Books - General Airborne

 

Allied Special Forces Insignia 1939 - 1948 by Peter Taylor

Pegasus Archive review: A superb catalogue detailing the insignia of those wartime units, particularly the British ones, which may be labelled as Special Forces; including the Parachute and Glider Pilot Regiments, Commandos, Special Air Service, and the various raiding forces which operated in Europe and the Far East. The Special Operations Executive, Polish Parachute Brigade, and the US Airborne and Rangers are also discussed. Clear and original colour examples of practically every conceivable insignia type, worn at any time during the war by any branch of the above formations is included, together with numerous carefully selected wartime photographs to show how they were properly applied to uniforms. A first class reference guide. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/allied-special-forces-insignia/p/3638/

 

Bruneval by Paul Oldfield

Pegasus Archive review: In February 1942, British parachutists landed in France and carried out a raid on a German radar station, bringing vital components back across the Channel. This highly successful operation was only the second to be carried out by the fledgling Parachute Regiment, and amongst the first Combined Operations to employ elements from all three services. Paul Oldfield describes the story from the scientific struggle for superior radar, intelligence gathering and planning of the raid, to the attack itself, the withdrawal of the force and analysis of its aftermath. Like all books in the Battleground series, Bruneval may be used as a mere though utterly comprehensive battlefield guide, but the sheer quantity of maps and photographs coupled with the authoritative but concise narrative make it a highly satisfactory historical study in its own right. Price: £10.39. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/bruneval/p/3743/

 

Churchill's Spearhead by John Greenacre

Pegasus Archive review: This book describes the development of Britain's airborne forces throughout the Second World War, detailing the political squabbling which both hindered and assisted the movement, and the cumulative progress made in terms of equipment, training, and command of these forces. John Greenacre does well to form a relatively cohesive narrative of these most difficult and varied subjects, and the result, though probably beyond the interest of the casual reader, is a very thorough account of the untold, behind-the-scenes story of how Britain's airborne forces came to be. As this book stands alone amongst a vast library of airborne literature which have glossed over these issues, it is compelling reading for the enthusiast and uncovers much that has not been published previously. Price: £19.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/?product_id=2506

 

Crete: The Airborne Invasion 1941 by Tim Saunders

Pegasus Archive review: Tim Saunders continues in the fine tradition of the acclaimed "Battleground" series with a very concise and comprehensive account of the exclusively airborne German invasion of Crete. As such it is much more than a mere pocket battlefield guide, and lavished throughout with photographs, maps and many first hand accounts, it packs a considerable amount of detail into a small space and is a superb introduction to this operation. The book describes the strategic position in the Mediterranean in 1941 and the prominent role which Crete played, before discussing the British tactics for its defence and the bold German invasion plan. Several chapters are devoted to the chaotic battles which raged around the drop zones, going on to describe the key engagements which followed inland and the eventual Allied evacuation. Price: £16.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Crete-Paperback/p/1377

 

Evolution of Airborne Operations 1939-1945 by Colonel Roy M. Stanley II

Pegasus Archive review: One of a series of books describing the Second World War with aerial photography, examining the birth and rapid expansion of the airborne movement, from the early raiding forces to the complex divisional and corps operations of the final years. It describes many of the famous actions which one would expect, including the German attacks on Norway, Belgium, Holland and Crete, and the Allied efforts in Sicily, D-Day and Operation Market Garden, but it also looks at less familiar operations such as those carried out by the Russians and Japanese, and the Americans in the Pacific. This is not a conventional history of these operations and no attempt is made to describe how they unfolded, instead Colonel Stanley is solely concerned with the landing of the airborne troops and the first critical hours. As a retired photographic interpreter, he uses his skill together with a quite wonderful array of rare and mostly aerial photographs to describe the scene in each and so illustrate the growing capabilities and ambition of airborne warfare. Price: £25.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Evolution-of-Airborne-Operations-1939-1945-Hardback/p/11354

 

