To Battle: The Formation and History of the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division Paperback – 1 Jan 2006
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"This book is a fine addition to literature on WWII and serves as a model of how history should be written. Recently a host of poorly researched and often sensationalised works have been published on the German Army and in particular SS formations. This work stands in vivid counterpoint to these 'potboilers'. The author's impeccable scholarship is readily apparent and the book will be of lasting value." David M. Glantz"
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
From Ch 5
Having assembled the requisite men, horses and equipment overnight, at 11.00am on 16 February 1944, the forces assigned to the Kampfgruppe left Heidelager. They proceeded to the Kochanivka railway station where they were to entrain.19 As the loading process began, the ad hoc nature of the battle group immediately became apparent from the obvious inexperience of most of its personnel. The resulting improvisation was described by a participant as "a horrible sight".20 In particular, problems arose with the horses tack because it came in several parts which none of the soldiers had experience in assembling. Eventually, after several hours, the unit boarded three troop trains and left for the Cholmshchyna region situated to the north west of Lviv. It was a highly volatile region where the underground forces of the Polish and Ukrainian populations were locked in bitter conflict.
Unlike the artillery, which was moved by rail to Lubachiv, the infantry transports were diverted through Lviv, because of the destruction of a rail bridge on the direct route.21 While they were waiting on board their trains in the Galician capital, the soldiers were visited by members of the Military Board. They received packages of food, cigarettes, reading materials and other items distributed by the Womens Auxiliary Board, a subsidiary branch of the Military Board.22 The unit also marched along the main street of the city in full dress uniforms in order to boost the morale of the inhabitants.23
A few days later, after frequent stops at various stations, the infantry units joined the artillery in Lubachiv.24 In that area the battle group was to combine with other Wehrmacht and local Polizei detachments, including elements of Gal. SS-Freiw.Rgt. 5. Their objective was to eradicate the partisan units that had been active in the Lublin district of the Generalgouvernement. To achieve that, the Germans planned a three-phase encirclement operation. It was to be co-ordinated by spotter aircraft that would pass on orders directly to the units involved. Kampfgruppe Beyersdorff, the largest of the detachments taking part, was deployed in the southern sector in the areas of Krasnik, Lubachiv, Cieszanów, Zamosc, Tarnogrod, Bilgoraj and Tomaszow.
Such heavily forested areas favoured the activities of the Soviet-led partisans who also received strong support from the Polish population. They frequently provided guides and intelligence information. According to contemporary German Polizei reports, the insurgents often wore a variety of attire, including German Wehrmacht and Polizei uniforms. Those who wore civilian clothing and spoke Polish were indistinguishable from the local civilians, making the task of combating them a formidable proposition. Operating on horseback, often in small groups, and using sledges for their light cannons and equipment, they exploited their mobility and always held the initiative. Avoiding direct confrontation, they resorted to devious methods, adopting hit and run tactics. After cutting communications lines, they would attack administrative centres, storage and depot facilities. They raided towns and villages, blew up railway lines and mined roads. Pursuit was further hampered by the destruction of bridges on the main routes. In turn, that often necessitated lengthy and tiring detours of up to 20 kilometres on poor field roads.
For their part, the Ukrainian soldiers had received little by way of training in anti-partisan warfare and were obliged to learn the appropriate tactics in the field. Some units of the Kampfgruppe had not been issued with any warm winter clothing at the outset, and only received felt boots and winter coats a few days after their arrival in the field.25 In the initial stages, units primarily conducted reconnaissance missions and patrols. Led by its cavalry unit, which soon proved to be amongst its most effective units, the reconnaissance patrols were often confined to marches in freezing weather, on icy roads, through snow and mud in remote areas, with contact limited to occasional skirmishes.26 From time to time they discovered evidence of the presence of the evasive insurgents. There were abandoned positions, deserted towns and villages with burnt houses, and heavily barricaded local government buildings. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you thought that lebensraum and Nazi policy was just about the Jewish problem, think again. Many young Ukrainians and other Baltic nations were caught between two evils. One Communist and one Nazi, the problem was for the Ukrainians how to gain political independence and an identity of their own whilst fending off two not dissimilar and two faced enemies.
His style is not intrusive, the facts speak for themselves and the bibliography is impressive and erudite.
Michael Melnyk had a vested interest in as much as his father was one of those men, and anyone who searches for more than the available and conventional history about WW2 should definitely pick up the book and have their eyes opened. Well done to the author, and I hope to see another book from him on this still contentious issue of the Ukrainian role in WW2!
Personally, I would like to have seen more analysis . I can understand why this was not the case; the emphasis is on presenting verifiable historical facts rather than a political viewpoint. Perhaps in his next book.
In his neutral and well balanced study, the formation and history of this unit are told by Melnyk utilising a great many unseen photos together with a host of well chosen facsimile documents and maps which make the book more interesting for me. In it, he highlights the units deficiencies such as the fact that virtually all the senior commanders being German, and even after the Division was formally recognised as the 1st Division of the Ukrainian National Army in the last weeks of the war, tactically the division was always subordinated to German higher command. Simultaneously he stresses that the deeply spiritual Ukrainians were uniquely permitted to have serving within the Division’s ranks, Ukrainian Catholic clergy, and that it was from the very outset infiltrated at every level by Ukrainian Nationalists.
Take into account that the author, using German, Ukrainian, Polish, Soviet, British, US and Slovak official sources, Michael Melnyk has made a fine studied, detailed an extensive study of this unit which eclipses those of other contemporary works by Logusz, Michalis and Hunczak.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
good military history,that avoids the unpleasant realities of the involvement in criminal acts.Published 13 months ago by l.quinan
A thoroughly researched book which revealed much of interest. The research is very successful in revealing the crucial context of the rationale for and the activities of Ukrainian... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Slavic Maria