A Photographic History of Infantry Warfare, 1939-1945
...from Pen & Sword
Title: A Photographic History of Infantry Warfare, 1939-1945
Author: Simon & Jonathan Forty
Publisher: Pen & Sword
A new book from Simon & Jonathan, the sons of well known historian George Forty, and this time they focus on the life of the infantryman in WW2, covering all the nations involved. Over 400 archive images along with some illustrations from handbooks and additional data tables.
After the Introduction, the topic is divided across 7 chapters, al focussed on the role of the infantryman. These include Mechanisation, where the British and US armies were the better equipped, unlike the German army, where despite the popular images of their panzers and half-tracks, the majority of infantry divisions relied heavily on horse drawn transport and simply with troops on foot. Then it moves on to the Extremes, dealing with Desert, Jungle and Snow. Here we see more on Japanese and Russian units as well as German and British. In chapter 3 it looks at Amphibious warfare, where in WW2 it took equipment such as assorted landing craft for operations in North Africa, Italy and NW Europe, along with others in the Pacific, where the LVT and the DUKW were widely used to get the infantry onto the shorelines. Casualties are the topic for chapter 4, along with how to introduce replacements. Casualties in infantry units were the highest percentage in all the various armies. By the end of the war, including with the allies, some units had to be disbanded in order to create enough replacements to keep other units up to strength. It tackles the problems, both combat and non-combat related. Russia is a topic by itself for chapter 5, where a wide variety of infantry weapons were used by both sides, and the number of troops involved and their associated casualties were huge. The fighting in NW Europe takes over for chapter 6, including various reports and unit histories to help describe the issues the infantry faced in new terrain, such as the Normandy Bocage. Finally chapter 7 considers Life in the Infantry, again for all nationalities, with things like supplies, food and medical care, simply keeping clean wherever they may be and even boredom, how they coped with life out of the front line. That leaves a good chunk of the book to hold even more with 9 Appendices, looking at specific types of equipment used by infantry units, including the arrangement of defensive positions, Mines & mine clearing, Mortars, Communications and more. All illustrated with more well captioned archive images.
Perhaps we get drawn into more specialist subjects, such as tanks, airborne and special forces units but the bulk of the work needed to take and hold territory relies on the skills and availability of the basic infantryman, even in the highly mechanised war that was WW2. Lots of detail here, with informative captions to the many archive images, all of which accompany the well written text. An interesting book, and I like the way it considers the infantry of all sides involved in WW2, not one side or the other.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.