Falklands Hero: Ian McKay, The Last VC of the 20th Century by Jon Cooksey

Pegasus Archive review: Ian McKay is well known as the paratrooper who was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his attempt to break Argentine resistance on Mount Longdon during the Falklands War. This biography also explores his earlier life, from childhood and joining the Army in 1970, to that fateful night on the 11/12th June 1982, and it reveals a man who was shaped by the Parachute Regiment to such a degree that this book can be considered as much their story as it is his. Jon Cooksey thoroughly describes the parts which McKay and 3 PARA played in the Falklands campaign, but he also goes into considerable detail regarding his earlier army career, including service in Northern Ireland. McKay had the misfortune to be on the streets of Londonderry on the 30th January 1972, and there follows a most detailed description of the events of what has become known as Bloody Sunday, during which McKay was slightly wounded by an acid bomb and fired two shots at his unharmed assailant. Cooksey gives an account of the resulting inquiry, in which McKay gave evidence as "Private T", which completely exonerated the Paras, and he goes on describe the Saville Inquiry of 2010, which, 28 years after the event, managed to contrive an altogether different conclusion, yet one which personally cleared "Private T" of any wrong-doing. For anyone interested in the Falklands War and the Parachute Regiment of the 1970's and early 80's, this is essential reading. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/falklands-hero/p/3347/

 

Fallschirmjager: Elite German Paratroopers in World War II by Diane Canwell and Jon Sutherland 

Pegasus Archive review: German paratroopers consistently demonstrated their extraordinary fighting abilities throughout the Second World War; from the attacks on Belgium and Holland in 1940, to the dogged defensive battles of Monte Cassino in 1944 and the Reichswald in 1945. This book displays the previously unpublished photographs of First Sergeant Wilhelm Plieschen's collection, each accompanied by detailed captions to explain the landscape, equipment and personalities they show. Chiefly focusing on 1941, it is divided into three chapters; the Balkans, Crete and Russia. The journey through Romania, Bulgaria and Greece is largely one of sightseeing and movement to the front in motor transport. The entirely airborne invasion of Crete receives the most attention, with a simply superb series of images documenting the flight to the drop zones, the moments after landing and the advance inland. The book closes in Russia, where, often dressed in winter camouflage, the Fallschirmjager adopted the role of elite ground-based infantry. There are also many photographs of graves; colleagues, perhaps even friends of Plieschen; a sombre reminder of the cost of war. Price: £14.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fallschirmjager-Elite-German-Paratroops-in-World-War-II-Paperback/p/2545

 

Fallschirmjager: German Paratroopers 1937-1941 by Francois Cochet 

Pegasus Archive review: A part of the "Images of War" series which explores the origins of the Fallschirmjager and their early operations through to Crete in 1941. It begins with some wonderful photographs of their pre-war training, demonstrating the various stages of their jumping techniques, and throughout provides clear views of uniforms and equipment, including the contents of supply containers. The subsequent chapters describe their minor role in the Polish campaign and spectacular success in Norway and the Low Countries, followed by training for the aborted invasion of Britain. A large part of the book is dedicated to the Greek campaign, including the capture of the bridge over the Corinth Canal and the victorious disaster that was the invasion of Crete, with a superb collection of photographs illustrating the landings and subsequent fighting there. Crete effectively spelt the end of the Fallschirmjager as a raiding force, and the final pages of the book dwell on their involvement in the first year of the Russian campaign and their conversion into a more conventional elite infantry formation. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fallschirmjger-German-Paratroopers-19371941-Paperback/p/16019

 

Fallschirmjager: German Paratroopers 1942-1945 by Francois Cochet 

Pegasus Archive review: The second part of Francois Cochet's photographic history of the Fallschirmjager, looking at the middle to late war period where the airborne role was all but abandoned as they became an elite infantry reserve which participated in innumerable bloody defensive battles until the end of the war. The chapters take in an exceptionally broad range of theatres, beginning with anti-partisan operations in Russia, training exercises in France, and the defence of Tunisia. A couple of airborne swansongs are featured, including the famous raid to free Mussolini, and the successful but much less known capture of Leros in 1943; the last large-scale airborne operation attempted by the Germans. It goes on to show the hard fighting around Anzio and Monte Cassino in Italy, where the Fallschirmjager cemented their reputation as tenacious defenders, and the bitterly fought campaigns on the Eastern Front, Normandy, and the Low Countries, culminating in their inevitable collapse in Germany. The photographs are similarly diverse in their subject matter, and display a range of uniforms, camouflaged clothing and techniques, the equipment they used, and the organisation of their positions. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fallschirmjger-German-Paratroopers-19421945-Paperback/p/15753

 

Floating Under a Red Beret by Roger Payne

True and humorous short stories about the antics of the British Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces. To wear the famous maroon beret identifies the wearer as one of Britain's elite soldiers. He is a man who has taken the extra step into a world full of excruciating pain and come out the other side stronger and wiser. He also has a belief in himself and a feeling of pride, because he knows that many have failed along the way. He will never lose that feeling. It's like an exotic disease that cannot be cured. This book is about what makes him tick, his humour, sense of adventure, and sense of the absurd. It shows the man when the mask of toughness drops, and when he puts it back again. Price: $17.20. 381 pages. Copies or e-books may be purchased from Amazon or www.calderwoodbooks.com. 25% of all profits go to the Committee of the Ex Airborne Forces site, who will then distribute it to those ex serving members who are not so fortunate as the rest of us.

