Gebirgsjager versus Soviet Sailor: Arctic Circle 1942-44

Published: June 21st, 2018     
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Author: David Greentree; Illustrator: Johnny Shumate
Reviewed by: 
Gino Dykstra, IPMS# 11198
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-1979-6
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472819819
Other Publication Information: 80 pages; paperback
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: CBT30 Combat Series

The grim conflicts that occurred along the edge of the Arctic Circle during World War Two are perhaps one of the least-publicized theaters in that sad war. It's a fact that for someone like me who THINKS he knows history fairly well, virtually everything in this book by Osprey Publishing came as a surprise. Who knew that such struggles were suffered in this treeless, roadless, virtually empty region along the northern edges of Lapland, Finland and Norway?

Of course the protagonists are fairly well known - the German Mountain Troops with their famous "Eidelweiss" badge, and the Soviet Naval Troops - the "Black Death" as they were sometimes called by their enemies. However, I for one did not know that they were directly involved in a number of obscure battles in even more obscure places during the course of the war. Minsk, which figures heavily in any strategic planning in this region, was one of the more important destinations for Allied convoys bringing vital supplies from England and the United States - hence the decision to fight it out in some of the most hostile terrain on the planet.

David Greentree does an excellent job of familiarizing us with both the territory and the protagonists, discussing not only the training and tactics, but also the equipment and highlighting a number of clashes that demonstrate both the strengths and weaknesses of both forces, as well as the harsh learning curve that had to be endured by both sides.

To help the reader visualize the action, there are numerous color maps, pictures of equipment and black and white pictures taken at the time. Admittedly, some of the latter are a bit on the grainy side, but apparently documenting this particular theater of action wasn't a high priority to either antagonist. In addition, some lovely art is provided which shows fully-equipped members of each unit as well as a "both sides of an action" center spread that does a good job of giving you a feel as to what you might have actually encountered had you been there.

From a modeling and historical standpoint, what's particularly engaging to me is the relative origins and status of each unit. The German Mountain Troops were created as the elite of the elite - trained for combat in the most trying of conditions and with the best mountaineering and combat equipment that could be had at the time. In contrast, the Soviet Naval Forces were originally much more ad hoc - at one time pulling cooks and typists off of ships and handing them rifles. The fact that they evolved to become an elite force in their own right is a tribute to their steadfastness and determination in the face of an implacable enemy.

All in all, I found this book fascinating reading and extremely informative concerning a theater of operation that I barely knew existed before now. I've always been intrigued by both of these military units but had never before realized that they'd clashed under such trying conditions. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in either of these military units or who simply want to learn more about one of the lesser-known theaters of action in World War Two. My thanks to Osprey for offering such an interesting read and to IPMS/USA for a chance to delve into this subject.

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