This entry in Osprey's Elite series looks at the German special forces of the Second World War. At the start of the war this meant the Brandenburgers, a unit controlled by the Abwehr and in 1939 the only Special Forces unit. As the war turned against Germany the SS, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine each developed their Special Forces units, many equipped with the 'wonder weapons' that came to dominate German hopes towards the end of the war.
Williamson's text is well organised. For each unit we are given information on their formation, organisation, equipment and uniform, and a summary of their activities during the war. This is where a distinctive feature of the German Special Forces becomes clear. While their Allied equivalents were normally offensive forces, many of the German units were formed during the long period of defeat.
This was at its most extreme for the Navy, which formed its Special Forces, the Kleinkampfmittelverbände (small battle units) in the last year of the war, and equipped most of them with dangerous and often untested equipment that was often as dangerous to its users as to the enemy.
The largest chapter in the book looks at the SS Special Forces, and in particular the career of Otto Skorzeny, undoubtedly the most successful German Special Forces commander of the entire war. A nice feature here is that Skorzeny's career is placed in the wider context of SS Special Forces units, rather than being described in isolate as is often the case.
This is a interesting read, and provides a useful overview of the organisation and activities of Germany's comparatively small band of Special Forces units.
Author: Gordon Williamson