 

Fort Eben Emael by Tim Saunders 

Pegasus Archive review: The capture and complete immobilisation of Eben Emael by a small force of German airborne troops in May 1940 was a great triumph of Blitzkrieg which catapulted this new and doubtful method of warfare into prominence. The Battleground series of books are renowned for their ability to cram a great wealth of concise yet comprehensive detail into a small pocket guide, and such is the relatively narrow scope of the attack on the fort and its neighbouring bridges that this one is able to go even further. It summarises the origins, tactics and specialised equipment of the Fallschirmjager, and gives a wonderfully detailed description of the layout of this immense fort and its impressive array of weaponry. Using diagrams, maps, veterans accounts and many photographs, it outlines the German plan and describes the flight to and the attack on the fort and the neighbouring bridges across the Albert Canal, then struggle to hold them until the ground troops arrived. Price: £12.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fort-Eben-Emael-Paperback/p/894

 

Hitler's Paratrooper: The Life and Battles of Rudolf Witzig by Gilberto Villahermosa

Pegasus Archive review: Rudolf Witzig volunteered to serve with Germany's fledgling airborne forces in 1938, and fought with them throughout the Second World War. He is most famous for leading the dramatic glider assault on the Eban Emael fortress in May 1940, where a small number of men knocked out in hours what had been intended to frustrate a conventional army for weeks. He went on to take part in the successful but horrendously costly Battle of Crete, where he was seriously wounded and, in view of the almost complete casualties suffered by his unit, was fortunate to survive. On his recovery he participated in the protracted defence of Tunisia, before going on to conduct anti-partisan operations in France, followed by a spell on the Eastern Front and then becoming embroiled in a grim series of engagements across Holland to try and halt the British advance on the Rhine. Although Witzig is the central character of this book, with his concise, professional and carefully considered opinions distributed throughout, it is equally the story of his unit and indeed the Fallschirmjager in general, following their transformation from the pioneers of a new and devastatingly effective method of offensive war, to an elite infantry reserve who were frequently thrown into the line wherever the fighting was hardest and most critical. Price £14.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Hitlers-Paratrooper-Paperback/p/7865

 

Hitler's Paratroopers in Normandy by Gilberto Villahermosa

Pegasus Archive review: The excellently trained and equipped II Parachute Corps was certainly amongst the more formidable German units to contest the Normandy landings, and was continually embroiled in some of the hardest fighting. Gilberto Villahermosa's superbly researched book first outlines the history and composition of its four divisions, and begins with the 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment's ill-fated counter-attack against the 101st Airborne Division and then its outstanding defence of Carentan. With the remainder of the Corps committed to the battle over the following weeks, it goes on to describe the fighting around Hill 192 and St Lô by the 3rd Parachute Division, Hill 122 and Mont-Castre by the 5th Division, and the defence of the port of Brest by the 2nd Division. With numerous maps, photographs, official reports and first hand accounts, it is throughout a tale of skilful and dogged defence in the face of overwhelming odds. Trapped inside the Falaise Pocket, the remnants of the Corps led the successful break-out, only for the 3rd Division to be wiped out at Mons as it covered the withdrawal. The final pages make for sombre reading as they consider the cost of the campaign; although the Corps continued to fight until the end of the war, its casualties had been horrendous, with only a relative handful of men emerging from Normandy. Price £20.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Hitlers-Paratroopers-in-Normandy-Hardback/p/6828

 

Hitler's Sky Warriors: German Paratroopers in Action 1939-1945 by Christopher Ailsby

Pegasus Archive review: The German Fallschirmjager achieved a remarkable reputation during the Second World War, first as the pioneers of airborne warfare, achieving spectacular success in Norway, the Low Countries and Crete, and then as elite ground-based infantry in the bitter defensive battles which took place across North Africa, Italy, France and Russia. Beginning with their pre-war origins and training, this unusually large book in the Images of War series presents a photographic history of all of these engagements, with a particular emphasis on Italy and their defence of Monte Cassino; one of numerous battles where the Fallschirmjager proved themselves as thoroughly dependable and highly skilled fighters. Detailed captions accompany each photograph, which have been carefully selected to show a broad range of situations and also their uniforms and equipment, some of which were highly specialist and unique to them. Price £14.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Hitlers-Sky-Warriors-Paperback/p/14063

