Massimiliano Afiero was born in Afragola (Naples Province) in 1969. Massimiliano is a computer programmer and teacher, but has long been a serious historian of World War II. He has been extremely active in writing articles for many history magazines in his native Italian, Spanish, and English. You can also find him as an active participant in many military history websites. Massimiliano has personally interviewed many Waffen-SS veterans and has published their experiences in World War II. He published his first book, 'Hitler's Foreign Volunteers', in September 2001, and has now amassed 33 published books. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine SGM (Second World War), Ritterkreuz, The European Volunteer, Fronti Warning, and The Axis Forces. You can find his website at http://www.maxafiero.it/main.htm
This tome was originally published in November 2015 by the Associazione culturale Ritterkreuz as "La SS-Division Wiking nel Caucaso 1942-1943 and has now been brought by MMP to us in the English language instead of the original Italian. This 'War Fronts' special original edition was 100 pages in length.
Wiking Division was one of the 38 Waffen SS elite panzer divisions. Commanded by German officers, this volunteer division used recruits from Belgium, Denmark Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Originally a motorized infantry division, their role changed to a Panzer division in January 1941. The Wiking Division was originally composed of three regiments: Germania composed primarily of Germans; Westland, composed of Flemish and Dutch volunteers; and Nordland, composed of Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes. After training, the division was sent into combat in June 1941 to participate in Operation Barbarossa. Later on a Finnish volunteer Battalion was formed from Finns that had served in Operation Barbarossa.
After surviving Operation Barbarossa, the SS Division Wiking was sent to the Eastern Front's southern sector to capture the Caucasus' oil fields and Stalingrad. Massimiliano Afiero covers this second campaign from the summer of 1942 through February 1943. The SS Division Wiking pushed hard and deep into the Caucasus against a much stiffer Russian defense from the 1941 campaign. Then winter set in. The SS Division Wiking then became involved in protecting the winter retreat back to the original front. Massimiliano Afiero uses first-hand accounts that reveal the blunt reality that the SS Division Wiking faced.
The Table of Contents includes the following sections:
The SS Division Wiking in the Caucasus, 1942, 1943
The New Offensive of the Eastern Front
- The Initiation of Fall Blau
- A New Armoured Battalion for the Wiking Division [Page 7]
- Orders for the Wiking
The March Towards Rostov
- Combat Engineers in Action
- Panzers on the Attack [Page 33]
Towards the Caucasus
- On the March Towards Asia
- The Kuban Front
- The Battle for Kropotkin
- Continued Fighting at Grigoropolisskaya
- The March Resumes
- On Towards Maykop
- The Finns Arrive [Page 53]
On the Terek Front
- In the Kurp Valley [Page 68]
- The Attack of the Panzers
- The Attack of the Nordland
The Battle Continues
- The Arrival of the Germania
- The Attack Against Malgobek
- The Inferno on Hill 701 [Page 86]
More New Orders
- Reorganization in the Field [Page 92]
- Withdrawal to the North
- The Battle at Zimovniki
Rearguard Actions [Page 103]
On the Manych Front
- The Withdrawal to Rostov
- The Knight's Cross for Max Schafer
- The Proletarskaya Bridgehead
- The Battle for Ekaterinovka [Page 115]
The Retreat Continues
- The Station at Tselina [Page 120]
- Yegorlykskaya and Mechetinskaya
- A Race Against Time
On the Rostov-On-Don Bridgehead
- Return to the Mius [Page 140]
Bibliography, Sources, and Photographic References
One section that caught my attention was "The Withdrawal to Rostov" recounting an action that led to the Knight's Cross being awarded to Max Schafer. Taking place in January 1943, the SS engineers found themselves consistently on the front lines under enemy fire. The Russians had managed to penetrate the German lines in the midst of a snowstorm when the blasts of gunfire were heard amongst the shouts of alarm. Facing ten to one odds, Max Schafer, had a big decision to make. Never shy about leading from the front, Max Schafer's question was if the Russian attack was being supported by Soviet T-34 tanks. His NCOs responded that they had not seen any to that point. Max Schafer's response was to immediately counter attack. The Russians were caught totally off-guard and paid a heavy price. Max Schafer's decision allowed the Germans to avoid being totally surrounded and enabled an orderly withdrawl.
Massimiliano Afiero has delivered a great insight into the German's second campaign on the Eastern Front utilizing testimonies, action reports, maps, and of course photographs. The photographs, including many action shots, provide a good basis for the modeler for dioramas. I counted 339 black and white photographs along with 16 black and white maps. Mushroom Model Publications' has provided a page by page preview at: http://mmpbooks.biz/ksiazki/347 .
My thanks to Mushroom Model Publications and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.