp door. Additionally, one can also view photos of bridging equipment and river crossing operations. I was particularly drawn to the photo of a disabled M-60A1 AOS on page 40 of the book. This is prepositioned equipment tank drawn from the Miessau depot by I Troop of the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. This particular photo shows the vehicle after it hit a bridge abutment. As the Executive Officer of the Squadron, I well remember the crew’s colorful excuses and the report of survey that followed. This book will bring similar memories and recollections for those who participated and the modeler who wishes to create a realistic looking Cold War period vehicle.
The REFORGER exercises were designed to prove the United States had the ability to move conventional military forces rapidly from the continental United States to Central Europe. Walter Böhm does an admirable job in providing insights into how this goal was achieved. This is a marvelous book and one that should be on every Cold War modeler’s book shelf. It contains some of the best photos available on the REFORGER exercises and should draw the attention of diorama builders and those wishing to learn more about the Cold War period.
Highs: Great mixture of black and white and colored photos.Outstanding mixture of period vehicles.Lows: Lack of maps precludes appreciation for the location and distances covered during the exercises.Verdict: Great book. I would encourage others to buy this to assist their modeling efforts.
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