 

Love, Honor, and Cherish by Sandra Bonilla Thompson

As the greatest war in history raged, they fell in love. He was in the 502nd Parachute Infantry before it became a part of the 101st Airborne Division. She was the beautiful Southern girl who stole his heart. From 1942-1944, as he trained at Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, and "Somewhere in England," through D-Day and Operation Market Garden, they wrote of a love that would last forever. Honored Veteran Praises Love, Honor, and Cherish... "The history of the 101st Airborne Division and the 502nd Parachute Infantry during World War II is well-researched, and the book includes great photographs of paratroopers in action and families on the home front. It's the best book I've read about how war affects a soldier and his family. It's as relevant as today's headlines. Every American should read it." Col. Jerry D. Autry. Col. Jerry D. Autry, USA, Retired, is a veteran of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the author of General William C. Lee: Father of the Airborne. Col. Autry was the most highly decorated Army chaplain of the Viet Nam era. To buy: www.airbornebooks.com

 

Operation Colossus by Lawrence Paterson

Pegasus Archive review: The Tragino Aqueduct raid in February 1941 marked the first airborne operation carried out by the British, with three dozen men parachuting deep into Italy to disrupt the water supplies to the ports of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto. Although their mission was a success, the damage was swiftly repaired and the entire party were captured along the daunting 50 mile escape route to the coast, yet the raid demonstrated what these troops could achieve and laid the groundwork for the ambitious operations of the following years. Despite a vast library of airborne literature and the importance of Operation Colossus in that story, relatively little has been written about it, and without doubt Paterson's very well researched account is the most authoritative to date. With the force barely six months old and struggling for resources, it describes the ad hoc preparations, and, with the aid of official reports and first hand accounts, reveals the enormous logistical challenges involved, followed by a thorough account of the raid itself, and the numerous escape attempts which followed, several of which were ultimately successful, before delving into the difficult business of analysing what the operation actually achieved. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Operation-Colossus-Hardback/p/17705

 

Sent by the Iron Sky by Ian Gardner

Pegasus Archive review: The story of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division is often overshadowed by the exploits of its 2nd Battalion, and in particular the "Band of Brothers" of Easy Company, but this book focuses on the no less extraordinary story of the 3rd Battalion, which fought alongside them with great distinction in the same campaigns. It is beautifully presented, containing hundreds of photographs, detailed maps, and first hand accounts, and begins with their training in America, building up to their baptism of fire in Normandy, where they suffered extremely heavy casualties following the scattered drop and hard fighting to secure their objectives. It includes a chapter about the great many from the Battalion who became prisoners of war; a much neglected aspect of many a unit history, and goes on to examine their part in Operation Market Garden and the several months spent under British command in Holland, and then their epic defence of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The final chapters oversee the end of the war in Europe, which saw the Battalion participate in the liberation of Landsberg concentration camp and the capture of Berchtesgaden, before the deactivation of the 506th and the return home of its personnel. Price: £25.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://ospreypublishing.com/sent-by-the-iron-sky

 

The Silent Attack by Oscar Gonzalez, Thomas Steinke and Ian Tannahill

Pegasus Archive review: The spectacular capture of the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael by a small group of German paratroopers in May 1940 is a story which has been told many times, but often to the detriment of the simultaneous attacks on the neighbouring bridges over the Albert Canal at Velowezelt, Vroenhoven and Kanne. This book reverses that trend, and ignores the fort completely to focus entirely on the planning, capture and defence of these bridges; an operation which, in a matter of hours, swept aside a defensive position which had been intended to delay an entire army for weeks. It is an impressive and beautifully presented book, with a meticulously researched, clear and readable narrative which is generously supported by innumerable photographs, first-hand accounts and a complete list of all those who took part. This must be considered an important addition to the library of airborne literature. Price: £30.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Silent-Attack-Hardback/p/4177

 

Silent Skies by Tim Lynch

Pegasus Archive review: The military glider was a short-lived innovation rendered obsolete by technological advances in the post-war period, yet it was used extensively by both sides throughout the Second World War, typically landing large numbers of infantry, artillery and even light tanks behind enemy lines, but it was also used to carry out small-scale precision raids, resupply operations, and the Germans even pioneered the now commonplace rapid airlift of troops and heavy equipment by developing an immense glider capable of carrying hundreds of passengers. This book summarises most glider operations of the war, amongst which are famous actions such as Eben Emael, Crete, Pegasus Bridge and Arnhem, but also a great many others which are rarely discussed, including Germany's daring rescue of Mussolini, their raid on Tito's Yugoslavian headquarters, British operations to support the Chindits in Burma, and the little known airborne operations carried out on both sides of the Eastern Front. Using first hand accounts of those involved, this is a fascinating story which puts the entire glider experiment into context, exploring its origins, development and increasing ambition as the war progressed. Price: £19.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Silent-Skies-Hardback/p/1707

