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An interesting story of a key regiment
on 10 June 2011
After a brief introductory history of its activation, the author quickly moves directly into the battle history of this elite regiment. The history begins in mid 1942 during Operation Blue. Viking was part of Army Group A's drive through southern Ukraine as it headed for the important river city of Rostov. After its capture the army headed south into the Caucasus to take control of the oil Germany desperately needed but only achieved the Maikop-Grozny line before the Soviets stopped their advance and began pushing the Germans back to Rostov and eventually all the way to the Donets River. Add the trouble at Stalingrad and AGS was in desperate trouble. This fighting takes up the biggest portion of the book, approximately 115 pages.
Chapter four delivers coverage from 1943 to the end of the year where the Soviets forced Manstein back from the Donets to the Dnepr River and eventually to the Korsun Pocket. After Korsun, Viking is seen in the Kovel, Brest-Litovsk and especially Warsaw area. After losing Warsaw, Viking ends the war in the Lake Balaton area, west of Budapest.
The author has an interesting writing style; it's a blend of anecdotal with the operational. You'll see the many hardships of battle and a few lighter moments. You'll read about the dangers that individuals and small groups have to cope with on the battlefield - not only being shot at or shelled or fighting for days at a time with little sleep but also worrying about the constant threat of snipers or partisan attacks. Fighting the heat and choking dusk of summer, the freezing winter temperatures or the building of corduroy roads in the rainy season are also endured. The constant maintenance of your panzers or running out of food or other vital supplies are also realities to deal with. Traveling by train to reach a new battle zone is discussed as well. There are lighter moments as well- the camaraderie of the soldiers that you depend on or finding romance from a willing hostess as you bunk down for the night in some isolated village. You can tell the author was a veteran of the war for his speech and jargon was to the point and pertient. His description of the battlefield or the reasons for the actions taken was interesting as well.
There are 36 maps and if this book has a weakness it would be the maps. Many of the maps appear to be original war maps and they're difficult to read being either too faded or too dark. In addition, they're poorly populated as is the disposition. Their utility is dramatically reduced. Another issue that could have been better is the operational details on the Soviet side; there are some details but generally its too generic. The photo gallery was very good that included many tank shots and their crews.
A very useful Appendix is included. It consists of a battle chronology, authorized strength tables, a maintance company org chart, on hand panzer strength table for varying times. A feature by feature comparison of German, Soviet and US tanks is included as are a sampling of orders and other important documents.
There is an extensive Bibliography of mostly primary sources plus a few secondary sources. German archives, personal interviews and other experiences from fellow division members are used. There are no Notes or Index. The translation of this book is good.
If you have a particular interest in the Viking regiment/division or if you want to read an interesting story about the challenge, danger and camaraderie of combat, this book is definitely worth your consideration.