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Seven Days in January: With the 6th SS Mountain Division in Operation Nordwind Hardcover – Sep 2001


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Synopsis

Wolf Zoepf has produced an extremely detailed account, part-memoir, part-combat narrative, covering the actions of 6th SS Mountain Division 'Nord' during the battles fought in Operation Nordwind, Alsace, 1945. Against the background of his division's three (plus) years of combat against the Soviets in northern Karelia, this book provides a detailed description of 6th SS Division's actions against elements of the US Seventh Army in the Low Vosges Mountains during the first seven days of 1945. Beyond a simple account of the course of the infiltration, raid, defence and exfiltration by his two-battalion task force, Herr Zoepf's book thoroughly recounts the action in adjacent sectors within the Low Vosges, on the German and the American sides of the battle as well. Particular attention is given to the battle for Wingen-sur-Moder, involving both seasoned and green American forces, and German units ranging from hastily-trained Volksgrenadiers to previously undefeated SS-Gebirgsjager.

The course of the battle includes a masterfully-conducted infiltration through snow-covered mointains, the capture - and subsequent release, unharmed - of over 250 Americans, considerable close combat, jointly conducted Waffen-SS and American medical care for their wounded, and, ultimately, the wounding and capture of the author. Ringing with authenticity and full of fresh insights and factual data about this practically-unknown battle and oft-overlooked elite unit, Seven Days in January will make an important and unique contribution to the body of literature of World War II in Europe. The author, a former member of 6th SS Mountain Division 'Nord', performed extensive research in US, German and Czech archival sources, and has woven his compelling, true, and fully confirmed personal story into a revealing and detailed tapestry of historical description and analysis.

Major units about which there is significant information included in this book include: German Units 21st Panzer Division / 17th SS-Panzergrenadier Division 'Gotz von Berlichingen' / 25th Panzer-Grenadier Division / 2nd, 3rd and 7th Mountain Divisions / 6th SS-Mountain Division 'Nord' / 169th Infantry Division / 256th, 257th, 361st and 559th Volksgrenadier Divisions US Units 36th, 45th, 79th and 100th Infantry Divisions / Task Force Herren (70th Infantry Division) / Task Force Hudelson (14th Armored Division) / 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron


