Images of War – Fallschirmjäger: German Paratroopers 1937-1941
Pen and Sword Military 2019
Reviewed by Bernd Biege
If you need image material regarding the Fallschirmjäger during the early war years, this would be a good go-to-book – 112 pages crammed with photos (and a few drawings) of varying quality, but generally of high interest. Though the claim that these are “rare photographs” may not be true in many cases, as a pictorial reference at your fingertips you cannot go wrong with Cochet’s collection.
For wargamers, the main benefit of the book would lie in detailing their models, and achieving convincing vignettes to use on the tabletop. Though there is some background information on the Fallschirmjäger in the text, this is surpassed by easily accessible other media, like Wikipedia. But then the series is called “Images of War”, so what would one expect?
There are, however, some issues with a few images. Or, more precisely, with the captions Cochet provides. Two examples:
On page 35 the captured Polish plane is identified as a PZL P.24 fighter – which was never used in Poland, being the (exclusively) export variety of the P.11. Plus, that was a gull-wing single-seat plane … while the image actually shows the PZL P.23 Karaś, a low-wing light bomber with a crew of three.
On page 97 Cochet states that a person “would appear to be Major Julius Ringel”, the identification seemingly based on the amount of facial hair alone – the soldier is wearing the uniform of a Luftwaffe Oberleutnant, unsual for a Gebirgsjäger general, and seems to be younger than Ringel too.
As said before, interesting images, but the (at times clumsily translated) text lets them down. And, in at least one case, serves as a smokescreen to hide war crimes. Page 92 tells us that “now was the time for justice”, and speaks of “investigations” to find the “guilty”. The image is well-known, it resides in the Bundesarchiv, and actually shows the prelude to the massacre of Kondomari. A reprisal action, in which up to 60 randomly chosen civilians were executed. Documented by war correspondent Franz-Peter Weixler, who also managed to snap a smiling Fallschirmjäger aiming at the hostages … “unpleasant duty”, as Cochet claims.
All in all, the book is a handy pictorial reference, with a bit of a scrapbook feel about it (images are not attributed). But its text leaves a slightly sour taste, especially when trying to gloss over war crimes.