Radio Operator on the Eastern Front – An Illustrated Memoir

Being there . . . . in the final two years of World War II watching the Russians in their T-34’s steamroll the Nazi invaders who only five years before had inflicted crushing death and destruction on them. Then, relish a rare tour few citizens have been privy to until recently, the infamous military Wolfsschanze, Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair Headquarters in East Prussia, where so many World War II evils had been planned, organized, and administered, especially the extermination camps . . .

FRONT IN 1944-1945

                            Reviewed and Highly Recommended by Don DeNevi

“Radio Operator on the Eastern Front – – An Illustrated Memoir, 1940 – 1949”, by Erhard Steiniger, Foreword by Anthony Tucker-Jones. Greenhill Books: 303 pages; $34.95, hc.

“STUG III BRIGADE 191 – – The Buffalo Brigade in Action in the Balkans, Greece, and From Moscow to Kursk and Sevastopol”, by Bruno Bork, Introduction by Anthony Tucker-Jones. Greenhill Books: 315 pages; $34.95, hc.

“Hitler’s Wolfsschanze – – The Wolf’s Lair Headquarters on the Eastern Front, An Illustrated Guide”, by John Grehan. Frontline Books, Pen & Sword: 309 pages; $34.95, hc.

  Pummeling and pulverizing the once invincible panzers and elite ground forces that seized Russia up to within eyesight of the Kremlin Towers in Moscow and the Volga River wharves and docks at Stalingrad, the Red Armies of Stalin’s Soviet Union, by mid-1943, were well on their way to the steep steps of the Reichstag building and basement stairs of his underground Fuhrerbunker in Berlin.

  With his last desperate gambles to turn the tide of massive Russian counteroffensive sweeps across Eastern Europe, Hitler, daily, felt the piercing pain he himself had inflicted on weaker, defenseless nations less than five years before. Under hails of shells and bombs, the heart and soul of his vast military were barely pulsating. He knew the avengers were closing in on the Reich he vowed would defiantly last 1,000 years, and that soon enough he would have to put the nozzle of his Walther PPK 7.65 into his mouth and pull the trigger.

 In “Radio Operator on the Eastern Front - - An Illustrated Memoir, 1940-1949”, Erhard Steiniger describes in detail his critical training, technical operator duties, and life and death decision-making in firm, unyielding narration, supported by 120 carefully selected photos, all previously unpublished, even in Germany. His interesting memoir begins on the first day of Operation Barbarossa, September 1, 1939, until his capture by forward Soviet troops in early May of 1945. He fought in the campaigns through the Baltic States, then on the Leningrad front, and finally in Germany’s retreat back into East Prussia. This often subdued, but continuously hypnotic, memoir is rare since it offers so much information, knowledge, and insight about the enemy from the beginning of the war on the Eastern Front right up to Steiniger’s release from a prison camp in Russia and return to Germany in 1949. The last sentence of the memoir will surely carry the reader for days with sincere tear-filled eyes.

 Meanwhile, StuG III Brigade 191, was known by codename “Buffalo Brigade” when the big gun unit was baptized under fire during the invasion of Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, via Poland and the Ukraine. The STUG III fought in Greece in 1941, then deployed to the heaviest fighting areas of Russia including the gates of Moscow months before the Battle of Stalingrad began.  StuG, or Sturmgeschutz, was an armored motorized vehicle with an effective caliber of assault cannon.  The Brigade then was transferred to Kursk, the Caucasus, Kuban, Kertsch, Crimea, and Sevastopol for the shortcut into Romania by naval lighters. It fought stubbornly until the last day of the war in southeast Austria. Author Bruno Bork not only offers a tactical unit history, but also another German “blood and guts” ground-level views of Hitler’s retreats and defeats on the Eastern Front. This is also a truly riveting read.

 The Fuhrer’s Wolf’s Lair was one of the most sinister sites of all World War II. Hitler directed all phases of his battles for Russia from the carefully camouflaged Lair, his victories and defeats, from June 1941 to November 1944, until it was blown up to prevent capture and use by the rapidly advancing Soviets in January, 1945. John Grehan’s book not only details in words, maps, and photos, the layouts and appearances of the Lair buildings, but also intimate stories of their daily use by Stauffenberg’s assassination team’s attempt on July 20, 1944. It gets, and rightly so, a full chapter to itself, written as a mystery novel. The photos combining then-and-now shots, some full page, are most mesmerizing.

 From the World War II German perspective, all three books are must-buys for one’s personal library, especially since up-close, enemy eye-witness account are rare, even in today’s Germany.