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Book Review
Paratrooper vs Fallschirmjager
British Paratrooper vs Fallschirmjäger Mediterranean 1942–43
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

British Paratrooper vs Fallschirmjäger
Mediterranean 1942–43
Series & No.: Combat 1
Author: David Greentree
Illustrator: Johnny Shumate
Length: 80 pages
ISBN: 9781780969244
Format: Softcover; PDF; ePub eBook

Osprey kicks off a new series: Combat. This first in the series examines three battles to compare British paratroopers and Germany's Fallschirmjäger against each other in the Mediterranean 1942–43.

Germany's Fallschirmjäger were conceived from the get-go as elite troops. Nazi propaganda trumpeted them as a vanguard of the new Germany and they had support from all arms. In 1940-41 they achieved some spectacular victories and suffered some stinging rebuffs. Fallschirmjäger won a large scale Pyrrhic victory on Crete and never used en mass again. Yet they were known as some of the toughest troops the Wehrmacht fielded and used as rapid action "fire brigades". By and large they avoided atrocities and were even praised for chivalry by Allied armies. In fact, one major Fallschirmjäger commander died under suspicious circumstances in Germany just months after intervening against a superior officer of another service branch from executing captured British troops!

Britain formed their paratroops not for grand strategic operations, but for raiding and sabatoge. While RAF did not want to be a part of things yet was forced to participate, concessions allowed the RAF to pick landing and drop zones, to the detriment of the paratroopers. Soon Britain employed their paratroopers in ever expanding operations eventually rivaling the large early war Fallschirm operations.

This book examines the strengths and weaknesses of British and German paratroopers in combat against the other in three battles during 1943.

Mr. Greentree brings British Paratrooper vs Fallschirmjäger to us through 80 pages in eight chapters and index:
    1. Introduction
    2. The opposing sides
      * Role and doctrine
      * Building an elite
      * Leadership and communications
      * Mobility, tactics and firepower
    3. Pont Du Fahs, Depienne and Oudna, 29 November-4 December 1942
    4. Green Hill, 5 January 1943
    5. Primosole Bridge, 13-17 July, 1943
    6. Analysis and conclusion
    7. Bibliography
    8. Index

Included are a key of military symbols, comparative ranks between British and Germans, and a conversion table for standard to metric.

The text is full of quotes from wartime as well as post-war interviews and memoirs.
    We were in position with this gun for about half an hour, when our Officer saw German lorries loaded up with infantry. We loaded up the gun and let them have four shells and it shook them up, and forced them to get off the lorries, so of course they had to come to us by foot. The gun wasn't much further use, so I returned back with my men to my original position, a pill box, I took a Bren gun.

At the end of the book is a page describing three Unit Organizations:
1. British parachute battalion, late 1942
2. German Fallschirm-Pionier-Bataillon 11, late 1942
3. German Fallschirmjäger-Regiment, late1942-mid 1943

The book opens with an overview of the above listed topics in context of German and British airborne operations prior to the three battles spotlighted in this title. An excellent set of maps helps orient the reader to the arena of battle. In an easily read format the book then explores the four characteristics of the two combatants. How the two countries created and staffed their paratroopers is particularly interesting. I have read that Fallschirmjäger recruits were top-notch and many sacrificed higher rank to become Jäger. Officers and NCOs had to learn the ropes from the bottom, then attend schools emphasizing imitative and flexibility, taking command with experience and confidence in, and from, their men. I was surprised that the British regimental approach continued into their paratroopers, although Col. Frost was happy to note that in practice, the service was less regimented.

The section on weapons includes everything from firearms and personal weapons, transport, crew-served weapons, and radios. It is interesting that the United States Army Air Force was prominent in British airborne ops.

The author includes two brief profiles of combatants: Frederick Moore, 1st Parachute Battalion; Martin Pöppel, Fallschirm-Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 1.

Three chapters relate in detail three significant battles fought between British paratroopers and Fallschirmjäger. One is an early commando-style attack on airfields, one an infantry attack against a dug-in hill, and finally an assault to capture a bridge. I think Mr. Greentree recounts these with an excellent balance of detail and readability.

Finally, the lessons learned and fates and fortunes of British paratroopers and Fallschirmjäger is examined. Quotes from survivors of both sides present the reader with German views of the British, and visa-verse.

photographs, art and graphics
Dozens of good photographs support the text. Most are black-and-white and several are WW2 color photos. Many will be familiar to those exposed to paratrooper operations yet several are new to me. Almost all are very clear and do not appear to be reprints from magazines, newspapers, or stills from motion pictures. Military modelers and dioramaists - get ready for inspiration!

Original artwork by illustrator Johnny Shumate enhances the text:

1. Maps British and German airborne clashes in North Africa and the Mediterranean, 1942-43
2. German soldier of Fallschirm-Pionier-bataillon 11, Green Hill, Tunisia, 5 January 1943; keyed with 13 components of weapons, dress and equipment.
3. British Para of 3rd Parachute Battalion, Green Hill, Tunisia, 5 January 1943, keyed with 12 components of weapons, dress and equipment.
4. Map: 2nd Parachute Battalion and Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 5, Depienne to Medjez-el-Bab, November-December 1942; keyed to 16 events of the raid, including a lengthy sidebar.
5. Twin panel combat scene: The fight at Cactus Farm; twin scenes, one British and one Fallschirmjäger, with sidebar descriptions.
6. Map: 3rd Parachute Battalion and Kampfgruppe 'Witzig', Green Hill, 4-5 January 1943; keyed to nine events of the battle, including a lengthy sidebar.
7. Map: 1st Parachute Battalion and Kampfgruppe 'Stangenberg', Primosole Bridge, 13-17 July 1943; keyed to nine events of the pitched battle, including a lengthy sidebar.
8. Two-page centerfold: Withdrawal from the Bridge; Lt-Col Pearson directing covering fire against onrushing Fallschirmjäger and assault gun, Primosole Bridge.

I thoroughly enjoyed this first title of the new Combat series. Within the limitations of an 80-page format I think Mr. Greentree did a fine job of balancing information, illustration, detail and readability. I greatly appreciate the first-hand accounts by German and British soldiers. This book is very informative from the technical point. The three combats recounted are excellent presentations of small unit actions. Artwork is excellent. My complaints are negligible.

I certainly recommend this book to all students and people interested in Britain's WW2 paratroopers or Germany's Fallschirmjäger; the late war in North Africa and Sicily; small unit actions.

Please tell Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on Armorama.
Highs: Exceptional artwork and photographic support, strategic and tactical maps; Unit organizations, first-hand accounts.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: I certainly recommend this book to all students and people interested in Britain's WW2 paratroopers or Germany's Fallschirmjäger; the late war in North Africa and Sicily; small unit actions.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781780969244
  Suggested Retail: £11.99, $18.95
  PUBLISHED: Dec 16, 2013

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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