Fallschirmjäger! is a collection of stories from men who served as parachutists in the German military during the Second World War. Author Greg Way assembled an array of viewpoints from sixteen airborne veterans of operations in Holland, Russia, France, Crete and numerous other fronts. Way’s efforts focus on translating the veteran’s own words for a wider audience, and he very much allows each “old sweat” to speak for himself. Each memoir discusses early training and selection as a parachutist, combat experiences and the individual’s circumstances at the end of the war. Despite common backgrounds as paratroopers and combat veterans, every man featured had his own motivations and point of view and this comes through clearly as the reader progresses through the book. Ultimately, one comes away with a clearer picture of the brutal reality of World War Two infantry combat, as experienced by these men.
Way provides his readers with an overview of Germany’s development of airborne forces and their evolution into an elite formation. This provides a context for each contributor’s individual story, and also allows readers to understand what motivated Way to compile them into a book. Way shares that he admires the volunteer spirit and high morale displayed by the Fallschirmjäger and that inspired him to reach out to German veterans and interview them regarding their experiences, starting in the late 1990s. Overtime, he shared their stories on a website and ultimately, spurred on by the loss of three paratrooper veterans with whom he had grown close, published them as the book Fallschirmjäger!
The book itself is divided into two sections. The first, and far bigger, section is comprised of the stories of each man, told from the perspective of old age. The text is accompanied by photographs of the men in their youth along with pictures of former comrades and commanders, with short biographical descriptions. The second section contains excerpts from the wartime diaries of three combat veterans. These selections, while relatively short, are the most powerful part of the book, for they provide a sense of immediacy that the recollections in Part I lack.
Fallschirmjäger! is frontline history. Way does not devote time to the larger strategic situation surrounding the battles these men fought. Due to this focus, the book lacks maps that could illustrate the strategic and tactical circumstances surrounding the battles discussed in the book. Readers interested in such information would do well to keep a World War Two atlas available for consultation. The book does contain numerous black and white photographs as illustrations as well as an excellent bibliography, glossary of military terms, summary of Fallschirmjäger operations during the war, and an explanation of their rank structure. Overall, Way’s book gives readers a good look at the human side of German frontline troops, which is a view that is often overlooked in English language publications on the war.
Published by Helion and Company, available from Casemate Publishers
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