 

Special Forces Commander: The Life and Wars of Peter Wand-Tetley MC, Commando, SAS, SOE and Paratrooper by Michael Scott

Pegasus Archive review: Although the name of Peter Wand-Tetley would mean little to all but a few military historians, his extraordinary wartime career merits closer study as it brought him into contact with nearly the entire spectrum of Britain's Special Forces. The result is an enthralling biography of a unique man and those unorthodox units with which he served. Having joined the Commandos in 1940, Peter Wand-Tetley raided the coast of North Africa with Layforce before participating in the defence of Crete, being one of the few to escape. He and other survivors were assembled into the Middle East Commando, and further raiding actions were carried out in conjunction with the Long Range Desert Group. When the ME Commando was disbanded, Wand-Tetley was posted to the 1st SAS for the final phases of the Desert War, following which he joined the Special Operations Executive. With orders to train and equip the guerillas, he parachuted into Greece at a most difficult time as eyes began to look beyond the German occupation to the post-war political landscape. With the war in Europe at an end, he transferred to the Parachute Regiment and accompanied the 5th Parachute Brigade to the Far East, initially with the intention of operating against the Japanese, but becoming embroiled in the counter-insurgency role in Java following the surrender. A fine tribute to a man of whom it truly can be said, "He had an interesting war." Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Special-Forces-Commander/p/3299/

 

Striking Back: Britain's Airborne and Commando Raids 1940-42 by Niall Cherry

As the events of the Second World War fade into the distance it is important that the activities of a small band of brothers are not overlooked. In the dark days following Dunkirk in 1940 these men volunteered for what was euphemistically termed 'Special Service'. Often given very little idea of what they were letting themselves in for, they all wanted to strike back at the enemy. Later, these units evolved into the famed airborne forces and commandos who went on to take a major part in operations such as D-Day, Arnhem and the crossing of the Rhine. However, before this, during the early years of the war, they undertook a number of smaller scale raids. Whilst some of the early raids such as St Nazaire and Dieppe have received quite a lot of coverage, others such as Lofoten, Glomfjord, Tragino and Bruneval have received far less, yet a knowledge of them is vital to give the development of Britain's special forces historical perspective. The formation of these two fledging arms is recounted in detail, including material relating to the training undertaken before going on Special Service. In addition to the operations mentioned above raids on the Channel Islands, the coast of northern France, Vaagso, North Africa and Vermork are also covered. As well as numerous eyewitness accounts from veterans a selection of official reports, kit, weapon and explosives lists are included. The book is complemented by around 100 photographs and maps. "Striking Back is an excellent account of a forgotten British force at the beginning of the Second World War: a must read for students and historians of the airborne forces and commandos. Cherry's book throws a much need light on the origins of troops that were to be at the forefront of Britain's offensive efforts in 1944 and 45 exploring not only their selection, training and operations but also their motivations and tenacity. An excellently researched book full of remarkable detail and bountiful first hand accounts. Highly recommended." Lloyd Clark, RMA Sandhurst and author of Arnhem: Jumping the Rhine 1944 and 1945. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or Niall Cherry, arnhemdescent@gmail.com. Price £17.50 + £3.50 postage per copy.

 

With 6th Airborne Division in Palestine 1945-48 by Major General Dare Wilson CBE MC

Pegasus Archive review: The 6th Airborne Division had acquired an impressive record during the Second World War, from D-Day to the final advance into Germany. The post-war period did not bring them peace but rather hostilities of a different kind, spending the next three years embroiled in their longest and arguably most difficult campaign; policing the rapidly deteriorating situation in Palestine. Caught between Jewish and Arabic factions, the Division attempted to maintain law and order and in so doing exposed themselves to the wrath of both sides. The author served with them, and this account, written immediately upon his return, is a first class history of these years of "Cordon and Search", as the book was originally titled. The chronological narrative describes the numerous political issues and the course of events from their perspective, explaining in detail the effective counter-insurgency tactics which the Division evolved. It also demonstrates the quite remarkable restraint and professionalism which was shown by the troops who were thrust into this quite impossible situation. Price: £19.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/With-6th-Airborne-Division-in-Palestine-1945-48-Hardback/p/1622