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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Hitler´s Paratroopers In Normandy

If you wish to know how the German paras fought in Normandy, this book is for you.

Retired US Army Colonel Gilberto Villahermosa has produced 303 pages of top-notch German paratrooper history. He has chosen to focus on the German II Parachute Corps and its commander Eugen Meindl in Normandy.

Some German paratroopers were actually wargaming an airborne landing by the Allies just hours before the Allied airborne operation was launched. It so happened that German paras then found themselves fighting great numbers of their equivalents in the US Army. it is interesting to read how they viewed each other and compared equipment. The aspect the Germans were really impressed with seems to have been the (amount of) American medical equipment, not least the individual soldier´s medical items. The US rations also caused some German envy.

What about the US view of Fallschirmjäger equipment? An example comes from Major Salve Matheson, partly Norwegian and Swedish and at the time a staff officer in the US 506th PIR. Matheson is quoted by the author regarding the capture of a German 75 mm recoilless rifle for paratroopers: "This was the first and only weapon of this kind encountered by the regiment though its value was not realised".

The fighting between the German and US paras became bitter indeed around Vierville, where an entire Fallschirmjäger battalion fought an understrength battalion of US paras. It became known as the Battle of Hell´s Corner. The pages about this battle are among the most interesting in the book.

The combat experience and quality of the German paras in Normandy varied greatly - far from all had any jump training at this stage of the war, and Hitler´s Paratroopers In Normandy helps make that clear.

This book contains a document from General Meindl marked "Destroy After Reading" that sums up the first lessons learnt the hard way by the Fallschirmjägers in Normandy. In general, this book´s conclusions are of great value.

Hitler´s Paratroopers In Normandy has all that one expects from a good unit history including maps, photographs and useful appendixes. It contains 44 photos - not a huge number, but some of them are amazing.

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