“Sacrifice On the Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943″ by Hope Hamilton

As a lifelong history buff, military history enthusiast, former US Army officer and holder of a BA degree in history, I find myself pleasantly surprised from time to  time when I encounter a book that fills a void in my historical education. “Sacrifice On The Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943″ written by Hope Hamilton and published by Casemate is one such book. The idea for the book originated when the author listened to her uncles’ reflections of his participation in World War II.

When Hitler had Germany invade Russia in June 1941, Prime Minister of Italy Mussolini declared war on Russia. He quickly sent a hastily organized Italian Expeditionary force of 62,000 men to join the Russian campaign even though Adolf Hitler discouraged such a move. Italy was unprepared militarily. Mussolini’s motivation was to join Hitler in receiving the spoils following an imagined rapid Nazi victory against Russia.”

Hope Hamilton’s book draws on personal interviews, exhaustive research and the written accounts of Italians who participated in and survived Mussolini’s tragic decision of Italian involvement. Mussolini compounded his mistake by sending even more troops the following year. The author does a good job of showing the human side of the Italian involvement on the Russian front. This is not a scholarly work on the tactics and logistics of the Italian involvement. Rather, it is the story of the people who made the terrible trek from Italy to Russia to support their German ally. The German’s had little trust of and kept the Italians minimally informed and I believe misused the Alpine troops by not maximizing the troops mountain fighting ability by their placement along the Don River.

The author does a great job of telling the soldier’s story. Her writing style focuses on the individual accounts of the soldiers. She discusses how the Alpine Corps was caught up in the German campaign capture Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942. She takes us through the Soviet offensive that followed in late November. We experience the collapse of the entire Axis front and the Alpine Corps’ withdrawal to the Don. I could have used a more background about the Stalingrad Campaign. The book does not take a strategic view of the campaign. Little attention is given to the big picture. The story is told from the Italian point of view instead of looking at it from the Axis point of view.

The book includes good notes, is well indexed, and has a great bibliography. I enjoyed the book. If you are looking for an after action report of the Italian participation or a critical analysis of the campaign this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a good overview and an understanding of what the Italian soldiers experienced then you’ll enjoy the book. I give it four stars. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library. It is a good first volume to fill a long void of an English language account of the Italian involvement on the eastern front.

Sacrifice On the Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943

As a lifelong history buff, military history enthusiast, former US Army officer and holder of a BA degree in history, I find myself pleasantly surprised from time to  time when I encounter a book that fills a void in my historical education. “Sacrifice On The Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943” written by Hope Hamilton and published by Casemate is one such book. The idea for the book originated when the author listened to her uncles’ reflections of his participation in World War II.

When Hitler had Germany invade Russia in June 1941, Prime Minister of Italy Mussolini declared war on Russia. He quickly sent a hastily organized Italian Expeditionary force of 62,000 men to join the Russian campaign even though Adolf Hitler discouraged such a move. Italy was unprepared militarily. Mussolini’s motivation was to join Hitler in receiving the spoils following an imagined rapid Nazi victory against Russia.”

Hope Hamilton’s book draws on personal interviews, exhaustive research and the written accounts of Italians who participated in and survived Mussolini’s tragic decision of Italian involvement. Mussolini compounded his mistake by sending even more troops the following year. The author does a good job of showing the human side of the Italian involvement on the Russian front. This is not a scholarly work on the tactics and logistics of the Italian involvement. Rather, it is the story of the people who made the terrible trek from Italy to Russia to support their German ally. The German’s had little trust of and kept the Italians minimally informed and I believe misused the Alpine troops by not maximizing the troops mountain fighting ability by their placement along the Don River.

The author does a great job of telling the soldier’s story. Her writing style focuses on the individual accounts of the soldiers. She discusses how the Alpine Corps was caught up in the German campaign capture Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942. She takes us through the Soviet offensive that followed in late November. We experience the collapse of the entire Axis front and the Alpine Corps’ withdrawal to the Don. I could have used a more background about the Stalingrad Campaign. The book does not take a strategic view of the campaign. Little attention is given to the big picture. The story is told from the Italian point of view instead of looking at it from the Axis point of view.

The book includes good notes, is well indexed, and has a great bibliography. I enjoyed the book. If you are looking for an after action report of the Italian participation or a critical analysis of the campaign this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a good overview and an understanding of what the Italian soldiers experienced then you’ll enjoy the book. I give it four stars. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library. It is a good first volume to fill a long void of an English language account of the Italian involvement on the eastern front.

Skorzeny’s Special Missions: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Daring Commando

“Skorzeny’s Special Missions: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Daring Commando” by Otto Skorzeny.  Zenith Press has produced an excellent new edition of the book.

Prior to reading the book I did not know of Otto Skorzeny. He isn’t a well-known World War II German soldier. From a little research I found his memoirs had been originally written in German. At first, the book didn’t grab my attention. Maybe this was because I had never thought of viewing World War II from the point of view of a German commando.

As I read the book I found Otto Skorzeny does something few do. He lets us into his mind. It helped me understand his point of view. The book is action paced. It experience commando action as if you were there. The more I read the more I came to realize this book is one of the must read, must have books of World War II. I would call the book historical literature and a required study for all World War II buffs.

The telling of the story of the rescue of Mussolini is worth the purchase price alone. You learn that Skorzeny was selected for the mission because Hitler was aware the shared an Austrian heritage. The story of how the German intelligence learned of Mussolini’s location is amazing. You experience the planning and execution of the mission. You experience the concept of the operation down to Skorzeny deployed his unit.

After the Mussolini mission you journey with Skorzeny to France to put down a possible coup whose mission is the overthrow of the Germany loyal Vichy government.  The threat failed to materialize.

Skorzeny became involved in research and development of tactics and the weapons needed for commando operational support. You travel with him to the Russian front were he began commando operations. You next find him back on the western front. Here he used one of the most controversial attacks deployed during the war. He used English-speaking German soldiers to work behind American lines during the Battle of the Bulge. The detail of the plan is shared including its development, organization, equipping, implementation, and what caused the plan be found out and it failure.

It is always interesting to look at military events from a different point of view. Here you get the best insights into German commando operations. It is amazing. It is worth the purchase price and should be part of your library.

After reading the book, I believe no military education of World War II is complete with having read this classic work.