This volume in Osprey's Warrior series looks at the combat engineers within the US Army Corps of Engineers, specialist troops trained to operate just behind or even on the front line, and that included companies of engineers who landed with the first waves on D-Day.
I was surprised the sheer scale of the US Army Corps of Engineers during the Second World War - at its peak there were over 700 engineer battalions in the army, many of which were combat engineer battalions, with one attached to every single American division.
One problem with this book is that there is a little too much on those areas where the life of the combat engineer was similar to that of the regular soldier, reducing the space available for those areas where it differed. This includes areas like the design of barrack blocks, the solder's diet, basic equipment or their exercise routines.
That doesn't mean that Rottman hasn't included a good deal on the engineering side of the picture. This starts with a look at the background of many of the men selected for the Engineers, and the importance attached to experience in the Scouts or on the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of Roosevelt's New Deal. We then look at the engineering skills needed by the new soldier, with a good section on bridge building.
One useful section looks at the limits of an Engineer company when used in the front line. These included problems with their equipment, with engineering supplies replacing many heavier weapons, with their organisation and even with something as simple as the number of radios available to them. We finish with a look at a number of the tasks performed by the Engineers in combat, covering bridge building in hostile territory, the destruction of barricades (a much more common German tactic than I had realised), and clearing a mined road on the German borders.
Conditions of Service
Experience in Battle
The Aftermath of Battle
Author: Gordon Rottman