This entry in the Elite series looks at German and Japanese booby traps, a type of weapon that appears frequently in accounts of infantry fighting during the Second World War. The majority of the information in this book covers the period after the American entry to the war, partly because the best source on German booby traps is the series of American field manuals and training manuals produced between 1942 and 1945, but also because the booby trap is of most value to a retreating army. Prior to 1942 the only experience of German booby traps thus came from the British troops in the western desert, where the see-saw nature of the war meant that both sides had advanced and retreated across the same stretch of desert. The earliest American publications are thus based on British experience from the desert.
From 1942 the Germans were almost always retreating, and the booby trap became an important part of their armoury in North Africa, Italy and during the retreat from Normandy back into Germany. Rottman makes the point that despite the large number of booby traps encountered, they were only responsible for 0.2% of American dead and 0.5% of American wounded, but their real impact was on morale.
This is the first book I have reviewed that starts with a warning not to try this at home, making it clear that to do so would be both dangerous and illegal. Given that the vast majority of the booby traps discussed in the book require Second World War era German munitions this might seem over-cautious, but the point is well work making.
One distinctive feature of this book is the amount of material taken directly from the original sources, most often from the US Army's monthly Intelligence Bulletin and Tactical and Technical Trends, produced during the war for use by the men at the front and their commanders. The most interesting of these sources come in the form of a discussion with American troops who had either triggered booby traps themselves or witnessed their effects. This gives the book a real flavour of the period, further enhanced by the series of diagrams of booby traps taken from the same sources.
These are supported by the usual high quality Osprey illustrations, the best of which are the cut-away diagram of a S-Mine and the plate showing likely locations of the different types of booby traps in a typical farm building. Contemporary photographs are less common than normal, hardly surprising given the topic of the book!
Booby Trap Materials
German Booby Traps
German Sabotage Equipment
Japanese Booby Traps
Summary: The Impact of Booby Traps
Author: Gordon L. Rottman