The Lions of Carentan: Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6, 1943-1945, Volker Griesser

The Lions of Carentan: Fallschirmjäger Regiment 6, 1943-1945, Volker Griesser

This is one of those unit histories that probably tells you more about how the people involved wanted to see their war than the actual reality of it (that is of course a valuable sources in its own right). Perhaps the best example of this is that the unit is never defeated or forced to retreat, but is always 'ordered to withdraw', 'pulled back to a new line' or some other alternative. The text makes it clear that the unit suffered very heavy losses - 75% in Normandy for instance, while the timeline shows that the defensive battles described only lasted for a day or two, before the paratroops were forced back. Another example is the 'no prisoners' order, said here to have been given to US paratroops before D-Day. There are three flaws here - first there is little evidence that this actually happened, second there is no way the defenders on D-Day could have known about it if it had been, third, the US paratroops expected to be joining up with the main forces very quickly, so the order would have made no sense. However it is perfectly possible that German propaganda was spreading the story to try and prevent mass surrenders of the less reliable troops on the Normandy coast, and that it stuck in the memories of the Fallschirmjager.

There are plenty of really valuable eyewitness accounts of the action, giving a picture of the nature of the fighting, and of the odd world of the German war machine at this stage - one quote in which a soldier returning from Germany says the German soldier couldn't imagine an attack on civilians will raise some eyebrows, especially as it is followed by another quote describing how an experienced veteran had to have his family records forged after it turned out he had a Jewish grandparent, and was thus vulnerable to being sent to the camps! 

This book covers some interesting periods - the German seizure of Rome, the D-Day battles, the attacks on the land corridor leading to Arnhem and the final defensive battles in Germany. There is also interesting material on the clashes between the Fallschirmjager and the SS, and on the type of recruits who filled up the unit each time it was almost destroyed. Overall the book is a bit too one-sided, but does give an interesting view of the fighting as seen from the German side.

1 - The Initial Deployment, 1943
2 - Deployment in Italy, 1943
3 - Deployment in Russia, 1943/44
4 - The Reorganization in Cologne-wahn, 1944
5 - Deployment in Normandy, 1944
6 - Deployment in Holland, 1944
7 - Deployment in the Eifel Region, 1944
8 - Parachute Mission in the Ardennes, 1944
9 - The Final Battle in the Homeland, 1945
10 - Peace

Author: Volker Griesser
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 288
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2014 edition of 2011 original

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