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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bolt Action - Review: Albert Kesselring

Osprey Publishing brings the work of author Pier Paolo Battistelli to the printed page in the "Albert Kesselring" edition of its "Leadership - Strategy - Conflict" series.

The one picture in existence depicting Kesselring without a huge grin on his face. OK, OK, I'm exagerrating. There's one more.

Adam Hook is the credited artist in this title, and his work is top notch. If you're unfamiliar with his work...

"Someone help me clean up this house before Mom and Dad get back!"

...Clearly he's quite talented. As expected in an Osprey title, the presentation leaves nothing to be desired.

This is the first book I've read from the "Leadership - Strategy - Conflict" series, but I am familiar enough with them to realize there are a ton of these on many famous leaders from many nations. After reading this one, I can safely suggest the series. The Kesselring title was very informative, and quite interesting.

"There! On the horizon! More cigarettes!"

The book details the career of Albert Kesselring, starting before the onset of the First World War. I was interested to find he was, at least in part, the self-made man he claimed to be. This title will probably reveal some new information to any but the must studied Kesselring student.

For me, this was an easy first selection from the series to jump in on. I had always been a fan of the Fallschirmjagers, but outside of a few anecdotes of action in Brest or Cassino, I didn't know very much about them. I knew hardly anything at all about them from a strategic level, so obviously a book on the boss of them all really filled in a lot of blanks for me.

Get used to that game show host face if you're going to get into Kesselring.

Famous battles are covered throughout this title, which is all well and good, but some of my favorite notes come from the political manuvering behind the scenes of the German staff officers. Most find this sort of thing distasteful, to say the least, especially when it comes to war stories, but the politicking detailed within this book is fascinating to me. It really makes the world go 'round.

The caption says it all. Politicking!

As for the writing style, it veers back and forth from the very personal to the very broad and general. Compared to many dry tomes I have read, there is a lot of individuality in these pages - that human touch. However, there are plenty of times that, due to the nature of the subject, we drift into large-scale descriptions of divisions moving here and armies moving there.

Every section like this, though, was followed quickly by another close-up view of Kesselring. In a way, I suppose that is the best possible compromise between the detail-oriented historian and the World War II fan like me. The book won't please either side completely, yet neither side will be disappointed.

Fallschirmjager using whatever they have available to fight for every inch of territory.

I have not seen such a variety and breadth of Fallschirmjager photographs in such a small amount of pages. This title's only sixty-four pages long, but there are tons of great shots in here. Besides the action shots of the German Paratroopers, there are shots of other troops under Kesselring's command, as well as many, many pictures of the leader showing off his pearly whites in front of various people and formations.

Don't forget your sunscreen.

Most interesting of all, the author draws several conclusions throughout the book. Given that these really are the highlights, I cannot bring myself to spoil any of them for you; but this is why we read historians' work, right? Anyone can provide us with encyclodpedic information, given access to the internet. It takes work and talent to give an interesting opinion on a man's motivations. Battistelli has clearly worked, and is very talented.

Almost forgot to add the obligatory strategic map!

Of course, there are also fascinating strategic maps, along with the more creative works of art included. Helpful information keys were provided to explain what happened at each point on the map.

That's all fine, but all expert art and skillful writing aside, this book includes one of my favorite images from the Second World War.

Get ready for it...


The man had style, that's undeniable. Even when seated suggestively atop a StuG.

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