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The flickering light from the burning American tank behind me illuminated the otherwise seemingly pastoral scene to my front: the mixed conifer and deciduous trees of the forest stood fairly wide apart on the gentle incline leading to the top of the ridge, not 100 meters away. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 22 reviews
73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Uniquely Informative and Interesting 24 Nov 2002
By Kai-Feng - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I must politely disagree with Mannie below about this book. He notes a third of the book deals with the 6th's experiences in Finland. In fact it is less than 20%. Moreover, the Finland material is valuable for two reasons. First, there is very little writing on the German Army's experiences in Finland, and this firsthand account is fascinating. Second, understanding the strong arctic training of the 6th gives a valuable context for understanding their role and performance in NORDWIND.
In fact, unlike the Ardennes Offensive, wherein badly mauled, hastily rejuvenated panzer divisions were committed into terrain completely unsuited for armor, in NORDWIND, a properly equipped, full-strength mountain infantry unit comprised of long-service veterans of years of fighting in arctic conditions was committed to a mission perfectly suited for it. This sure didn't happen very often in the 1944-1945 period! Yet despite this they were ultimately unsuccessful. This record of their history is, I would argue, valuable for understanding the performance of the men of the 6th in this battle. Besides, it is fgascinating reading! There is almost no other source for accounts of this battle, since SS veterans were reluctant to write memoirs.
Let me also correct a misinterpretation which might arise from Mannie's comments, though he doesn't make this assertion himself. Contrary to myth and persistent misunderstanding, this was NOT part of the Ardennes Offensive, nor was it launched after the Ardennes Offensive was over. NORDWIND was intended to provide a synergistic complement to Army Group B's efforts in the Ardennes, by distracting the Americans' focus away from the Ardennes, and by physically and politically splitting the Franco-American allied efforts in Alsace. Zoepf is very clear about all of this, and provides an entire separate section about the intent and planning for NORDWIND. Soime mnight find this dull, but I found it absolutely illuminating.
The introductory portions are imperative to understand the context of the offensive and its participants. Plus they have greast stories. Even the introduction is necessary because it shows a general from the American side confirming the most controversial assertions in this book, that SS soldiers and medical personnel treated US POWs with professional compassion. This was no group of thugs at Malmedy!
For a campaign history, this is unusually fun to read, due to the writers's personnel involvement, his broad range of experience, the unexpected behavior of both American and German participants, and the awesome maps. I've seldom read a book with so many maps which are so clear, so informative, and so well-placed. Many look to me to be computer generated with actual topographic data (not approximations or artist's conceptions), with the military graphics very clear and easy to follow.
So I found every part of Seven Days informative, interesting, and relevant to its theme of documenting the experiences of the 6th in NORDWIND. Anyone with any interest in the European Theater of Operations should find this book a nearly completely new story.
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Resurrection of a Mountain Division 26 Nov 2002
By Lars Gyllenhaal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Although the 6th SS-Mountain Division "Nord" may chiefly interest American readers because of its action during Op NORDWIND against the US Army in the Low Vosges, it mostly saw combat on the Soviet-Finnish front. As the book sums this up "Nord" was in combat against the Red Army for 1 214 days and against the US Army for 92 days. Thus it is only logical that the fighting in the Arctic and Subarctic is covered in a prelude (47 of the book's 304 pages).
The book's author "Nord"-veteran Wolf T. Zoepf makes it crystal clear just how great an embarrasment his division's first action was. In the author's words: "(...)a first-class debâcle that stigmatized the entire division within the German Armed Forces for about a year".
But then, the chaotic conduct of "Nord" in the summer or '41 was to be expected as the author provides numerous examples of how unprepared in the extreme his unit was for any type of action, let alone fighting in the roadless taiga. In Zoepf's words: "The division's artillery had fired just once and never in coordination with the infantry. Similarly, infantry leaders had never worked in concert with artillery. The antitank gunners had never fired their weapons, nor had the antiaircraft gunners."
It seems almost miraculous how "Nord" in spite of its disastrous baptism of fire could evolve into the superb fighting machine it became in 1943. But, as the author points out, the US "Big Red One" Ist Infantry Division went through a similarly sorry start in North Africa.
Zoepf explains how the effectively dissolved "Nord" started anew (the personnel turnover was almost 100% in some units the fall of 1941) with the help of Finnish expertise. The book's description of how the division was reorganized and equipped will keep even the combat-focused readers interested as Zoepf is an intriguing teacher in most aspects of land warfare.
The book is at its best in the main section dealing with Operation NORDWIND against US forces as the author has been able to benefit of the records and also veterans of the opposing side. One could wish that he had been able to do the same kind of research on the Soviet, now Russian, side but this would of course have demanded special language skills and was until very recently simply not feasible.
This reader does not share the author's conviction regarding the truth behind the destruction of the Finnish city of Rovaniemi (I'd say the truth has not yet been established). I would also have liked to have learnt more about Zoepf himself from his writing but this does not bring down the total value of the book. Anyone interested of the Eastern Front, the final battles in the west or the Waffen-SS will be richly rewarded by reading this book. The superb maps and many insights into wilderness adaptation are of use in the training of today's and, I venture to say, even tomorrow's soldiers.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Battle for Wingen 17 April 2004
By Don McCleary - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Seven Days in January, by Wolfe T. Zoepf is a spectacular book written by the German point of view of the battle in the Lower Vosges during late 1944/early 1945. This is a battle few people know, or none the less hear about, but was important nonetheless.
