Normandy, 1944: Hitlerjugend Soldier vs. Canadian Soldier

Published: October 28th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: David Greentree. Illustrated by Johnny Shumate
Reviewed by: 
Marc K. Blackburn, IPMS# 42892
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 9781472825605
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472825612
Other Publication Information: 80 Pages, softbound
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: Combat 34

One of Osprey's relatively new series is Combat. Each volume looks at a specific battle in a larger campaign and breaks down the relative strengths and weaknesses of the combatants (the key word in each title is 'versus'). This particular volume takes a look at the Waffen SS formation, Hitlerjugend (a division made up primarily of Hitler Youth) and Canadian soldiers from a variety of units. The first chapters look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of each force and then devotes the balance of the volume to a set of battles in a larger campaign. The legacy of the prowess of the Germans continues to linger seventy-five years on. Similarly, the citizen soldiers of the Canada seem to pale in comparison to their German adversaries. On the surface it a clash between the classic definition of citizen soldiers and what at the time was perceived as an elite unit.

As with other books in this series, the first chapters examine recruiting, training, doctrine, organization and weapons. The Hitlerjugend was recruited among the ranks of Hitler Youth and trained with a cadre of Waffen SS veterans. When the division was deployed into Normandy, it was largely untested and under trained. The Canadians, by comparison, adopted and adapted British methods and their formations were made up entirely of volunteers. The battles that dominate the text are from the Normandy Campaign. The first two are in the first days of the invasion and the last two take place in August as the breakout form the Normandy lodgment was moving rapidly. As with other issues in this series, each clash is illustrated with contemporary photographs, color illustrations of particular episodes, and annotated maps that trace the movements of both sides.

In describing the actions of these particular battles, there are particular trends that emerge. In spite of being a Waffen SS unit, the Hitlerjugend was not well prepared for action, but as with most German units in Normandy, was able to do well on the defense and while not stopping the Canadian advance, it came at a high price. What this volume does well, is chip away at the German reputation as the consummate warriors. The Canadians used fire and movement and, in particular, artillery fire to dislodge the Germans from their defenses as well as blunt local counter attacks. The author does a good job in telling the story in an objective and dispassionate manner that I found useful.

After the successful landing at Normandy, the Allies and Axis forces engaged in a slugfest that was not expected. While the Allies came out on top, it came at a high price, in particular for the German formations. This volume of combat recounts one episode in a compelling and readable manner. My thanks to IPMS and Osprey Publications for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

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