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Osprey Order of Battle # 4 & 5:  The Ardennes Offensive - Northern Sector

John Prigent

Order of Battle 4 and 5, The Ardennes Offensive, Northern Sector, by Bruce Quarrie, each 96 pages plus a big fold-out map of the Sector, published by Osprey Military, August 1999, ISBN 1-85532-853-4 and 1-85532-854-2 respectively, 11.99/US$19.95.

Are you thinking "oh, boring lists of units"? Well, think again! These first two of a six-volume series on the Battle of the Bulge are far more than just lists. Number 4 covers the operations of VI Panzer Armee, starting with a short section on the German stratgey and planning for the Ardennes offensive before launcing into the meat of the work. Here you get the organisation and structure of each unit, from Armee level down to Divisionen, and yes there are plenty of tables but the main interest is in the extensive and well-written text. This includes not just a description of each unit's history and short future but also full descriptions of its combat actions during the offensive, accompanied by colour maps showing the area of each action and the unit positions and movements.

To take 2 SS Panzer Korps as an example, the Korps notes and order of battle table are followed by notes and an order of battle table for ech of its component divisions. Aftr those come the battle sections, with each action described in order of date and place and illustrated by the individual action maps I mentioned above. The first of these is Kampfgruppe Krag at Salmchateau, 21 to 23 December 1944, then 4 SS Panzergrenadier Regiment Der Fuhrer at Baraque Fraiture on 22 and 23 December, then... I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture.

On the Allied side, number 5 covers US V Corps and XVIII (Airborne) Corps. Again it begins with a short section on the Allied advance toward the German frontier and the reaction to the German offensive. Then come the  organisation and structure sections, again in order from Army through Corps to Division level for V Corps and with plentiful text as well as those tables.  After those are the battle sections, describing and showing on special individual maps the actions of each unit, for instance 1/117 Infantry's defence of Stavelot from 18 to 20 December. After the V Corps actions you come to XVIII (Airborne) Corps, again strting with text and tables showing its organisation and the compositon of each Division. Following are more battle descriptions with maps, such as Combat Command A of 7 Armored Division's stand at Poteau from 18 to 24 December.  I hope I've convinced you that these books are far more than just lists of units involved in the campaign, in fact they're a very readable and detailed history of it. Indispensible for anyone who wants to avoid modelling their chosen subject facing the wrong enemy in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong weather!

Very strongly recommended, and I look foward to seeing the remaining four volumes.

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