Tragically, Mr. Zoepf died shortly after the book was completed, but his story is excellent to say the least. As the book mostly covered the preparations and battle for Wingen-sur-Molders in January 1945, a small portion of the book is covered dealing with the evolution of the 6th SS Mountain Division "NORD" during the years of 1941-1944 where it was heavily engaged on the eastern front. However, the background info covers the transformation of NORD from a division heavily mauled in 1941, into a battle hardened formation, and one of the best in the German order of battle by 1944.
The majority of the book covers the battle for Wingen-sur-Molders. Zoepf goes about telling his story in an excellent manner. He describes the tactics, shortcomings, strengths, and differences in command structure of both German and American forces during the battle.
As each day progresses during the course of the book, he describes the preparations for each day's fighting followed by the actual story of the day's events. Once the day's fighting is complete, he delves into the intelligence flaws of each side (i.e. the Americans believing they were facing merely 50 german soldiers and the Germans losing their radio car and fighting with virtually no contact with the outside world to know the progress of the rest of the battle in the Lower Vosges) and the plans for the next day, etc.
Another intersting point of this book is the respect both German and American soldiers pay their opponents while telling their story. There are numerous examples in the book where Germans and Americans have nothing but admiration for the spirit, courage, and determination of their opponents.
Readers will also be intrigued by the various stories of the joint first aid station set up and staffed by soldiers from both sides (although the American doctors and medics were prisoners of war by this time, they still cared for all wounded equally) who cared for soldiers from both sides equally and fairly.
Zoepf also tells the story of the declining quality of the German units by this point of the war and the drastic effect the loss of experienced officers and NCOs has on military units, well-equipped or not. He also points out the flaws in the American concept of placing Task Groups as "plugs" in their line, especially when an integral part of their formation (artillery in this case) was still back in the US training while the Task Force in the story had to rely on artillery from another US Division.
The stories of soldiers from both sides during this battle is what tells the story so well. It is they, and their courage Mr. Zoepf pays tribute to in his book. The respect amongst veterans of the units who participated in the battle is so strong, the one time enemies are now friends and have celebrated together several times.
"Seven Days in January" is an excellent read for anyone interested in learning more about the Battle for the Lower
Vosges, the 6th SS Mountain Divison "NORD", or the US 70th Infantry Division "Thunderbirds".
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Clash in the Snow 26 Mar 2002
By PAWE£ MITORAJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Wolf T. Zoepf "Seven Days in January" tells a story of a quite forgottten battle fought during "Nordwind" offensive between elements of 7th SS Mountain Division "Nord"(namely 1st and 3rd battalions of 12 SS Mountain Reg.) and American forces (mostly of 274th Infantry Regiment). Capturing Wingen -sur-Moder a little town in Low Vosges was essential for the Germans if any hopes of success for operation "Nordwind" were to become reality. And this task was entrusted to 7th SS Division.
The book starts with some fifty pages of introduction telling about the origins and campaigns fought by "Nord" in Finland during 1941-1944 and then it goes straight to the "Nordwind" operation. Story is told on a day to day and side to side basis which makes this book quite easy to follow. It not only gives the details of 1st and 3rd Battalions actions but shows greater picture as well. That allows the reader to understand the place and meaning of the course of events for both sides. Lots of maps help the reader to get clear picture of events and places where they occured to happen (that cannot be told about every book!). I only wish the author gave some info on the aftermatch and next actions of his unit.
But this is one hell of a book and if you are the second world war student or a waffen SS student tis is a MUST!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Nordwind At Wingen-sur-Moder 14 Mar 2002
By James M. Hanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
U.S. accountings of the battle for Wingen-sur-Moder during the German Operation NORDWIND in January 1945 have been documented in the several histories of the U.S. 70th Infantry Division units. Now "Seven Days in January" uniquely provides the German side of that fight. It is authored by Wolf Zoepf, an officer in the 3d Battalion, SS-Mountain Infantry Regiment 12, 6th SS-Mountain Division NORD. The story begins with a brief overview on the formation of the division, its three years of fighting Soviet forces above the Arctic Circle on the Finnish-Soviet front, showing how it was well prepared for its subsequent struggle with U.S. forces, and its movement from Finland to the vicinity of Wingen-sur-Moder in Northeastern France for that struggle.
The majority of Zoepf's book is dedicated to the details of the planning for Operation NORDWIND and a day-by-day (hour-by-hour, in many cases) account of the conduct of that operation at all levels down to the rifle squad. His research of U.S. and German archival data for this period not only provides accurate and finite details of the combat actions, but also allows the reader to compare what each side was doing at a given time.
An important adjunct of great value to the reader is that following each of the significant battle accounts, the author has summed up that portion with a Battle Analysis of both sides that contains the key elements he believes significantly influenced the conduct of that aspect of the operation, and the impact of those key elements on the final outcome.

The book is the result of many years of detailed research of official sources of U.S. and German operational data. Zoepf's text includes comments provided him by Trailblazers of the U. S. 70th Infantry Division's Task Force Herren and and the German soldiers of the 6th SS Mountain Division Nord who had engaged one another in the battles at Wingen-sur-Moder. The maps, sketches, and their explanatory notes are well done and helpful in following the actions.
Wolf Zoepf died unexpectedly after his review and approval of the last chapter of the book. Editor and publisher Keith Bonn, who had worked with Zoepf on the preparation of book as the technical and developmental editor, carried the remaining work to completion. The book opens with an insightful foreword by Brigadier General Theodore Mataxis (Ret.) who was Executive Officer and then Commander of 2d Bn, 276th Infantry Regiment which participated in the Wingen-sur-Moder operation of early January 1945.
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